In 1927, a date-palm caretaker for the Greenland Ranch, now called the Oasis at Death Valley, laid out just three-holes of golf at what would become the lowest golf course in the world. At 214 feet below sea level, it is a must-play for avid golfers. You are probably wondering where the highest golf course is located. That distinction belongs to the La Paz Golf Club in Bolivia, at an elevation of 10,800 ft.
By 1931 the course was expanded to nine holes and, in 1968, expanded to 18 holes. In 1997, Perry Dye, Pete’s oldest son, was hired to renovate and make some strategic improvements. Today, the Furnace Creek Golf Course measures 6,215-yards from the blue tees (the tips) and offers a most challenging round for all levels of players. It plays to a par of 70 and has a USGA rating of 74.7 with a slope of 128. Due to a higher level of barometric pressure and the stronger than usual pull of gravity, your golf ball does not travel as far as you would normally hit it. The course is fairly tight, with fairways lined with palm trees and tamarisks, a feathery large bush. Water comes into play on nine of the 18 holes. Several fairways parallel each other allowing space for those who do not always hit the middle of their own fairway. Most of the greens are small with some interesting undulations.
In spite of its name, Death Valley is very much alive and is home to more than 1,000 plant species and 51 species of native mammals, 307 species of birds, 36 species of reptiles, three species of amphibians and five species of native fish. The golf course’s Audubon designation helps protect the abundance of wildlife there. The majority of the golf course land was once an alfalfa field providing feed for the mules hauling borax — a household cleaning agent — out of Death Valley to Mojave for processing.
Ed Stone is founder and editor of Go Golf & Travel.com.