Devil’s Golf Course

May 26, 2009


Photographer: Wendy Van Norden
Summary Author: Wendy Van Norden; Jim Foster

The photo above shows a view of Devil’s Golf Course in Death Valley, California. It’s not really a golf course but rather a salt pan littered with small hunks of halite and sodium chloride (table salt). This pan is the remnant of Lake Manly, a Pleistocene lake. As Lake Manly and other lakes evaporated, salt deposits were left behind. Devil’s Golf Course is not at the lowest part of the valley and consequently rarely floods. When water is available in this inhospitable land, it seeps to the surface along cracks and then quickly evaporates, leaving ridges. Eventually, rain sculpts these salt ridges into small but sharp pinnacles.

The name “Devil’s Golf Course,” is a result of the odd round holes dissolved in the salt, about the size of a hole on a golf green. Interestingly, though this is a terrible place to play golf, I’ve found both golf tees and golf balls from people who took the name too literally. The group in the photo isn’t a foursome waiting to tee off – it’s my geology class. However, there actually is a golf course in Death Valley -- at Furnace Creek. It’s best not to tee off during mid summer, though; when, the biggest hazard is the temperature, which on occasion exceeds 122 F (50 C)!