Returning to Greater Palm Springs for the first time in three decades, the PGA Tour Champions look to make a valley splash with the inaugural Galleri Classic, held at Mission Hills Country Club in Rancho Mirage this March 20-26, 2023.

The tour for the men’s 50-plus set, the Champions’ history swings back to the former Vintage Invitational, held at the eponymous country club in Indian Wells as an unofficial event from 1981-83; becoming an official tournament in ’84, the event was played under various Vintage iterations through 1992.  The year following, the tourney was hosted in the valley a final time, playing at the Indian Wells Golf Resort as the Gulfstream Aerospace Invitational.

While the debut Galleri Classic is not an official segue from Mission Hills’ 51 years of hosting the LPGA’s Chevron Championship (long known as the “Dinah Shore” and later the ANA Inspiration), the new tourney nonetheless vibes as much; held amid the same late winter date frame and played on the same historic Dinah Shore Tournament Course, the fresh event is not so much a replacement for the Chevron – which has since departed for a new home in Houston, Texas – but rather represents an exciting era both new and renewed for golf fans.

A New Era of Swings

Copy of Dinah Statue

Just as local popularity in the LPGA’s major championship event undoubtedly dwindled across the New Millennium, the return of the Champions Tour would very much seem poised to reinject interest in professional golf anew, outside of the desert’s annual PGA Tour stop, the American Express, held in January.

Sporting a full marquee of golf legends across the 78-player field, the PGA Tour Champions product should find a sweet spot with Greater Palm Springs.

And while the playing grounds will remain the same as those endeavored by the ladies, fans and spectators should expect some distinctions in both viewing and course set-up.

The LPGA event was, of course, a major title (and, annually, the first major championship of each calendar year for both genders); such prestige brought forth major conditions on the Dinah grounds, with competitors dueling though 5-inch rough come Sunday, coupled with super slick putting surfaces which could run toward 13 ½ on the Stimpmeter.

For the Champions Tour, which plays three-day, 54-hole events (with no cut line), the course should play a bit tamer, what with a rough cut to about 2-inches and greens running closer to speeds akin to daily member play, around 12 on the Stimp.

Those viewing either in-person or on The Golf Channel (which will broadcast all three rounds), will, however, see tee box vantages graduated from what fans have long become accustomed to across five decades of the Chevron. 

With the average Driving Distance on the LPGA a shade under 260 yards -- in contrast with the average Driving Distance on PGA Tour Champions at about 280 yards (though more than a dozen players average over 290) – many, if not most holes, will be played from the back tees for the Galleri; while the men won’t take on the grounds’ full 7,250 yards (and don’t expect to see the back tees in used on the famed, 650-yard par-5 home hole), all told, the Champions look to be taking on around 400 more yards of course than what was traversed by the ladies.

And as for that home hole, the question has been begging for months: Will the eventual victor continue the LPGA tradition of the winner’s leap into Poppie’s Pond beside the final green?

Well, according to tournament organizers, if it does happen, it will occur at the spontaneity of said champion.

Tickets and Spectating

Dinah 6(Image courtesy of Henebry Photography)

PGA Tour Champions has long had a sterling reputation in the golf world for a very fan-friendly tenor.  In some contrast to the earnestness with which the ladies vied for a major title at the Chevron or the $8 million purse at stake for the American Express, the Champions Tour swings with more joyous ease and accessibility.

Daily Grounds tickets run just $30, while Weekly Grounds passes (Friday – Sunday) go for $65.  Fans seeking indoor access to Mission Hills should check out the daily/weekly Clubhouse Ticketing options, while those seeking a daily or three-day all-inclusive perch above the 18th green will want to look into Champions Club opportunities. Kids 15 and under receive complimentary Grounds Access with a paying, ticketed adult.

Parking for the general public is $10, and located at nearby Agua Caliente Resort Casino and Spa, from which a shuttle runs regularly, and to-and-from the golf course.

Per the event’s moniker, “Galleri” is a multi-cancer early detection test from healthcare company, GRAIL; attendees should expect to see state-of-the-art testing trailers on-site from the title sponsor.

And for fans seeking a pause from strolling the grounds, guests can expect to find more single-seat viewing spots across the Dinah fairways.  

The Field

Fred Couples

Fans at the Galleri may well see more than just a new tournament; rather, those in attendance could see some serious golf history.

In February of this year, 65-year-old World Golf Hall of Famer Bernhard Langer laid claim to what many insiders consider the most underrated record in all of golf – the most-all time wins on PGA Tour Champions. 

Via his victory at the Chubb Classic, Langer tied Hale Irwin with 45 career Champions wins, meaning that, come the Galleri, fans could have the unique opportunity to see Langer author a new, all-time mark.  Worthy of note is that Langer will likely take a pair of cracks at breaking the record in the two Champions’ events in March preceding the Galleri, the Cologuard Classic and the Hoag Classic (both of which he’s captured in the past).

Aiming to stand in Langer’s way is a full lineup of golf legends, headlined by fellow Hall of Famer, the ever-popular Fred Couples.  A longtime (part-time) desert resident, Couples’ resume includes 15 career PGA Tour victories, coupled with 14 wins on PGA Tour Champions.

Also in the field are a full marquee of golf luminaries, including: 12-time PGA Tour/12-time Champions Tour winner Steve Stricker; 2010 FedEx Cup Champion and 2003 U.S. Open winner Jim Furyk; two-time major champion John Daly; 2011 British Open champion Darren Clarke; three-time major champion and Hall of Famer Vijay Singh; 21-time European Tour winner, “The Mechanic,” Miguel Angel Jimenez; World Golf Hall of Famer and four-time major winner Ernie “The Big Easy” Els;  reigning PGA Tour Champions “Player of the Year,” Steven Alker; and 11-time PGA Tour/10-time Champions winner, desert resident John Cook.

Hitting the greens on your next visit to Greater Palm Springs? Take a look at some additional golf courses in Greater Palm Springs, perfect for players of every level.