Par Excellence

Porcupine Creek is a well-kept secret.

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  • Written by
    Charlie Koones

If you’ve just spent a night at Sensei Porcupine Creek, your expectations for a round on the property’s golf course are understandably high. Step up to the clubhouse and those expectations are quickly confirmed. After being welcomed by director of golf Richard Ruddy, you’re escorted to the practice area—which, chances are, will be yours alone. When I played, my partner and I were two of only four golfers on the course. The staff outnumbered the players.

The course is a well-kept secret. Tucked into the foothills of the Santa Rosa Mountains, it was originally built in 2004 by billionaire Tim Blixeth. When Oracle’s Larry Ellison purchased the property in 2011, he quietly reimagined the course with the help of unnamed but clearly capable designers. In the ensuing years, precious few players have ever had the good fortune of seeing, much less playing, this desert gem.

Like the Sensei resort, the course is high-end and expensive. At $950 a round, it is among the highest tickets in golf, priced between Pebble Beach on the Monterey Peninsula and Shadow Creek in Las Vegas.

Porcupine Creek is a visual feast. Dotted with thousands of mature palm trees and massive outdoor sculptures, the site is striking and meticulously manicured. Ruddy shared that the course spreads more rye seed than Augusta National, and having played that course as well, I don’t doubt him. The fairways are so lush that you don’t get as much run out on your tee shots as on other premium courses. But man, are your fairway lies spectacular.

The back nine winds its way up into the mountains, eventually summiting at the 217-yard, par-3 15th. My partner dropped a soft 7-iron five feet from the pin for a memorable birdie. I, on the other hand, found this signature hole more challenging.

Unlike the trip into the mountains, the majority of the course has a more refined but traditional feel. While the rolling fairways are lush, they force strategic decision making. Water is abundant, with a creek running through the back nine that looks as though it’s been there as long as the mountains.

My round at Porcupine Creek left me with an impression of tranquil seclusion. While it lacks the architectural pedigree of some courses in its price range, the experience is like a trip to a Savile Row tailor—exclusive in every way. Coming up on 18, you know you’ve been challenged on a solid desert track, but you’ve also just played 18 spectacular holes and seen fewer fellow golfers than fairway divots.