2019 Desert Classic: History

By Ryan Watson

Coachella Valley golf course

The PGA Tour heads to California’s sunny Coachella Valley for the newly renamed Desert Classic, formerly the CareerBuilder Challenge, January 17-20. The field looks to be very strong with Justin Rose, Jon Rahm and Phil Mickelson all competing. The tournament is unique in using 3 different courses and a pro-am format. The courses used are La Quinta Country Club, hosting for the 48th time, and the PGA West’s Nicklaus Tournament Course and TPC Stadium Course. The Stadium Course, designed by legendary course architect Pete Dye, will host the championship round.


The tournament was founded in 1960 as the Palm Springs Golf Classic. Soon after its founding, the tournament came to be associated with legendary actor and comedian Bob Hope and was subsequently renamed the Bob Hope Classic in 1965. Hope, himself an accomplished golfer, served as tournament host for decades. The tournament was an oddball from the very beginning. Until the tournament’s current format was adopted in 2012, the tournament was played over 5 rounds rather than the standard 4, and utilized 4 different courses. The first tournament was won by Arnold Palmer, a feat he would go on to repeat 4 more times between 1961-1973. Palmer’s 5 wins make him the tournament's record title holder. Other notable winners include Jack Nicklaus, Billy Casper, Phil Mickelson and Patrick Reed. The current champion is Spanish golfer Jon Rahm.

Celebrity Pro-Am

The tournament is known for its exceptional celebrity pro-am. All but the championship round included celebrities, and the tournament’s close proximity to Los Angeles and long association with Bob Hope ensured that many A-listers have played the tournament. Celebrities that have played the event include legends Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby and Desi Arnaz. In more recent memory, both Samuel L. Jackson and Jimmy Fallon have teed off at the Desert Classic. The tournament has also hosted several former presidents including Dwight D. Eisenhower and Gerald Ford. The 1995 event saw an opening round pairing of George H. W. Bush, Gerald Ford, Bob Hope and sitting president Bill Clinton. Defending champion Scott Hoch was the pro in the pairing. The round ended with Clinton carding a supposed 93 and saw Ford hit 1 spectator while Bush hit 2. A truly historic outing.

Spectator Information

Tickets are still available for this weekend’s event. Daily tickets are available for $30 while a weekly ticket is $75. All tickets provide grounds access to the tournament as well as to hospitality venues like Albertsons Vons Fan Pavilion on the 18th green, a climate controlled venue with multiple food and beverage options available for purchase. Ticket holders also have access to Casamigos Club 17, an open air venue on the 17th green, and Michelob Ultra Beers fore Birdies on the 16th green. Kids 15 and under are free with a paid adult. Active duty, military reserve, national guard, military retirees, military spouses and first responders are eligible for free tickets while military veterans qualify for discounted tickets. All ticket holders for Friday and Saturday as well as weekly ticket holders also have access to performances by Sammy Hagar on Friday and Bad Company on Saturday following the completion of the day’s rounds.

Fans who won’t be able to attend the event can still follow the action daily on the Golf Channel. Television coverage is provided 3-7pm ET Thursday-Sunday. The tournament is also live-streaming select groups Thursday and Friday on PGA Tour Live. Radio coverage is provided by PGA Tour Radio on SiriusXM and PGATour.com for all 4 days of the tournament.


About the Author

Ryan Watson is a freelance sportswriter and history professor. He has been an avid fan of golf since his father signed him up for golf camp as a young child. Ryan enjoys following the professional game and learning about new equipment and gadgets.