Field Notes: Going wild in the desert

This year has brought a rare bloom of wildflowers at The Oasis at Death Valley.

The world’s lowest golf course at 214 feet below sea level and situated in the heart of Death Valley is a unique enough destination in itself, but those traveling to The Oasis at Death Valley resort and its Furnace Creek Golf Course over the next month are in for a rare treat.

The rain that visited the Mojave Desert — including a passing hurricane — in the fall and winter of 2023 has created a rare bloom of highly coveted wildflowers, some of which lie dormant for decades waiting for the perfect conditions to spring to life. 

“Only under perfect conditions does the desert fill with a super bloom — a sea of gold, purple, pink or white flowers,” says The Oasis at Death Valley general manager Rick During. “These blooms tend to average once a decade. The most recent super bloom years were 2016, 2005 and 1998.” 

A good wildflower year depends on three things — well-spaced rainfall throughout the fall, winter and spring; sufficient warmth from the sun; and lack of drying winds, During says. 

Don Forehope is a rare bird who grew up in this remote section of the country, left to join the Marines and then returned to become the golf course superintendent at Furnace Creek for the past 13 years. He has never seen the resort golf course greener. 

Remnants of Hurricane Hilary dropped so much water in Death Valley National Park in August that temporary lakes formed, with some lasting into early November.

“We’ve probably had almost five inches of rain since August and normally we only get an inch-and-a-half to two inches all year,” Forehope says. “That hurricane gave us a little over two inches, and then we’ve had storm after storm after storm. And our temperatures have been very, very favorable. I mean, normally our Bermuda grass goes dormant around October until March, and this year we didn’t go dormant until the end of November so our grass really only went to sleep for about a month and a half.”

Forehope says the massive display of wildflowers in the 3.4-million acre Death Valley National Park are situated throughout the normally barren desert with high concentrations in areas called “washes, which are normally dry creek beds. Some are within walking distance in each direction of the golf course and resort. 

“In the park right now there are tourists parked all over the roads looking at the wildflowers,” he says. “And they’re so tall — probably 2.5 to 3 feet high — so people are squatting down in them to get photos and all you see is their shoulders on up and it’s just yellow or purple as far as the eye can see.”

Furnace Creek Golf Course was born here 93 years ago by a date palm caretaker by the name of Murray Miller, who created a three-hole course. It was expanded to nine holes in 1931 and became the first grass golf course in the California desert region. In 1968, William F. Bell designed the second nine hole and three decades later Perry Dye redesigned the course and installed a full irrigation system.

The remote golf course is located about two hours drive from Las Vegas by car and a little more than 4 hours from Los Angeles. 

The layout for Broomsedge Golf Club in Rembert, South Carolina.


North Carolina gets the lion’s share of the publicity when it comes to Sandhills golf in the Southeast, and rightfully so with 2024 U.S. Open anchor venue Pinehurst No. 2 leading the way with some of the nation’s best and unique layouts.

But South Carolina will soon lay claim to a Sandhills gem of its own — Broomsedge Golf Club, which is currently under construction and plans to open in late 2024 outside of Columbia.

The club is named after the Broomsedge plant, a natural, hearty piece of vegetation that grows in loose, sandy soils and is found across the eastern United States. It represents the quintessential unintended landscape — the plant that grows when nothing else is planted. 

Blessed with an exceptional soil profile, the site possesses unusually dramatic elevation changes for the South Carolina Sandhills. It is made even more unique by an assortment of valleys, ridge lines, spines and chasms. These attributes allow co-designers Kyle Franz and Mike Koprowski to move a minimal amount of dirt.

“I knew as soon as I discovered the land that it had immense potential for great golf,” Koprowski says. “We’ve devised an intimate routing over 156 acres that incorporates tremendous long views of the entire course. With several holes that may change par from day-to-day depending on tee locations and weather conditions, and 20 green sites for 18 holes, flexibility will undoubtedly be one of Broomsedge’s main calling cards.” 

Since joining the design business in 2000, Franz has played a key role creating several of the most innovative and acclaimed courses built during the 21st century. They include work with Tom Doak on two of the highest-ranked golf courses built in the last 80 years — Pacific Dunes in Oregon and Barnbougle Dunes in Australia. His restoration experience includes playing a key role in Coore & Crenshaw’s acclaimed work at Pinehurst No. 2, and leading projects at Southern Pines, Mid Pines and Pine Needles Resort in the North Carolina Sandhills.

Beyond Broomsedge, Franz is currently involved with a number of projects such as the widely anticipated Karoo Course at Florida’s Cabot Citrus Farms.

Like iconic private clubs in the U.K and Ireland, Broomsedge’s founders are committed to sharing the club’s atmosphere of great golf and camaraderie with others. To fulfill this vision, the club plans to allow limited access to non-members throughout the year, though it will be heavily restricted during peak months (March-May and September-November). 

Broomsedge is rural, but only five minutes off Interstate 20. The club is roughly 35 minutes east of Columbia Metropolitan Airport.


Municipal golf across the country — defined as facilities owned or operated by government entities – is not facing an existential threat, according to the National Golf Foundation. In fact, the 2,939 municipal courses currently operating in the U.S. is an all-time high and represents just over 18 percent of the country’s overall golf course supply. One of them, Memorial Park in Houston, which was renovated prior to the pandemic in 2019 sees over 65,000 rounds annually and is the site of the PGA Tour Houston Open. … From true barrier island links courses to modern parkland marvels located inland, the Outer Banks region of North Carolina is chock full of golfing variety. According to the North Carolina Golf Panel — now in its 29th year – three courses remained among the Top 50 You Can Play in the Tar Heel state — The Currituck Club at No. 17, followed closely by Kilmarlic Golf Club at No. 28 and Nags Head Golf Links at No. 35. . … Starting in the 1930s, the Black caddies of Augusta National walked the course with the world’s greatest golfers. Now, a book entitled “The Legendary Caddies of Augusta National: Inside Stories from Golf’s Greatest Stage” from author Ward Clayton tells their stories, forever entwined with the history of the game.