A Golfweek selection for “Best courses you can play”, Journey at Pechanga, set in the foothills of Temecula, one hour north of San Diego, is one of the most eco- sensitive in the country. This beautiful track offers a variety of challenges through natural canyons, massive boulders past streams and over hilltops.
The Journey at Pechanga course designer, Arthur Hills, created this championship 18-hole course with input from the Pechanga Band , routing fairways around the giant oaks, and building doglegs that snake along fast-running creeks with steep climbs to cliff-side tee boxes.
“The construction of the Journey at Pechanga golf course was controversial,” says Paul Macarro, Tribal Chairman for the Pechanga Indian Reservation. “Initially, the golf course builder wanted to clear cut our sacred trees but we held firm.”
The Pechanga, who have a great respect for trees, managed to save their giant coastal oaks along with their ‘grandmother’ sycamore tree.
Thankfully, all the conditions to honor sacred natural items were finally met, including ancient granite and the ancestral “kitchens,” large boulders with built-in mortars where Native American women ground the insides of acorns and other grains and seeds into meal.
The replica kiicha, the small dome houses made of twigs and vegetation, serve primarily as a barrier between the course cart paths and the remainder of the Pechanga Band’s sacred land.
The result, ironically, is the best and arguably the most natural feature of the Pechanga Resort complex. The course offers clear views of the surrounding, boulder-topped hills, as well as an open-air dining option bordering the course fairways appropriately called “Journey’s End.”
The surrounding hills do more than offer a great backdrop; they also provide six holes of challenging and scenic elevation. Meanwhile, closer to earth, the other holes – no two are alike – offer water hazards, deep sand bunkers and historical, natural artefacts which determine the interesting layout of the track.
The par three 17th has the most elevation on the back nine. Par is a great score on this hole. Just 180 yards from the whites, your only bail out option is the front bunker.
This is not your average resort course by a long shot; coincidentally, that’s the shot you’ll need to clear hundreds of yards of scrub, rock-guarded waterways, steep fairway and green-side bunkers.
To compensate for its toughness, Journey at Pechanga offers a well-designed practice area. It’s divided into a separate driving range, putting green and a most-impressive short game area. It’s complete with sizeable sand bunkers and replica rough areas from which careful shots land on slanted greens to help golfers prepare for the challenges ahead.
If your game needs a tune up, visit Randy Chang’s Golf School on-site at Pechenga Resort & Casino. Golf Channel Academy Coach and PGA pro, Randy Chang has the rare ability to explain the swing simply and to help you make changes quickly.
Previously published on USA Today 10 Best