PS 2022: The Golf Trip
Back in the desert after two years for sunshine, golf and friendship
It’s been 17 days since I left our Airbnb in Coachella, California. During that moment at 7:30am, when Dave Arnold rolled up in his Honda Accord to pick me up for a hike, I’m sure I was filled with gallons of gratitude underneath the viciously-compounded exhaustion. The previous seven nights entailed playing some of California’s nicest public golf courses, catching up with seven friends who have been locked in Canada for more than two years, and soaking in the glory of being completely disconnected from reality.
This was the seventh installment of a well-orchestrated golf trip among this group of friends and it’s always a highlight in my year because of the planning that goes into it, the beauty of playing golf in the winter, and the hundreds of laughs over the course of the week. It was the ultimate vacation, and I wanted to provide a brief yet justified recap including some of my favourite pictures and videos that of course will not do it justice.
The Arrival: Thursday, February 3rd
Because we chose Palm Springs for the second time, I benefit by being able to stay with my parents before and after to extend the trip. I flew in two days before, worked from my parents’ rental for one day, and then logged off on Wednesday night, ready to greet the guys on Thursday morning.
It’s always a bit risky planning events shortly after your expected flight arrival time given the chance for delays, but nothing was going to get in the way of the logistics we worked on for over 6 months. The Winnipeg crew arrived at 9:30am PST and our first tee time was at 12:30pm.
We rendezvoused at our Airbnb - the best house we’ve experienced on one of these trips featuring modern furnishing and a backyard with a giant pool, outdoor tv, hot tub, ping pong table, fireplace, and putting green - just in time to change into golf clubs and unpack the drinks haul I had picked up the night before.
An hour later we were sitting on the patio of the Jack Nicklaus Tournament Course at PGA West catching up, enjoying a cold beverage and soaking in the sun. Hardly a better way to kick off a trip, the excitement was in the air and the guys had just landed direct from Winnipeg where it was -51C with the windchill so they literally experienced a 70 degree shift after a 3.5 hour flight! Incredible.
Thanks to advanced planning and analytics, we were able to play six rounds in seven days on five different courses. Weather can be hit or miss in early February in the Coachella Valley but we hit the absolute jackpot. Every round was shorts and golf shirts with highs ranging from 22C to 28C, almost no wind, and we hardly saw a cloud the entire week. Because the Valley had seen this weather for the better part of a month, the courses were in prime shape, and to sweeten the deal, our trip organizers (Ryan and Randy) achieved an average discount of ~20% below most rack rates.
The golf schedule was as follows:
Thursday, 2/3: Nicklaus Tournament Course at PGA West
Friday, 2/4: Desert Willow Mountain View Course
Saturday, 2/5: PGA West Pete Dye Mountain Course
Sunday, 2/6: Eagle Falls Golf Club
Monday, 2/7: PGA West Pete Dye Mountain Course
Tuesday, 2/8: Pool Day at the House
Wednesday, 2/9: Classic Club
I played quite poorly across the week, but we had so much fun on the courses with little side games for birdies, foursome vs. foursome, and enjoying music, beverages and laughter. It was also nice, for the second Palm Springs trip in a row, to have my Dad join in as official first alternate. Sean wasn’t able to fly in until the third round, so Dave filled in the eighth spot for the first two rounds - I think he had a blast!
The House + The Hangs
As we get older, engaged, married, and become parents, the focus of the trip has continued to move towards the quality of the golf courses we play, and away from the restaurants, bars, clubs or casinos we go to when we’re not playing golf. That was certainly true this year as every course was in phenomenal shape, and we only went out for a couple meals. Part of that was due to the house we rented. It was more pricey than past years but well worth it. We used the hot tub every morning before golf and every evening after golf, and the pool day on Tuesday was amazing (see below).
We did go to a couple restaurants: one in Palm Springs called Boozehounds which I highly recommend if you’re in the area, and one near the house called Tack Room which served up a great vegan burger and onion rings.
We also had a few obligatory casino runs which inevitably guarantee two results: losing American dollars and having an absolute blast. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, there’s nothing more fun that sitting around a blackjack table with your buddies, enjoying some drinks, winning and losing money and laughing throughout it all. Responsible gambling is the best.
