Landmark Golf Club - Mental Recall in California

By Jeffrey A. Rendall; Photos By Scot Rendall


Landmark GC's Website

INDIO, CA – The term ‘recall’ evokes vivid images in California.  Recall in California means Gray Davis is a private citizen for the first time in decades; recall (as in ‘Total Recall’) was a screen acting role (1990) by the state’s new Governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger; and recall’s a term in Golden State golf where you remember what you’ve just seen, and hopefully yearn to try it again.


Such is the case at Landmark Golf Club’s North Course (note:  there are 36 holes at Landmark GC) in Indio, California.  Where Landmark’s concerned, you don’t want to recall (as in remove) the staff or the Director of Golf; and recall’s not tied to some weird futuristic concept that only a token few will understand, like Governor Schwarzenegger’s movie.  Recall, when you think of Landmark GC, is where you’ll remember where you’ve been, and want to go back for more.

From behind some desert foliage on Landmark's North Course's 4th green, you'll see where you don't want to be. It doesn't take a genius to know you can't be in these bunkers and still make great scores.


Jeff Walser, Landmark’s Director of Golf/General Manager, says it’s just that – the ability to recall, that separates his club from the rest of the offerings in California’s low desert:  “When our players leave here, of course I want them to remember receiving a great experience for the price, and want to come back again.  I think the thing that helps us the most in that regard is, their ability to do mental recall – remembering the holes and being able to tell their friends, ‘Hey, I hit a seven iron on fifteen to reach the island green.’”


“We’ve all played many golf courses where you can’t really remember or separate one thing from the next.  Then someone asks you how you played a certain hole, and you’re struggling to remember if it was a par four, three, etc, and how you approached it.  I think we’re unique because every hole’s different at Landmark Golf Club, and pretty memorable in its own way,” Walser added.


Being fairly familiar with golf in the Palm Springs region, I’d say Walser’s got something there.  Yes, Landmark’s holes are indeed unique (and a few that are truly spectacular), but you’re also aided in recall by the fact that The Skins Game was played there for four years, from 1999-2002.  Probably the original and ultimate ‘silly season’ event, The Skins Game brought Landmark’s strategic qualities and pleasant aesthetic views (not to mention incredible weather) to your TV room every Thanksgiving weekend.  The PGA Tour season may have ended by the time it rolls around, but who wouldn’t be interested in a yearly contest pitting four of professional golf’s best against each other for a truckload of money?

On the 16th tee, avoid the waste area on the right, but missing left will leave you a longer second shot into this dogleg right par four.


Judging by the success of the events at Landmark and other venues, there’s a lot of interest, indeed.


Walser said The Skins Game gave Landmark excellent exposure, though the club wasn’t specifically designed to host it:  “We landed The Skins Game before our golf courses were even opened yet.  It gave us some incredible exposure, which really helped in our first few years.  We’d originally intended to have a hotel come in with the building of the facility, but that didn’t work out.  So, we weren’t connected to any types of accommodations – but with the Skins Game, people still found out about us.”


Walser continues, “We didn’t know when we were designing the courses (Ed note:  they found out during the early construction phases, and some accommodations were made for it.) that the ‘Skins’ would be played there, but we always hope professional tournaments will come to our facilities.  So the courses held up well for that type of event.”

From the tee of the 576 yard 6th hole, you'll grasp much of Landmark GC's challenge. Drive the ball in play, and you'll potentially sample the fruit of the vine. Stray, and you'll feel the rattlesnake bite.


That’s the case because Landmark Golf Company (which developed the club bearing its name) has accumulated enough experience over the years in building Tour quality facilities.  Needless to say, there’s a long list of projects, but for our purposes here, we’ll just mention PGA West, Mission Hills Country Club (where the LPGA’s Nabisco Championships are held) and Kiawah Island.


That’s a solid resume in anyone’s book, and it’s just a partial list, too.


Landmark Golf Club was designed in-house by Landmark’s team, including golf architects Lee Schmidt and Brian Curley.  Schmidt and Curley have worked with many different ‘name’ designers of the day, and that quality and influence shows in their work.  Early in his career, Schmidt worked with Pete Dye on several of his most famous golf layouts (he also worked with Jack Nicklaus) and Curley worked with Jack Nicklaus (amongst others), and they both worked with several different minds while at Landmark Golf, including Arnold Palmer.

Don't expect any easy ones to end the round at a Landmark Golf Company designed facility. Here, you'll earn your par on the 18th hole, or go home wondering, 'what if?'


You’ll see some of those influences at Landmark Golf Club, namely the sizeable greenside bunkering and the risk-reward par fives, characteristic of Dye and Nicklaus style designs.  And, of course, there’s an island green on the North Course, which certainly shouts ‘Pete Dye’ in your face the moment you see it.


Another Landmark ‘signature’ is unique cart bridges you likely won’t see anywhere else.  Walser explains:  “My father (Joe Walser Jr., co-founder of Landmark Golf with Ernie Vossler) and Ernie met up with Pete Dye when he was just coming on the scene, many years ago.  Because Pete liked to use a lot of railroad ties, they got to talking one day and the idea of using boxcars for bridges was brought up, so they tried it and liked it.  And because it seemed to go well with the golf courses at this location, we used them here, too.”


The ‘original’ Landmark boxcar bridge in the Coachella Valley was at the La Quinta Hotel, but it was taken out when the real estate development was built.  Landmark Golf Company also put them on one of their clubs in Oklahoma – but it’s safe to say, you’re probably not going to see many boxcar bridges around.  Too bad, it’s a nice concept.

