Desert Island expects redesign to achieve ‘heroic’ water savings

  • Desert Island CC
    The Henebrys

    Desert Island Country Club in Rancho Mirage, California, is planning to redesign its course in April 2025

  • Desert Island CC
    The Henebrys

    Owner Miguel Nelson expects to make “heroic” water savings following the project’s completion

Richard Humphreys
By Richard Humphreys

Desert Island Country Club in Rancho Mirage, California, is expecting to make significant water saving gains as part of a redesign plan for its golf course, which is planned to begin in April 2025.

Desmond Muirhead’s 1971 design has eighteen holes around real estate at the centre of the square site, with a lake as buffer between golf and property. Unlike many of California’s private country clubs, Desert Island has short green-to-tee connections and is very walkable.

To oversee the 2025 project, Desert Island owner Miguel Nelson hired five-time LPGA major winner Amy Alcott, whose previous projects include the Olympic Golf Course in Rio de Janeiro, where she was part of the Hanse Golf Design team.

The original irrigation is set to be replaced by a new state-of-the-art system. At least eight acres of irrigated turf will be converted into low water usage areas – achieved by scraping soil away to reveal native sand, which in turn will be used to accentuate the course’s undulating landscape. “The water aspect of the story is heroic,” said Nelson. “We will be so much more water efficient.”

The course redesign will add “contemporary flourishes”. At least 10 greens will be redesigned (a Redan is under consideration), and all will be regrassed with Mini Verde bermuda, which has been introduced with success at other California layouts, includingEl Dorado, Thunderbird and Ironwood.

All existing bunkers will be rebuilt and reshaped with ZLine’s synthetic bunker lining system. New bunkers will be added, with Alcott planning to include a Church Pew complex.

Alcott and the club are looking to slightly shorten the opening par-four first hole, lengthen the fifth to a 205-yard par three, divide the seventh into a new driveable 360-yard par four and a new 160-yard par-three eighth (sharing a lakefront double green with the fifth), and combining the existing eighth and ninth on an elevated parcel of land that will give the 402-yard ninth a recognisable desert island feel.

On the back nine, plans include revamping the fifteenth, with the hole surrounded by wild agave (cultivated at the property’s agave-based spirit distillery), and the eighteenth’s green complex, with a desert island-green design mooted.

“The result should create a cinematic golf experience like no other with the highest quality turf and bunker conditions,” said Nelson. “We are also looking to develop an all-new professional training facility and golf warm-up park close to Desert Island’s first tee. The park may include a 150-yard by 35-yard tournament putting green and short-game practice area that mimics obstacles and features of the restored course. The driving range will feature 16 bays and have the latest biometric feedback technology and projection screens.”

Desert Island is in the process of approval for a new luxury boutique hotel. The resort project also includes an Olympic-length swimming pool, 11 private villas, a fitness pavilion and a tennis court.

Nelson expects construction work on the course and hotel to begin in April 2025, with completion of the entire project in three years.