I’ve heard a lot about the golf course at Pechanga and I’m glad I was finally able to make the short trip down to Temecula, California to check it out. The course is called Journey, or sometimes referred to as Journey at Pechanga.
Location Location Location
Journey at Pechanga is located on the property of the fabulous Pechanga Indian Reservation resort/casino in Temecula, California. Temecula is in a perfect location roughly midway between San Diego and Los Angeles. When booking my flights it was nice to be able to choose between the LA airports or San Diego. I ended up choosing San Diego this time around because the cost was a little lower.
Journey’s routing brings it in the hills behind the resort, and gives the course some great elevation changes and views.
Pechanga is a very challenging golf course featuring five sets of tees. With five sets of tees players can choose how much of the challenge, or journey, they wish to bite off. From the tips, the Copper tees, the course plays to a par-72 with a course rating of 74.8 and a slope of 142. In plain English that’s one tough journey.
The course architect for Journey is Arthur Hills. I’ve played many of Mr. Hills’s courses and while he has some architectural signatures, his design at Pechanga is quite unique and original on a few levels. Part of the uniqueness of the course design is the challenges Hills had in preserving sacred areas and sacred items on the property. Players who are unaware of these sacred items might complain or wonder why there’s a large tree in the of the fairway. After solid drives I found myself directly behind a couple of those large trees with no shot at the green. I was irritated for only as long as it took me to remember these are sacred trees. Then I took my bogey and moved on.
There are several spots on the course where huts can be found, and some very old historic structures.
Modern huts, homes, are not on the course and never will be. I love courses like this which aren’t developed for the strict reason of selling lots. Major points scored on this for Pechanga.
Tee shots at Pechanga are probably the strength of the course design. Hitting the tee shot accurately is perhaps the most important shot on just about every hole. Many tee shots present forced carries and very large elevation changes, requiring precision and good math skills at figuring out the yardage to elevation change difference. Coming from a mountainous area, the elevation changes were right at home for me.
Tee shots sometimes present the player with risk/reward options, like the par-4 5th hole. At around 300 yards a bomber could play aggressive and try to drive the green. There’s not much room for error though with a stream dissecting the landing area and a lake the player must carry. On my first time around the course I chose a conservative route on that tee shot, hitting hybrid to the left fairway. From there it was a sand wedge to five feet and my first birdie of the day. The second time I played it I played more aggressive and ended up making bogey.
The next hole (#6) is a par-4 that provides the most dramatic elevation drop of about 300 feet. Drives seem to stay in the air for an hour or two from that tee box. In the photo below I’m about to launch one on #6.
Another great tee is on the par-3 17th (pictured below), with a large drop and a view of the resort and parts of Temecula in the background.
I almost aced 17 on my first go-round. Unfortunately my playing partners just missed out on some free beer.
The fairways at Pechanga are generally fairly wide and not terribly difficult. If you’ve managed to find the fairway, you won’t be faced with a tricky or unfair stance, but you might have issues due to the aforementioned sacred trees. It happened to me twice, once on the first hole and once on the par-5 9th.
A few fairways are split, giving the player two routing options. One option is often for the more aggressive player and one for the conservative.
During my round at Pechanga I found the greens to roll smoothly. They were receptive to good shots, even spinning a few back. Some greens like the 18th featured large undulations and tiers while others like the 2nd and 3rd were more flat and subtle.
Many greens are guarded by some stern bunkering. Greens located on the hillside often had a favorable uphill side to help deflect errant shots above the green onto the green. But that same slope would severely penalize errant shots which hit the downhill side. I know this first hand.
The gap between the 5th and 6th holes is literally about a five minute drive in a golf cart, including a massive elevation change. That may be the “Journey” right there! There’s another big gap between 16 green and 17 tee. Because of some of these long gaps between holes and the steepness of the hills I really don’t see walking the course as an option. The walk from 5-6 could take a fit individual 15-20 minutes. Those gaps make some of the routing/flow a bit on the funky side.
Pechanga has a great driving range with high quality range balls. There are actual greens and bunkers in the range providing players the opportunity to play real golf shots at targets with forced carries. This is a great alternative to the ranges on some courses where the target is “north.”
The short game area is perhaps the best of the practice facilities at Pechanga though. There are several short game greens with side-hills, chipping pitching slopes, and bunkers to practice from. That’s where I should have spent most of my time, and where most players would benefit as opposed to pounding drivers all day on the range.
Finally the practice green (below) provides an accurate representation of the speed and feel of the greens on the course. More importantly though, there’s a bar/cafe about 20 feet away.
The clubhouse is quite an architectural piece. Inside are the pro shop, locker rooms, and a great restaurant called Journey’s End.
The pro shop is full of a massive apparel and equipment selection. If you forgot something or need some new gear, they have it.
I had breakfast at Journey’s End a couple of times and the huevos rancheros was fantastic, along with the pancakes.
The Journey produces some very fun resort golf between all the great amenities the hotel and clubhouse have to offer and the Arthur Hills designed golf course itself. The course can play as relaxing or as challenging as a player may want with it’s diverse set of tees. Bring some extra balls and bring a camera.