Story and photos by Ian Guerin
As tempting as it has been, keeping the cover on the driver throughout an entire day on the links was something I’d never done before. Never had the patience; certainly fell short on discipline.
Indian Wells Golf Club, with its tree-line fairways and relatively short distance, provided an opportunity to finally pull off the experiment with my own game while getting a good feel for the course.
The results were about what I expected in terms of a scorecard that closely mirrored an average round. The final tally and how it was reached ultimately proved meaningful. Despite the recent visit to Indian Wells being my first, the track stayed true to its reputation.
Shot selection supersedes power.
The motto was present from the first hole, and it held throughout the par-72, 6,225-yard layout. On No. 1, a slim fairway leads directly into a water hazard up the left side while trees and a bunker appear on the right. The second hole also has water up the left and a lengthy bunker on the right. Keeping the driver – and, in fact, the 3-wood – sheathed for four hours started to make more and more sense.
Six different holes had water cutting across the fairway; 14 total holes had some form of water in play. Combined with narrow corridors and doglegs, the strategy, as extreme as it may have been, probably prevented a few head-scratching second and third shots (and likely a few more lost golf balls). Navigating the distance off the tees without the driver was a detriment only once. The 504-yard par-5 fifth, the longest at Indian Wells, utilizes forgiving space outside a straight fairway, all but begging players to muscle up.
Still, as the excess of turtles on the golf course were doing, I continued to take my time with a site that prides itself on accuracy.
Indian Wells Golf Club originally opened in 1984 before Gene Hamm’s extensive re-design invigorated some new life into it in 2003. The following year, it was named the Golf Course of the Year by the Myrtle Beach Area Golf Course Owners Association, a product of strong customer service and an improved layout.
It is one where the experiment isn’t necessary for everyone, but where it can be easily justified.
No Cheerful Singing on No. 15
Remember the Grinch’s original Christmas tree?
Well, turns out it was planted smack dab in the middle of Indian Well’s 15th hole and allowed to mature. The oddly placed and thinned sapling in the fairway isn’t really in the way so much as it is distracting. While your eye is drawn to it, you may miss out on the slight mounding behind it hiding the furthest edge of the largest pond on the property.
About the time your cart reaches the tree, though, you’ll notice how slender the fairway becomes before opening back up in advance of the green. Yet somehow, there is still little room to play with near the end of the 458-yard hole. Two greenside bunkers cover all but a small gap between the fairway and pin.
It’s safe to say Mr. Hamm could be a mean one, too.