As much as I want to support my local golf course and help “grow the game,” sometimes I just want to pack my own PB&J or ham sammich. Let’s face it, $9.75 for a dried out sandwich that’s been sitting there for three days is not what I’d call a good deal.
Cookie Monster Sandwich Holder
For the times I do pack my own sammy, I use my little boy’s Sesame Street sandwich holder. I used to make the sandwich and put it in a sandwich bag, then throw that in my golf bag. By the time I’d get around to the sandwich it would be smashed and messy. Not conducive to making birdies. The sammich protected by the Sesame Street sammich holder is in perfectly pristine condition, ready to be munched and helping my score.
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.
10th Hole – RIver Oaks
Last Tuesday I played round one of my 2015 club championship, defending my 2014 title. I’ve been struggling the last few weeks and I struggled during the first round. The course was playing as tough as it can play with 20-25 mph south winds. From the tips of this mega-tight course and with those winds, big scores can happen, and they did.
It was a bizarre round to say the least. My normal group of players all could not make it, so I ended up playing with a group of players I did not know. They were all seniors and very high handicaps. While they were nice gentlemen on the course, it was a bit wonky for me to be playing two tees behind them, and watching them card nines and tens on holes while I was trying to grind out pars and an occasional birdie.
It got more weird.
The group I was playing with were only 9-hole competitors. So I headed to the back nine with nobody to play with. With nobody to play with, I was sure to card a hole-in-one on every hole. I was going to have to wait for a foursome of league competitors behind me to catch up in order to complete my round with league members. So it would be weird because I’d be in a five-some.
Then the pro shop sent out a league member to play with me as a marker. It was the player I’d beaten in the final match of the 2005 club championship. He proceeded to tee up no less than four balls on the 10th, spraying them all over hell. As he was there just to play some practice golf, he was hitting multiple balls all over the place. Near the greens I would chip on, then he would chip 3-4 balls. On the greens he was putting several balls all over the green. It made it hard for me to concentrate.
On the par-5 13th into a heavy wind I decided not to go for the green and to play a 6-iron layup. I pulled it into some very long grass left of the fairway. I searched for my five minutes to no avail. The marker sat in his golf cart on the other side of the fairway and did not offer to help. I ended up making a double-bogey on that hole, the easiest hole on the entire course.
It gets more strange.
Dissatisfied with his poor play of his 3-4 balls per hole, the marker decided he’d had enough and LEFT after the 15th hole. I was on the 16th tee in my club championship, playing by myself. This is messed up. I’d talked to the league president via text about it and he understood I had done everything I could do and that he trusted me to finish the round by myself. Great! 16-17-18 will all be aces! I ended up finishing par-par-birdie. Damn near aced the par-3 18th. Imagine how screwy that would have been with no witnesses?
As mad as I was, especially with making some horribly stupid errors on the course like losing a ball on a par-5 layup iron shot, I’m only TWO shots behind the leader with one round to go tomorrow.
I not only have a chance, I have a good chance. That is, if I find someone to play with.
I hate cart paths. They’re a menace and diminish the game of golf in my opinion. You will see no cart paths at the Old Course in St. Andrews, ever. The revenue generating aspect of cart paths, especially for American/resort golf is a fact of life for most courses. Without that extra revenue many more courses would go under.
On my recent HOG World Tour stop at Pechanga in Temecula, California I saw a fun twist on cart paths. Rather than having small streams go under them, the resort has the water flowing over them. If you must have cart paths, might as well have some fun with them!
A golfer in my group named Mike jokingly said the flooded cart paths were the main reason he chooses to golf at Pechanga because he likes to get a running start and fly through the water in his golf cart. Me being the opportunist I am told him to let me have my camera ready before he did it. I managed to snap the pic below at the absolute perfect time!
That’s a different kind of water hazard at Pechanga!
The unique cart paths were just one of the interesting aspects of playing at Pechanga. More to come.
I’m such a diehard with the grammatical details…
Every time I play the 3rd hole at one of my home courses I read the lower sign and think to myself, “Since I’m only responsible if my shot was ‘errant’ I’m not liable if I knock out the house windows intentionally? I don’t have to cover damages resulting from a shot which is not errant, but purposefully hit that direction and executed perfectly?”