The short par three 7th looks inviting on the scorecard, but don't leave your shot-making skills in the bag here, either.


The boxcars bridge the All-American canal, which cuts through the property and runs alongside several holes on both the North and South courses.  The canal contrasts the stark desert environment of the region, bringing water from the Colorado River to nourish these flourishing oases of green and the multitudes of people choosing to relocate here.


For its part, the design team incorporated a lot of that natural desert vegetation into the layouts at Landmark Golf Club.  If you miss the green grass, the ball’s still playable out of the desert, in many cases (I can attest).  And being near the Indio foothills, there’re also some elevation variations that you won’t get from most desert layouts.


It can make for a pretty challenging round, but only to the extent you’ll want it to be.  Walser describes it:  “I think the shot values at Landmark GC are as good as you’ll find anywhere, especially into the putting surfaces.  You have to take extra care, because a lot of the areas around the greens will get some roll if you miss your target.  The good thing is, from those chipping areas, you’ve got a couple options – you can putt it, bump and run it, or flop it.  Just as with any golf course, you have to know the course and play some strategy – or else you’ll get in real trouble.”

'Got Balls?' The 15th hole will certainly test what you've got in your bag, and in your nerves.


If you play the right sets of tees, getting in trouble off the tee shouldn’t be part of the overall experience.  The pros at The Skins Game took on the course (talking about the North Course here) at its full length, 7060 yards (slope of 135).  Because of the elevated tees on some of the longer holes, it won’t play quite that long, but players choosing the gentler yardage figures should fare much better.


The playing conditions were amongst the best you’ll see in the Coachella Valley.  All desert courses must rotate between hot and cool season grasses, but Landmark GC at Thanksgiving was as lush as you’ll see at that time of year.  Word-of-mouth and reputation puts it high up for conditioning year-round, too.  Much credit to Superintendent Willie Lopez and his crew for the hard work and verifiable results.


Hole highlights on the North Course include the second hole, the course’s #1 handicap link.  Named ‘Moonscape’ because of its crater-like bunkers, the hole plays 423 yards, all uphill.  The fairway landing area’s wider than it looks off the tee, but if you miss a bit left or right, you’re dead.  The challenge doesn’t end for the second shot – a mid-iron uphill to a creatively sloped green.

The 11th hole may look tranquil and benign in this view, but if your approach shot isn't stuck, you're staring bogey right in the face.


After you’ve been potentially bruised by the previous hole, the views from the third tee will heal you.  One of the highest elevated tee shots you’ll find in the low desert, you can see quite a bit of the valley surrounding.  The hole itself plays short, 363 yards, and with the elevation, it’s risk-reward all the way off tee – but you don’t want to be in the large waste bunker on the left-hand side.  Trust me.


Nine’s a tough one to close out the front nine.  Aptly named ‘The Brute,’ it’s 490 yards in length, with the All-American Canal running on the right side.  The fairway’s left side is guarded by two large bunkers, but in favoring the right side, you flirt with the canal.  A long-iron or fairway wood awaits on the approach – miss short if anything, because right’s wet and left is in the sand.  Brutish, for sure.


On the back, thirteen’s a par three you’ll certainly ‘recall’ for a long time.  Playing up to 232 yards and uphill, the green looks like it was cut into the hillside.  If you miss right, the ball may bounce down.  If you miss left in the sand – now that’s a tough bunker shot.  Short, again, is probably the best ‘miss’ option.

'Go For It' says the scorecard on the 334 yard, par four 14th hole (North Course). But if you do, avoid the water, or taking a chance definitely will NOT pay off.


Fourteen through eighteen offers a conclusion fit for TV – dramatic and strategic on virtually every shot.  Fourteen, named ‘Go For It’ is a 334 yard par four with the green perched on a peninsula, water all down the right side.  The safe play is to a short landing area to the left, but it’s basically a tee-time decision on how much water to tangle with.


Fifteen’s the island green you’ll remember from the Skins Game.  The landing area looks a lot smaller than it is (as is the case with most island greens).  You’ll also love the name – ‘Got Balls?’  You’ll need more than one variety on this hole.


Eighteen’s a great finishing hole -- a 476 yard par four with the green perched on the water, it’s risk-reward to the ultimate.  A place you’ll struggle to make a birdie but also can easily end with a double if you fail to meet the challenge -- it’s a great way to settle your matches at the end of the day.

Course knowledge helps on the 373 yard, par four 12th hole, named 'Options.' Which option to choose? Try the different ones, then decide.


Jeff Walser’s right – you will remember your round at Landmark Golf Club, because of its beauty and challenge, but also the tremendous playing conditions and excellent service (including valet parking).  I’ll share one of my memories with you – on the 18th hole, I hooked a drive left into the desert area off the tee, hit a recovery shot into the right rough on my second, then stuck a sand wedge to three feet.  Missed the putt.  Bogey.  Bummer. 


Now that’s recall, for you.


Note:  This summer (2004), Landmark’s South Course may undergo some temporary changes to accommodate construction activity taking place at the club. 


Landmark Golf Club (North Course)

84-000 Landmark Parkway

Indio, CA  92203


Phone:  (760) 775-2000

FAX:  (760) 775-1988




Course Designer:  Landmark Golf Company (Curley & Schmidt leading)

Director of Golf/General Manager:  Jeff Walser

Superintendent:  Willie Lopez



Tournament             7060   135               74.3

Championship                    6511   128               71.4

Regular                   5870   121/134(L)   68.5/75.0 (L)

Forward                   5067   124               69.7



Varies greatly by season, ranges from $60 in the summer months to $145 in high season (spring and fall).


Rates include:  Greens fee, cart and use of the range.

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