“There’s a little bit of a pull there that can be tough to read at times,” Scottie Sheffler said about putting in his press conference the day prior to the start of The American Express.
Scheffler was talking about what has been called the Indio factor that has puzzled golfers at the famed desert tournament since it began in 1960.
Some people think the Indio factor is a superstition. Some people just get confused by it. Others just get mad when their putts mysteriously drift off-line.
In truth, as caddie Jim Mackay noted in an article for Golf Digest, it’s just geography. And he could have added, it’s gravity.
However, the saying that “All putts break toward Indio” began when the Desert Classic was played at the original golf courses for The American Express. In 1960, the courses included in the tournament were Thunderbird, Tamarisk, Indian Wells, and Bermuda Dunes.
In 1964, Thunderbird dropped out. The next year Eldorado became a part of the festivities and Tamarisk was not. Eldorado and Tamarisk would continue to alternate until 1990.
And after a couple of decades, a new part was added to the saying, and it became “All puts break toward Indio, but nobody knows where Indio is.”
Today, putts will NOT break toward Indio.
Today, putts will NOT break toward Indio. If they are read with a break toward Indio, golfers will surely miss them.
When the older courses were a part of the tournament, they were located up the valley from a town called Indio, which at the time had about 9,000 inhabitants. (It now has 10 times that many.) The putts did break toward Indio then.
In 1964, Thunderbird dropped out. El Dorado remained until 1990. Tamarisk alternated every third year with La Quinta Country Club, which is still part of the tournament. Bermuda Dunes stayed until 2010, and when it left the festivities, the last of the original Desert Classic courses were gone.
Other golf courses have been added and subtracted over the years. Indian Ridge, the Classic Club, and SilverRock all joined for a few years and then departed. Still, people said all putts break toward Indio.
But once the PGA West courses came in to stay, the idea of putts breaking toward Indio really didn’t work any longer because PGA West courses as well as La Quinta Country Club are in a different geographic location than the up-valley courses like Thunderbird and Tamarisk and even Bermuda Dunes.
Saying putts break toward Indio now would be reading the putts in the completely wrong direction. They will not break toward Indio this week.
The Coachella Valley, which is the area from Palm Springs to Coachella, is now developed to the point that the golf courses in The American Express are actually south-southwest of Indio. That obliterates and obsoletes the old expression.
In truth, the putts have never broken toward Indio, specifically. They have always broken toward the Salton Sea, which is 40 miles southeast of Indio on the way to the Mexican border.
The Salton Sea is a vast, sometimes smelly, inland sea that is left over from when the Colorado River sometimes flowed into the area on its way to the Gulf of California. The riverbed changed locations several times until the construction of Hoover Dam. What was left after the dam was completed is the remainder of the Salton Sea.
So, this week, as golfers are trying to read putts, hopefully, they don’t look toward Indio and hopefully, they know the location of the Salton Sea, which is directly southeast of the golf courses. Indio no longer has anything to do with it!
As a postscript to this true tale, during the construction of the PGA West courses, those working on building the courses would often find small seashells in the sand that underlays the course. The shells were leftovers from the days when the whole area was underwater.
The waterline is still visible on the Santa Rosa mountains that run along the west side of the PGA West private courses.