Why Golfing in Death Valley National Park (in July!) is Something That Should be on Every Golfers' Bucket Lists
There are a couple of things I must be doing wrong. Waking up at 5am and stepping outside into a 105 degree pressure cooker is not normally high on my agenda of pleasant summer activities. But this is no ordinary morning – I have a 6:00 am tee off time at the Furnace Creek Resort in Death Valley.
This course was rated as one of the 50 most difficult to play in the United States by Golf Digest, and it’s not hard to see why. By the time my round finishes on this clear July morning, the sun will be baking the 18th green with temperatures passing the 120 degree mark. Combined with the heavy, still air of the valley at 214 feet below sea level, this course certainly tests the resolve of any golfer who attempts it – and that’s the very reason why I have come to play. To play the world’s lowest elevation golf course, to dodge coyotes who are chasing road runners, and to sweat out a round that should be on everyone’s golf bucket list!
The heat of Death Valley, even at 6:00 am, is surreal. The smell of the salt cedar trees surrounding the Furnace Creek resort makes me feel, both metaphorically and realistically, like I’m in the world’s largest sauna. Walking the dusty road to the club house, I’m not sure what is in store for me; only that it will be a round to remember. And I am not wrong.
Normally when you book a tee time as a solo golfer, you’re paired with another group to help speed play along. Not this time. The only people moving here are the weary and bemused club house attendant and myself. As soon as I step out onto the first tee box, I know I’m going to have the majestic course all to myself. Like one of the solo explorers working their way west over 100 years ago, I can’t truly know what I’m in for. Only that it will be hot, lonely, and yet - serene and beautiful.
Furnace Creek is an odyssey; an epic adventure not only pitting one person against the golf ball, but also against the elements. You don’t play a round. You try to survive it. You’ll spend some time debating whether to hit it down the middle of the wide open fairways, or try to cheat the ball to one side or another hoping to be able to catch even a wisp of shade from the trees lining the track. There are water holes on the course, surprisingly, and as play wears on, they begin to look more and more inviting as a welcome relief from the baking sun.
As you work through the back 9, you come close to some of the rooms from the Furnace Creek Resort. There will be a tourist or two watching you from their shaded balcony with a look of amusement that you would be silly enough to do this. It turns out that they’re silly for not! Golfing in Death Valley was an incredible experience. I’m not normally one to golf alone, but I would do it again there in a heartbeat. As I polished off the last of my water on 18, and sank the last putt, I carded a 94. About normal for me. But considering where I was, and the 120 degree temperature as I got off the course at 9:00 am, I felt like I shot 74. It was one of the best rounds of my life, and one of the most memorable.
If you’re going to go to Death Valley I recommend trying it, at least once, in the July sun. It’s brutal, oppressive, stifling, wonderful, magical, and memorable. And there are not many courses who can boast about that.
As I made my way from one hole to the next, I tried to remember to look around. The course, despite the heat, is beautiful. The view of the surrounding mountains, the small pack of coyotes nestled under a nearby palm tree, and above all the silence, made this a round for the ages. You play quickly on this course. Not a lot of practice swings, and really, not a lot of thinking. Just hit, move on, hit again. And as I hit the turn, I realized… I’m shooting a hell of a round.
The Furnace Creek Resort is set upon an oasis surrounded by the mountains that trap the heat on the valley floor. It is important that you stay hydrated. I wisely took the advice of the man behind the counter and stocked up on a hat and 4 litres of water. It’ll barely be enough - and it’s so hot, even at 6:00 am, that the sweat evaporates from your body before it even has a chance to cool you down.
In the summer, book your round as early as possible. If you’re coming from the East Coast, combine your jet lag (6am in Death Valley is 9am on the other side of the continent!) with the “cooler” temperatures at sunrise. There are golf packages available from the resort that make it easy to get there early – by staying the night before! While golfing in July might be challenging, your wallet will be rewarded. Summer rates are half the price and include complimentary cart rental.
While tee times are relatively easy to get in the sweltering summer months, booking ahead to be the first on the course will also mean that you won’t have to wait for the group ahead of you at any point – which is helpful in the blistering heat.
This guest post was contributed by Ryan.
As always, we welcome and encourage your comments. Would you be willing to do sports in extreme heat? Would you be willing to visit such a hot area?
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