When Golfing in the Desert, Play Early in the Day

Hear the word “golf,” and you’re likely to associate it with rolling greens, lush scenery, native foliage, and bright, red robins. However, where your mind may not typically go is the desert, where you’ll be surprised to find some of the country’s most spectacular courses.

Desert courses offer a unique experience that you may not get in a typical setting, and we aren’t just talking about a once-in-a-lifetime backdrop. As new sports centers plan to rise in 2022, many athletes are heading back to the court (or course). So if you’re on the market for a trip to the desert, here is what you can expect when teeing off on the sand.

What to Expect When Golfing in the Desert
No two desert courses are equal. You may find that they differ in terrain, climate, and overall atmosphere. Whatever the case, here are a few common factors you can expect to see on a desert course.

Ever-Changing Weather
Contrary to popular belief, not every desert is searing hot. In fact, many of them boast temperatures in the low tens, so you’ll want to beware of frost, ice, and the risk of hypothermia.

Wildlife & Other Dangers
If you spend most of your time playing in clubhouses, you’re probably already used to retrieving your ball from sandtraps and bunkers. However, desert courses pose more significant risks, including rattlesnakes, scorpions, tarantulas, and even Gila Monsters. So, if you lose a ball in the desert, you’re better off leaving it where it was.

Just as they are blisteringly cold, desert courses are also incredibly hot. Temperatures tend to skyrocket to the mid-90s, with humidity levels under 10%. Therefore, you never want to go without sunscreen or lip balm.

When teeing off in the desert, use sunscreen with at least 50 SPF and chapstick with 30 SPF. Also, keep in mind that soaring temperatures can put you at risk of heatstroke—so stay hydrated!

Tips for Playing Desert Golf
If you’re keen on giving desert golf a shot, these tips can ensure a safe and enjoyable experience.

Stay Hydrated
Whether or not you choose to play in the desert, staying hydrated is a must. After all, a typical golf match can take anywhere between 3-and-a-half to 4 hours. So always have a drink before you tee off and take a sip of water in between holes.

While sports drinks like Gatorade may suffice, we always recommend taking mineral water instead.

Wear the Appropriate Clothing
While your usual golf get up may serve you well at your local clubhouse, we can’t say the same for how well they’ll do in the desert. For instance, while cotton may have a bad reputation within the outdoor clothing industry, it will serve you well in the desert thanks to its impeccable moisture retention.

We also recommend throwing on a windbreaker or thicker jacket, especially if you are playing during the wintertime. Replace your usual golf pants with lightweight trousers—think breathable yet insulated.

What you won’t want to ditch is your favorite golf hat. Consider one with a wind cord to prevent it from flying off amidst harsh winds.

Play Early in the Day
As much as possible, you want to be off a desert course by noontime to prevent having to face the crushing heat. Remember, a typical game will last three hours (or more), so aim to be on the course by 7 in the morning.

Know Your Limits
Competitive players love to challenge themselves, but it should never come at the expense of your health. If you are feeling unwell, don’t put yourself at risk of developing heat exhaustion.

Best Desert Golf Courses
The southwest United States is rife with the nation’s best desert courses. So, if you’re planning a road trip and want to hit up the best desert courses on the map, consider making a pit stop at the following places.

New Mexico
New Mexico is home to some of the most spectacular desert courses, such as Paa-ko Ridge, Rockwind Community Links, and the Black Mesa. Not only do they provide impressive views of the Sierra Blanca Peak, but they pose must-try risk and reward opportunities, tricky shots, and experiences for players of all skill levels.

Tuscon is well-known for its affordable yet high-end golf facilities and challenging play conditions. While some of its desert courses are adorned with turf and water, some pose a more significant obstacle—shallow temperatures and high elevation.

If you prefer more variety, however, you may want to travel to Phoenix-Scottsdale. Here, you’ll experience desert layers like no other, especially at Troon North, Ak-Chin Southern Dunes, and the Boulders.

California is one of the most fun places in America and has to be the most stunning of all desert golf locations, especially if Coachella Valley is on your itinerary. Coachella Valley has to make it on your shortlist if you only have room for one desert course. Plus, if you’re playing in the winter—or sometimes the spring—expect to see tufts of snow kiss the course’s stunning peaks.

Coachella Valley plays much warmer than courses in Phoenix and Tucson during the summer, so if you tend to get cold, rest easy!

Las Vegas isn’t just famous for its casinos—you can also enjoy a competitive game of high-stakes desert golf. Of course, because of its iffy, unpredictable weather, it does offer all-year turf courses. Still, you’ll want to account for its challenging elevations and brace yourself for a little more swing.

Despite having little to no rainfall throughout the year, Vegas is more humid than you might think—so dress appropriately and stay hydrated while you play.

If climate changes throw you off your game, consider traveling to Nevada during the spring and the fall, when the weather is far more agreeable.

The Bottom Line
When it comes to a new and exciting golf-centric experience, don’t push desert destinations to the side. You’ll be surprised to find how enriching and enjoyable teeing off at Coachella Valley or TPC Las Vegas can be!


Read more of the author’s work by clicking here Golf Influence.

Image Sources

  • Golf course: Bob Osias