Daily Fantasy Golf Course Primer: Desert Classic

A unique format adds a new variable into the PGA DFS calculus this week. Find out what you need to know about the three courses that await at the Desert Classic.

PGA Tour professionals and amateurs tee it up this week at one of the most unique events of the season for the Desert Classic (formerly the CareerBuilder Challenge). Unlike the typical three-man groups on Thursday and Friday before a 36-hole cut, golfers this week are paired with a different amateur on a different course each of the first three days before the top 70 (and ties) proceed to Sunday for the final round.

The three courses are the Stadium Course at PGA West, the Nicklaus Tournament Course at PGA West, and La Quinta Country Club. Those who make the 54-hole cut will repeat the Stadium Course for their Sunday. History is wonky here - there are three courses in play, the Stadium Course only entered the rotation in 2016, and it accounts for half the holes to be played. Prior to 2012 it was a five-round event.

As the name suggests, the courses lay in the California desert near the city of La Quinta, CA and weather is typically not a factor.

Let's dig into the courses and see what stats we can use to build our daily fantasy lineups this week.

Course and Tournament Info

SeasonCourseParYardageAverage ScoreAve O/U ParRank
2018Stadium Course at PGA West72715971.181-0.81936
2017Stadium Course at PGA West72715971.588-0.41230
2016Stadium Course at PGA West72715970.818-1.18241
2018Nicklaus Tournament Course at PGA West72715969.445-2.55550
2017Nicklaus Tournament Course at PGA West72715970.744-1.25639
2016Nicklaus Tournament Course at PGA West72715968.936-3.06449
2018La Quinta Country Club72706068.831-3.16951
2017La Quinta Country Club72706069.635-2.36549
2016La Quinta Country Club72706069.148-2.85248

Each course features bermudagrass greens overseeded with ryegrass and poa trivialis, per Future of Fantasy. Bunkers and water hazards are littered throughout and serve as the primary protection on courses that generally tip toward the easier side. The Stadium Course is clearly the biggest challenge, with Nicklaus and especially La Quinta playing among the easiest courses on Tour year in and year out. Short par-72 tracks can sometimes turn into a buffet line for the Tour's bombers, but the Pete Dye-designed Stadium Course holds true to its architect's intentions and demands precision and shot-making over bomb-and-gouge.

Key Stats

These stats have proven vital to success at the Desert Classic.

Key Stats for the Desert Classic
Strokes Gained: Tee to Green
Strokes Gained: Approach
Birdies or Better Gained
Strokes Gained: Par 5s

Because many golfers are playing different courses on different days, the idea of "gaining strokes" on opponents is harder to nail down at this event. Consistent tee-to-green players are the target this week, once again with an emphasis on approach. At the Stadium Course, for example, top-10 finishers have gained 1.16 strokes on approach versus just 0.50 strokes off the tee and 0.40 strokes around the green, according to statistics available on Fantasy National Golf Club.

Birdies push golfers up the leaderboard at the tournament and drive fantasy scoring for DFS players. Especially on two courses as forgiving as Nicklaus and La Quinta, finding golfers who can go low is an absolute must this week. The best bet for scoring, of course, will be the par 5s. With three guaranteed rounds, every golfer will get 12 cracks at holes they can consistently play under par. If they make the most of those opportunities and play average elsewhere, they will guarantee themselves a Sunday round. If they crush the par 5s and actually play well otherwise, they'll find themselves in contention.

Course History Studs

Jon Rahm is the defending champion and finished T34 in his 2017 debut.

Adam Hadwin has three consecutive top-six finishes in the last three years. In 2017 he shot a third-round 59 at La Quinta before ultimately finishing in 2nd.

Bill Haas missed the cut last year but in the four years prior had finishes of T17, T9, WIN, and T6.

Brendan Steele has made four straight cuts including a T6 in 2017 and a T2 in 2015. He pops on Future of Fantasy for both performance on California courses and on overseeded greens.

Mike Rodden is not a FanDuel employee. In addition to providing DFS gameplay advice, Mike Rodden also participates in DFS contests on FanDuel using his personal account, username mike_rodden. While the strategies and player selections recommended in his articles are his personal views, he may deploy different strategies and player selections when entering contests with his personal account. The views expressed in his articles are the author's alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of FanDuel.