What You Need To Know: Furnace Creek Golf Course at Death Valley
An Insightful Interview With Jon Skaggs, PGA Golf Professional
By Brian Weis
Whether you have played a course 20+ times a year or looking to play the course for the first time, insights from an insider can help enhance your golf experience. Below is an interview with Jon Skaggs, PGA who shares some valuable tidbits about the course, memorable holes and must eats and treats at the 19th.
Give Our Readers An Overview of the Golf Course/Property
Furnace Creek Golf Course is the world's lowest elevation golf course, at 214 feet below sea level. This is truly an oasis course, providing a unique golf experience in the desert. The course is great for a golf vacation, or a day trip from nearby Las Vegas or the Southern California areas. The resort provides an ideal winter getaway, while other places golf seasons are over. Golf has been played at Furnace Creek since 1927. Started out as 3-holes being built by the caretaker of the Date Palm Orchard located here at The Ranch. In 1931, the owner commissioned the caretaker to expand the course to 9-holes, and it became the first full grass course in the California desert region. In 1968, William F Bell (Billy Bell, Jr) built an additional 9-holes and in 1997 Perry Dye completed a major renovation of the course. A fully automatic irrigation system was installed, so the course can stay open year-round. Renovations completed in 2017 to 15-acres of maintained turf, that were transitioned to desert native plantings with low-water-use, were primarily focused on water conservation. The Furnace Creek Golf Course at Death Valley is now a water neutral facility and features more native foliage and lined water holes, that are highly sensitive to and respectful of the environment. The course is certified by Audubon International as being a Cooperative Sanctuary and recognized for its Environmental Sustainability.
If Someone Was Looking To Golf In The Area, Why Should They Play Your Course?
Besides the novelty of being able to say you played "your lowest round ever", in terms of elevation, the course provides a sense of quiet calmness and is a relaxing experience. You feel close to nature as there are species of local and migratory birds, numerous Coyote, Roadrunner and the occasional Bobcat sighting. But be on the lookout for birdwatchers, people walking dogs around the course, and the sporadic catch-and-release fisherman in our water holding ponds. You can also say you played one of Americas 50 Toughest Golf Courses, as ranked by Golf Digest Magazine.
What Tips or Local Knowledge Would You Provide To Help Them Score Better At Your Course?
Most golfers will need to club up. Being below sea level, the air is denser so the golf ball will not fly as far. Even wedge shots 50 yards and longer are affected. In the summertime, play early because of the heat, and stroke your putts a little firmer. Due to the heat of summer, we cannot lower the cut on the greens mowers, like we can in the cooler months... or we risk burning out the greens. Keep your tee-shots straight as well. The Tamarisk (Salt Cedar) and Palm Tree lined holes, as well as the Bermuda Grass rough challenge a player's accuracy.
Any recent changes to the golf course? Or any upcoming changes?
We plan to renovate our cart paths in the near future, as well as move the Golf Pro Shop and 19th Hole Restaurant to a new building already constructed.
Recent Awards or What You Are Most Proud About The Course?
We are proud to be an Audubon Sanctuary Golf Course and listed by Golf Digest as one of America's 50 Toughest Golf Courses.
What Is The Signature, Most Talked About, or Most Photographed Hole?
Holes 1 & 18 are probably our most photographed holes, as even people not playing golf usually take photos of these two holes near our stone plaque stating we are the Lowest Golf Course on Earth at 214 Feet Below Sea Level. If there is a Signature Hole, it may be our 2nd hole... a par-3 over water. Many people are surprised we have water hazards on the course, but they are necessary because the spring-fed hazards are the source of our water to keep the grass growing year-round. Hole #2 is also a good photograph spot.
Getting a photo with the water, and the majestic Panamint Range Mountains in the background to the West, is a must!
What Is Your Favorite Hole? Any Tips to Play It?
My favorite hole is our number one handicap hole #6. It is a 440-yard hole from the Blue Tees, with a tee shot over water to a narrow fairway. There are two-ways to play the hole: 1) a more direct, but difficult route, up the left side of the fairway, or 2) a tee-shot to the right side of the fairway that avoids water and opens up the green, so you can avoid the large Tamarisk tree on the left side of the fairway. If you play left, getting the tee-shot in the fairway is a must, as if you are in the left rough you may not be able to hit the green in regulation due to the Tamarisk tree. Playing to the right part of the fairway, even if you are in the rough, will allow you a view of the green and opens up your opportunity to get on/close to the green.
Must Have Dish or Drink after the round at the 19th Hole?
Our golf course restaurant is called The 19th Hole. The signature item would be the Mulligan Burger: two ¼-pound beef patties, melted cheese, sauteed onions, green chili, smoked bacon, lettuce, tomato and the house made "Mulligan Sauce". Besides a selection of beers, specialty drinks include a "Lip-Out" Bloody Mary & a "Worm-Burner" Margarita!
For the traveling golfer, do you have lodging onsite or partner with any area hotels?
There are two hotels and a campground at The Oasis at Death Valley. The Inn is a AAA Four-Diamond rated resort, located a mile east of The Ranch on CA-190 (right at the Zero Elevation Sign and the road to Badwater - the lowest elevation spot in North America). The Ranch Resort Hotel is the energetic center of the activity in Death Valley. The Furnace Creek Golf Course at The Ranch is located right near the Furnace Creek Fiddlers' Green Campground, behind the Gas Station. The golf course is within walking distance from all the hotel rooms at The Ranch, and directly adjacent to the Fiddlers' Campground.
Who Holds Course Record and What Was Their Score?
The course record is 61. Held by two PGA Professionals: Kip Freeman, PGA & Steven Prehm, PGA. I'm not sure of the year, but they each shot the score while playing together in the same group. The scores were attested to by their playing companions. Kip was the long-time Golf Pro at Furnace Creek and Steven was his Assistant Pro, so course knowledge (and talent) is definitely helpful.
Back Tee Stats
Furnace Creek Golf Course at Death Valley
Death Valley, CA, 92328
More Information »
Revised: 02/03/2023 - Article Viewed 566 Times
- View Course Profile
About: Brian Weis
Brian Weis is the Publisher of GolfTrips.com, a network of golf travel and directory sites including GolfWisconsin.com, GolfMichigan.com, ArizonaGolfer.com, GolfAlabama.com, etc. Professionally, Brian is a member of the Golf Writers Association of America (GWAA), International Network of Golf (ING), Golf Travel Writers of America (GTWA), International Golf Travel Writers Association (IGTWA) and The Society of Hickory Golfers (SoHG). In 2016, Brian won The Shaheen Cup, an award given to a golf travel writer by his peers.
All of his life, Brian has been around the game of golf. As a youngster, Brian competed at all levels in junior and high school golf. Brian had a zero chance for a college golf scholarship, so he worked on the grounds crew at West Bend Country Club to pay for his University of Wisconsin education. In his adult years, his passion for the game collided with his entrepreneurial spirit and in 2004 launched GolfWisconsin.com. In 2007, the idea for a network of local golf directory sites formed and GolfTrips.com was born. Today, the network consists of a site in all 50 states supported by national sites like GolfTrips.com, GolfGuide.com and GolfPackages.com. It is an understatement to say, Brian is passionate about promoting golf and golf travel on a local, regional, national and international level.
On the golf course, Brian is known as a fierce weekend warrior that fluctuates between a 5-9 handicap. With a soft fade, known as "The Weis Slice", and booming 300+ drives, he can blast it out of bounds with the best of them.
Contact Brian Weis:
GolfTrips.com - Publisher and Golf Traveler