How Mission Hills will differ from longtime LPGA setup
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PGA TOUR Champions heads to Coachella Valley for inaugural The Galleri Classic
Written by Bob McClellan
Mission Hills Country Club in Rancho Mirage, California, is best known for serving as host to the LPGA’s first major of the season for the past 50 years.
But now the PGA TOUR Champions takes over at the Dinah Shore Tournament Course, one of three 18-hole layouts at the desert facility just outside Palm Springs, for the inaugural Galleri Classic.
Mission Hills head pro Stephan Estes is interested in seeing the differences in how this new group of players will attack the course.
“It’s a par 72 with the typical four par-5s and four par-3s,” Estes said on Tuesday. “One of the biggest differences will be the rough. For the LPGA, the rough was high and thick, 4 inches. For the Champions Tour, it will be 2 1/4 inches. In years past the LPGA had it so it was very penal. The guys will actually find their golf balls. The ladies had to have spotters, so these will be a bit more normal playing conditions.”
The back tees extend to 7,112 yards. Estes said the course is fairly open off the tee with a few exceptions, such as the signature hole, the par-4 sixth. It has water down the entire left side, all the way to the green.
“I would imagine most of the Champions Tour players will hit 3-wood or hybrid off the tee and then have a short iron to the green,” Estes said. “It shouldn’t present too difficult of a challenge.”
The Dinah Shore Tournament Course was designed by Desmond Muirhead and opened in 1971. The Muirhead design with which Champions Tour players probably are the most familiar is Muirfield Village in Dublin, Ohio. He designed it with Jack Nicklaus and it’s the home of Jack’s tournament, the Memorial Tournament presented by Workday.
Estes believes the most challenging thing about the PGA TOUR Champions’ newest host venue is the greens.
“The greens are in impeccable shape, and they’re running about 12 (on the Stimpmeter),” Estes said. “Even for someone playing here for years like I have, these greens are very subtle. They’re subtle but they’re true. They can be difficult to read.”
As with so many tournaments, Estes said whoever putts best this week probably will be the one standing at the end.
“I think it favors good putters,” Estes said. “It seems like whoever putted best that week won the LPGA event.”
He’s also looking forward to how the final hole might play differently for the Champions Tour pros. It’s a 530-yard par 5 with a forced carry over water into the green.
“We have a tee box for that hole that is 640 yards,” Estes said. “But they’re playing it at 530. The LPGA played it from there, and a lot of them didn’t go for it in two. It’s a risk-reward hole, and with the length of many of these guys I expect to see a lot go for it. That will be something to watch.”
This is the second consecutive week the Champions Tour will play in California after last week’s Hoag Classic at Newport Beach Country Club. But as the players travel 115 miles inland, they will find dramatically different conditions, according to Estes.
“They’ll still find nice weather, but the grasses here are so different than what they played last week because we’re in the desert,” Estes said. “So not much will carry over from last week.”