For anyone planning a golf trip to the Coachella Valley, I’ll provide some pros and cons for how we planned and executed our adventure in the hopes we/you can learn for next time.
For the fourth straight trip, we did not rent any cars for the eight of us, despite the fact that it’s a very driving-heavy city. We learned this years ago that we don’t want anyone to be held back from enjoying a little birdie juice on the course, and it’s generally just easier. However, this did backfire a little bit on us based on where our house was located. We were near the Coachella/Indio/La Quinta border which seemed to be a dark zone for Ubers and Lyfts. We probably averaged a wait time of at least 15-20 minutes and sometimes they would just cancel on us last minute. Luckily we never missed any tee times, but this added a bit of annoyance (first world problem) to the transportation to and from golf courses.
One saving grace was an Uber driver we got one time named Adam, who drove a pretty sweet Tesla. We made a side deal with him, got his number and ordered him a few more times privately throughout the trip. It didn’t really help us financially, but at least we could trust him from a time standpoint.
Looking back on our Kelowna trip in September 2021, the best part was that we booked a private 15-person passenger van for the few days we were there. This way we had the driver’s number and could tell her when to pick us up from our house and when to pick us up from the course each day. Next time we go to Palm Springs, I hope to outsource transportation to one of those companies so we don’t have to think about Ubers each morning while we’re filling our golf bags with Trulys and Miller Lites.
We all loved the fact that this year we played golf around 12 noon each day except for our final round. This gave us the chance to chill in the morning, make a huge team breakfast, clean up, have a quick hot tub, enjoy a morning beverage, shower, and get ready to head to the course in time to hit some balls before teeing off. It was the best way to start every day and I hope to keep that type of schedule in the future. It also allows for the sun to really heat up so you avoid the chilly mornings. Additionally, I really valued the chill mornings with the guys (who all have kids and are used to being up at 6am), just sitting around with a pot of coffee, recapping the previous night’s shenanigans, and getting psyched about the day’s golf.
When it came to food and drinks, the only thing I would change is to try and have one or two guys purchase everything that would be a group expense (e.g., ordering Chipotle for dinner). It’s not a big deal as we all know where each other live and nobody wants to short-change anyone, but this would allow for easy payment settling in USD before everyone leaves back to Canada.
The Pool Day
After re-arranging the golf schedule a little bit on the first day, we moved our rest day from Sunday (the third day) to Tuesday (the second last day). This decision was made during the Friday morning coffee debrief based on two facts: we didn’t want to not golf on our third day in the desert (still buzzing off the excitement of arriving), and the weather was looking incredible for the Tuesday. We’ve learned over the years to limit 36-hole days and to carve out a day to just sleep in, relax and enjoy everything the house has to offer, so this was the perfect opportunity.
Tuesday morning began with the usual coffee meeting in the living room and a casual hot tub. As the sun started to really cook the backyard, a few of us walked to the nearby convenience store to pickup some essentials and when we got back to the house, we discovered a blender in the kitchen! For the rest of the day, margaritas and daquiris were flowing, our friend Blair joined for some of the festivities (he was in the desert with his family at the same time), and we cranked up the backyard games. Here’s a brief view into the backyard fun we had.
We played corn hole (bean bag toss), had numerous putting contests, and cooled down in the pool as needed. So many hilarious conversations, great catch-ups and just a friendship-fueled day. We finished the day by watching a documentary and our sunburnt bodies were all in bed by 10 as we had our only early tee time the next morning.
These trips are amazing for so many reasons. Like most trips, some of the excitement lies in the planning ahead of time and just looking forward to the event - in which case it often doesn’t live up to the expectations. Luckily, this was not the case. As I think back on the week, I can’t help but smile. I was completely shut-off from work (which made me even more engaged at work over the past couple weeks since returning), and was just soaking up the time with friends who collectively love golf, sun and fun.
While I get that it can be difficult for guys to justify a trip like this (i.e., saying goodbye to a wife who has to look after multiple kids for a full week while we spend money and overindulge in golf and unhealthy habits), I still believe it’s well worth it. At least for me it’s a great way to reinforce how much these relationships mean and how lucky we are to have a group of friends that will always be there for us.
They’ll never take these times away from us, and I can’t wait for the next trip. Thanks for reading.