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Playing at Porcupine Creek a challenging privilege

To catch a glimpse of the highly rated golf course at Porcupine Creek in Rancho Mirage, you either have to brave the Bump and Grind Trail that rises into the Santa Rosa Mountains above the course or be invited inside the gates of the ultra-exclusive residence once owned by the Blixseths.

I was invited inside the gates by Tim Blixseth three times to play the course.

On my first visit, Tim regaled me with stories of how he had designed the course with help and advice from his friends such as Tom Weiskopf, Dave Stockton and Annika Sorenstam.

He explained his concept of how the course should evoke the feel of different locations in the country at different places. He also talked about being able to move plants and large boulders onto the site from other land he owned in the eastern Coachella Valley.

And he talked of how he could make unilateral decisions about the course and its costs because he didn’t have to answer to a board of directors.

The course, lush in its landscaping, begins with the feel and look of many other Coachella Valley courses, with appropriate plants and wide fairways.

As the front nine progresses, the landscaping begins to evolve and, by the ninth hole, with water added to the design, the course was supposed to feel more like a layout in Hawaii.

The back nine begins with a hole straight out the Arizona desert, complete with saguaro cactus.

Eventually the routing moves into the hills, where a par-3 plays dramatically downhill into a box canyon. In one of the foursomes I played with at the course, another player made a hole-in-one on this par-3.

The course ends with the 17th and 18th holes playing on opposites sides of a manmade river. As a bonus, a shot par-3 serves as a 19th hole, or what the Scottish call a bye hole. It’s a place where tied wagers can be settled.

Blixseth never told me how much the course cost to build, much less the cost of the large primary home and smaller homes on the property.

But I remember the Canyon Course at Bighorn Golf Club in Palm Desert had recently opened with a price tag of just over $30 million. I thought at the time Porcupine Creek had to cost at least that much.

Like most golf course ratings, whether or not Porcupine Creek is among the top 20 golf courses in California is in the eye of the player. It’s certainly no Pebble Beach or Spyglass, but it is a course most golfers would thoroughly enjoy playing.

Larry Bohannan is The Desert Sun’s golf writer. He can be reached at (760) 778-4633 or Larry.Bohannan@thedesertsun.com

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