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Despite being rated among the very best golf courses in California, very few golfers have ever heard of Porcupine Creek. Far fewer ever got to play it.
That is about to change.
Less than three years ago, one online golf publication (progolfnow.com) called it “the most exclusive” golf course in America. That was not technically true, as there are courses owned by one individual with no access whatsoever, but still, it was pretty hard to get a tee time at Porcupine Creek - you apparently had rent a secretive private residence that was the stuff of A-list athletes and celebrities. Porcupine Creek was built in 2004 by then billionaire Tim Blixseth, better known in travel circles as the creator of Montana’s exclusive Yellowstone Club, the only significant private ski mountain (and golf course) community in America (now part of Discovery Land Company’s collection of ultra-high-end residential communities).
The course is part of a 230-este private estate that for about the past decade has been owned by a more famous billionaire, Oracle founder Larry Ellison. In hospitality circles, Ellison is known for buying much of Lanai, Hawaii’s most exclusive island and home to just two resorts, Manele Bay and the secluded Lodge at Koele, both Four Seasons properties. After he oversaw massive renovations, Manele Bay became the Forbes 5-Star Four Seasons Resort Lanai. The former Lodge at Koele was completely transformed into Sensei Lanai, A Four Seasons Resort, an adult only luxury boutique resort with a heavy spa and wellness theme, featuring lots of fitness classes and options, plus cuisine from acclaimed chef Nobu Matsuhisa. Lanai also has a standout Jack Nicklaus Signature golf course boasting the most oceanfront exposure in Hawaii (this one I have actually played).
The Sensei Lanai has received critical acclaim, and now Ellison has turned his hospitality touch to Porcupine Creek, which he will open this fall as the first purely Sensei branded property, the Sensei Porcupine Creek. This looks to be the first salvo in establishing Sensei as a new high-end wellness hospitality brand, and will certainly make a big splash, both in wellness and golf travel. Despite the sheer amount of golf in the Coachella Valley (Palm Springs, Palm Desert, Indian Wells, Rancho Mirage), most standout courses are private clubs, with little in the way of pilgrimage-style destination worthy resort courses. Porcupine Creek may well instantly become the area’s must-play for golf travelers.
But Sensei Porcupine Creek is more than golf, with the same heavy dose of health-conscious wellness, spa and cuisine, featuring yoga and fitness pavilions, a free-form lagoon pool, and another Palm Springs-area staple, tennis (hard and Har-Tru courts, lighted). Unique features will include private nutrition sessions, a long list of complimentary well-being classes, and personalized health and wellness assessments. The resort will feature just 22 accommodations, in a mix of rooms in the main Estate House and surrounding 2–4-bedroom villas. Reservations just launched for the November 1, 2022 opening, and include a series of wellness packages, from flexible two-night stays to longer and more inclusive in-depth programs.
There are a lot of wellness resorts around the world, but what sets this model apart is its creators, technology pioneer Ellison and Dr. David Agus, physician, scientist, New York Times best-selling author and CBS News contributor. According to its materials, “Sensei applies data-driven health knowledge and utilizes technology in its programs and services to promote preventative care and healthy lifestyle practices… The two leading innovators were brought together by the loss of a close friend and motivated by a shared purpose: to help people live longer, healthier lives through the most current, evidence-led knowledge combined with a fresh philosophy on food, health and lifestyle. The Sensei Way is informed by Dr. Agus’ lifetime of knowledge and devotion to self-care and preventative health science, and is based on the paths of move, nourish, and rest to address wellbeing and give people the ability to grow well.”
The latter is taken to an extreme in the “Optimal Wellbeing Program,” which uses data on health biomarkers captured through a complimentary wearable device. Guests work alongside an integrated team of nutritionists, exercise physiologists and mindfulness coaches to analyze their unique health data to help meet their personal goals, whether that is peak fitness, improved sports performance or a refreshed mindset. The package includes a personal consultation with their Sensei Guide and pre-arrival specialist to curate an itinerary; complimentary WHOOP 4.0 band and six month membership; ongoing access to the proprietary Sensei Portal; a thorough fitness assessment to measure V02 Max, gait analysis, vertical jump and more to interpret performance metrics and co-create behavior changes; 120-minute Thermal Body Mapping experience or massage; three private sessions focusing on mindset, nutrition and yoga or fitness; $500 in wellness credit to be used toward personal wellness consultations, spa services, and golf or tennis fees; and a concluding My Plan session. This requires a five-night minimum stay and should be booked at least 14-days in advance of travel to maximize data collection and the personalization of the experience. This experience also has sports specific variants in the form of Golf and Tennis Optimal Wellbeing Programs.
“Sensei is excited to offer leisure travelers the full expression of its brand through programs and services that support greater wellbeing at its resort in Rancho Mirage,” said Sensei CEO Kevin Kelly. “Immersed in nature, Sensei Porcupine Creek will provide a place for those who wish to discover more about healthier living, hone their sport performance, simply relax in an elegant setting, enjoy great cuisine, or indulge in therapeutic spa treatments. While providing luxury hospitality, Sensei remains committed to science-led, curated offerings designed with the Sensei Way in mind - organized around the paths of movement, rest and nourishment.”
Without a doubt, this will be one of the most anticipated hotel openings of 2022.
I am a NY Times Bestselling author. If you love Sports, check out my book Fans: How Watching Sports Makes Us Happier, Healthier, and More Understanding. If you love food, check out Real Food, Fake Food. I have been traveling the world as a journalist and passionate fan of all things fun for 25 years. I've had columns in USA Today and Investors Business Daily, published thousands of articles in leading magazines, and am currently the Contributing Travel Editor for Cigar Aficionado Magazine and restaurant columnist for USAToday.com. I love every kind of travel, active, cultural and leisurely, and my special areas of expertise are luxury hotels and resorts, golf, skiing, food, wine and spirits. I tweet @TravelFoodGuy