Desert Willow Golf Resort – Firecliff Course

Desert Willow Golf Resort – Firecliff Course


Based in San Diego, there are plenty of golf courses within a short one hour drive. Outside of that, there’s still plenty north of San Diego in Orange County and LA and another location that has more golf than you would think, Palm Springs and Palm Desert.

In the Coachella Valley (which is home to Palm Springs and Palm Desert), there are 100 golf courses including 44 public courses and 56 private courses. The most notable is PGA West which is host to the PGA Tour Amex Championship event.

On a recent trip, we were fortunate enough to play at Desert Willow Golf Resort. It may not be a popular course to some but we’ll say we were very surprised. 

Check out the full review to see why it’s a must play while in Palm Desert!


Course Statistics:

  • Firecliff Course -
    Yardage: 7,056 yards
  • Tees: (R)-Rating / (S) Slope / Yards
  • Black: (R) 74.1 / (S) 141 / 7,056
  • Purple: (R) 72.1 / (S) 136 / 6,676
  • Lavender: (R) 69.9 / (S) 128 / 6,173
  • Tan: (R) 67.5 / (S) 120 / 5,642
  • Green (Women's): (R) 69.4 / (S) 127 / 5,079


Premium Titleist Clubs available for rent and include one sleeve of balls

Location: 16/20

Accessibility: 7/10

Desert Willow Golf Resort is a 20 minute drive from Palm Springs International Airport. There are plenty of ride share drivers available in the area as well. If you’re driving, it’s about a 2.5 hour drive from San Diego or a 2-3 hour drive from downtown LA depending on traffic.

Accessibility also loses a few points due to the seasonal play and conditions. The course is best played between October and April before the hot summer weather dries out a lot of the course and playing conditions can be brutal with temperatures into the 100’s after the mid morning.

Course Views: 9/10

I have to say I am a sucker for the desert views. Much like Dubai and Abu Dhabi, the contrasting green and brown sand with some rolling hills on the course is a beautiful sight. What I love even more about Palm Desert, are the mountainous backdrops with snow capped tips. You get plenty of those views at Desert Willow Golf Resort. In addition there’s a great utilization of water and foliage to create a beautiful scene in the desert.

Facilities: 29/30

Pro Shop: 5/5

The Pro Shop is decently sized with plenty of gear both plain and branded. Also a wide variety of accessories including balls, clubs, and other fun trinkets. 

Practice Facilities: 10/10

Desert Willow has a full array of practice facilities. The driving range is behind the clubhouse and balls are complimentary with a tee time. You hit off well maintained grass and have the mountains as a nice backdrop to your pre-round warmup. There is a practice green nearby as well. 

Restaurant: 4/5

The restaurant overlooks the 9th and 18th green of the Firecliff course. In the morning the sunrise warms up the patio and has amazing views. The portions are quite large but service can be slow at times.

Staff: 5/5

The staff were extremely friendly and welcoming. Cart service was offered throughout the course and there are plenty of restroom stops and water stops along the course. 

Rentals/Golf Cart: 5/5

Rental clubs are premium Titleist sets and include one sleeve of balls.

Fairways: 27/30

Fairway Condition: 9/10

The fairways in the peak of off-season were in great shape. Lush, green, and well maintained. Hard to fault them on much and was thoroughly impressed.

Rough Condition: 9/10

The rough was just as healthy as the fairways and presented quite a challenge especially in the morning when the grass was still a bit wet. It was thick to get the ball out but not impossible. There was also a generous amount of rough on most holes before you get to the desert sand.

Sand Trap Condition: 9/10

Another impressive part of the course were the bunkers. The bunkers were very consistent and had great feel. In the morning they were a bit heavier with the moisture but dried out nicely and made for a predictable bunker experience.

Greens: 12/15

Greens Conditions: 4/5

The greens were in tip-top shape. While ball marks were mostly repaired, you were also hard pressed to find many with how firm the greens were. They also rolled fairly quick (probably a 9-10 on the stimp meter if I had to guess). The roll was consistent and the greens were quite fair.

Fringe: 4/5

The fringe was also well maintained and blended nicely between the fairway/rough to fringe to the green. There were a handful of tight landing areas that also played very smoothly.

Par 3's: 4/5

The Par 3’s were more than average but I wouldn’t say there was a signature Par 3. In all, they were challenging in design and pin placement didn’t make things any easier when I played. 

Value: 5/5

I initially thought the expensive rate at Desert Willow was going to be a bit much considering it’s not one of the more talked about courses in Palm Desert. Boy, was I surprised. Even for the rate, which is still less than $200, you get to play a championship quality course in great shape. I think it’s worth the price especially compared to it’s neighboring courses.

Scoring Recap:

Final Rating: 89/100

Desert Willow Golf Resort is a great pick when in Palm Desert. It’s location is convenient for many especially those staying in Palm Desert or Palm Springs. The course conditions during peak season are some of the best I’ve seen and the Firecliff course puts on quite the show. I look forward to coming back to play this gem of a course in the desert.

To book your next tee time, click here.

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