Recently the Hooked On Golf Blog World Tour spent some time at Pechanga Resort & Casino, located in Temecula, California. My stay was fabulous and I enjoyed as much of the amenities, food, and golf as I could squeeze in. I didn’t get to it all, so I hope to return and finish the job soon! Let’s take a look at Pechanga Resort & Casino.
Pechanga Hotel Left – Golf Clubhouse Right
Pechanga is a resort/casino which features 517 luxurious rooms of varying levels. The casino area is enormous, as big as any mega-resort in Vegas. As one walks in the main entrance, indoor waterfalls and interesting interior design please the eye.
Within the casino areas just about any form of gaming one would like to experience is there, from blackjack, craps, slots, to a massive bingo parlor. It’s all there.
It would take a week of three-meals per day to scratch the surface on Pechanga’s dining offerings, from fine dining to a food court which rivals large malls.
After a long day of recreating, work, or winning megabucks at the casino, Pechanga offers a full spa with various treatments and services.
Last but not least, “The Journey” at Pechanga is the on-site golf course which features fantastic views, elevation changes, and prime golf conditions. Check out the Hooked On Golf Blog Journey at Pechanga review here.
Location Location Location
What would a perfect golf/casino/resort location be? I’d say somewhere warm with access to major international airports, perhaps close to major metropolitan areas. And to put it over the top I’d say it would be located in a great area for vineyards wine. Pechanga fits the bill on all accounts. The resort is located almost exactly halfway between Los Angeles and San Diego in Temecula, California. When I was flying in I was able to choose flights by comparing cost to LA or San Diego airports. This time around, it was the best deal to fly into San Diego and take the 45-60 minute drive north to Temecula.
Today was likely the last round I’ll ever play at one of my all time favorite golf courses, Wingpointe. Wingpointe is at the Salt Lake City International Airport. The course is known as “Utah’s Links,” and is the design of well known golf architect Arthur Hills.
14th Hole – Wingpointe Golf Course
The city of Salt Lake owns/operates the course and will be shutting it down November 15th, 2015. It’s a damn shame.
Panorama view of Wingpointe’s 3rd and 4th holes
I have many great memories at “Wingy” and she will be missed. Somehow, despite the bad soil there, the greens were always fantastic.
Panorama of Wingpointe’s 13th and 14th holes
For many years Wingpointe was my home course, and I had a nice relationship with the pro Lynn Langren. From the black tees, the course is (soon to be was) one of the most challenging courses in the state, especially with wind.
The course seemed to always fit my eye and I’ve shot many great rounds there under par.
If it isn’t too cold I may try to play it on the last day it is open, if it isn’t covered in snow.
We are constantly bombarded with golf’s bad press and the whining that the game is dying, shrinking, and losing players by the thousands. So what’s the answer? Raise green fee prices!
Wingpointe Golf Course
A local course is going to be shut down here in Salt Lake called Wingpointe. It’s the airport course. As its life comes to an end, they’re offering a farewell price of $25 per round, with cart, roughly half of what that would normally cost. Guess what? The place is jammed. We called for a tee time and the entire sheet was jammed.
Price goes down, demand goes up.
Price goes up, demand goes down.
Simple economics, right? So why the hell do many who manage golf courses not get this? What’s better? Having a course with 10 players on it at $50 a pop, or a course with 100 players on it at $25 a pop? And what about the money those extra 90 players spend on range balls and in the cafe? Some may even buy some balls or even apparel and gear in the pro shop. How much more could the course make in BEER sales alone with an extra 90 players a day?
Another shop in town gets that. A certain times of year, like when they are aerating, they offer smoking deals like the 50% off one above. Guess what? The course is packed. And when it offers those great prices it builds up a customer base. It builds up relationships with customers who will come back.
I know all this is just crazy talk. You golf courses and dumb municipalities who run them go ahead and carry on. When you’re sucking wind and losing money, go ahead and raise your prices even more. Run the rest of your remaining customers off. You might as well go out of business sooner. Perhaps someone will buy your course for pennies on the dollar and run it better than you.
Pop quiz: What’s the first thing golf courses who just switched to a new automated sprinkling system do?
For decades Bonneville Golf Course here in Salt Lake City, Utah has been the most popular public course in the state and for good reason. It is awesome. For decades the course has been known for being a “hard and fast” course which calls for the player to accurately calculate approach shots, landing them at just the right place. Some shots needed to hit short and bounce up in order to stay on the putting surface.
Commonplace at Bonney now… bring your divot tool.
Over this summer the course has switched from manual, hand-watering to a new automated irrigation system. The change is done and the new sprinklers are working, really well. The course is as green as ever but it is very, very different. The greens are no longer the fast and hard greens I’ve grown to love (and hate in a good way on some days). They’re country club soft. Shots which once would bounce over the green when hitting the front half are now backing up. On the 3rd hole, a green which is very hard to stick, I hit a wedge to the middle of the green and spun it back off and down the hill. On #10 I did the same thing, hitting the middle of the green then spinning entirely off the surface.
Some shots this softness has helped though. I hit an 8-iron to the par-5 first, a back pin. My shot flew to the back pin, hitting about a foot short of the flag. Normally that shot would bounce over the green and leave an impossible downhill chip. Instead, I had a 15″ eagle putt.
The speed of the greens is considerably slower right now. This could of course be a factor of the blade length of the mowers, or it could be that they’re just slower because they’re more moist. Those of us who are used to “Bonney” speed and the fine and tough breaks those fast greens produces are now befuddled by putts which come up short and don’t break.
I’m not saying the change is good or bad. It’s just, “different.” The strategy has changed. Rather than hitting shots with the goal of hitting the front or even in front of the green, one must think pin high and go even longer than that. I’m finding that any club less than an 8-iron requires getting the to-the-pin yardage and aiming 10-15 feet past it.
Welcome to the new Bonneville.
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.
Pechanga Hotel Left – Golf Clubhouse Right
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.
Par-4 6th Hole Tee
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.
Pechanga Golf Course 17th Green
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.
First fairway before the early morning marine layer has burned off. Note the trademark tree in fairway…
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.
15th Green at Pechanga
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.
Short game practice area
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.
Pechanga Practice Green
The clubhouse is quite an architectural piece. Inside are the pro shop, locker rooms, and a great restaurant called Journey’s End.
Journey at Pechanga Clubhouse
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.
Journey at Pechanga photo gallery.
Pechanga Resort/Casino photo gallery.