Story by Terry Ross
It is certainly no secret that Southern California is home to many outstanding golf courses and resorts – and it could be argued that one could fill an entire season visiting top destinations in this region of the country – and there would still be more to see.
But one of the lesser-known gems in this area won’t stay that way for long as it has taken itself to an entirely new level.
The Pechanga Resort and Casino, which has been a staple of the Inland Empire region of SoCal in Temecula since it was built in 2002 – and added the acclaimed Journey at Pechanga Golf Course in 2008 – has now doubled in size with a recently-completed $300 million expansion to 1,090 rooms and suites, added a 4.5-acre pool complex, two additional restaurants, a two-level luxury spa with a fitness and yoga studio and additional meeting/convention space that brings the total to 100,000 square foot indoor and another 174,500 outdoor.
Owned and operated by the Pechanga Band of Luiseño Indians, this resort is now the largest resort/casino on the West Coast, and larger than some of the well-known Las Vegas properties like the MGM Grand.
The Temecula area – long known for its many award-winning wineries, temperate weather and abundant golf opportunities – is less than a two-hour drive from the Los Angeles basin and about an hour from the major airports in San Diego and Ontario. The Pechanga Resort Casino, on an expansive 550 acres of tribal land, has just about every possible amenity you can think for a multi-day or even a week-long stay. You never run out of things to enjoy – and we haven’ even gotten to the golf yet!
There are a full 20 restaurants and bars in the complex, highlighted by the new Lobby Bar & Grill for casual, easy dining and some of the best cuisine available under the direction of Jose Mendoza, the head chef who uses locally-sourced foods for the bistro-style eatery that is easily accessible near the hotel entrance.
The resort’s newest full-service restaurant – the Coveside Grill – is a perfect complement to a day or afternoon at the new Cove pool that rivals anything you can find at a casino resort. The new Cove is almost the size of four football fields with three main pools and five spas. The main pool is 8,500 square feet and includes 18 in-pool bar stools, swim-up bar, zero edge pool, private cabanas, family beach pool with two waterslides and a private VIP pool and cabana area.
A Spa Day is always something to consider, and one at the new 25,000 square feet Spa Pechanga is an experience. With a multitude of massage and facial treatments, body wraps, hair and nail salon, exfoliation, couples massage and more, the Spa also offers some time to take a steam sauna, hydrotherapy pool or order something for lunch at the lounge overlooking the golf course and local mountains.
Then there is Journey, the Award-winning golf course at Pechanga that is an outstanding track that can challenge the best players at 7,219 yards, but most will find an adequate test from the White tees at 6,276 yards. This links-style course designed by Arthur Hill and Steve Forrest has many elevation changes that make a round of golf here a scenic delight, but players are advised to bring their A-game since this can be a demanding course that warrants your full attention. Journey is built into the native canyons and ravines of the south end of the Temecula Valley and features abundant lakes, waterfalls, streams and even the occasional wildlife
Two of the more intriguing holes can be the two par-5’s on the front nine – especially the 527-yard (from the White tees) ninth hole that demands precise ball placement on all three shots to have a chance at par. The signature Par 4 sixth hole has players teeing off to a fairway below that is a 175-foot drop down the mountain.
The 366-yard Par 4 18th-hole has a spectacular 250-foot drop from the teeing area to the fairway and is a hole you will want to bring your camera out for.
Journey, with its breath-taking scenery, is never boring and a fun course that you will enjoying playing more as you get to know its many nuisances. The course is noted for its fine conditioning – and of more than 60 golf courses throughout the Inland Southern California region, Journey at Pechanga took the award for “Best Playing Conditions” for the year ending 2017 by greenskeeper.org. Journey also sits among the top 30 Best Courses You Can Play in California according to GolfWeek magazine. The course’s director of instruction, Randy Chang is rated one of the top 30 instructors in the country by Golf Tips magazine.
Featuring an excellent staff under the direction of Scott Mallory, the director of golf, you feel like you are at one of the finest private clubs around. Journey’s End, the 62,000-square foot clubhouse, has excellent fare with great views and an atmosphere to relax after a round – inside or out on the patio. It has consistently been voted “Best Brunch” in the region by Inland Empire magazine. The men’s and ladies’ locker rooms are also available for players and are first rate.
Later in the afternoon or evening, the Casino at Pechanga has a lot of choices for added entertainment. In the more than 200,000 square foot Casino floor there are 130 table games including Pai Gow, Blackjack and many more; a 43-table state-of-the art 24-hour poker room with a 90-seat OTB lounge. The 700-seat seat ultra-modern Pechanga Bingo room is also a fun way to spend some time as well.
Probably the premier dining experience at the resort is the Great Oak Steakhouse that is famous for its AAA Four Diamond Award and Wine Spectator’s Award of Excellence. The prime-grade Angus steaks here are famous and the atmosphere and service are top-notch and will be remembered for a long time.
The Pechanga Resort also has a full lineup of entertainment options for its visitors, including the Pechanga Theater that hosts A-list performers every week in its 1,200-seat venue. The Pechanga Summit features concerts and live-action sports, while the Comedy Club offers stand-up comedians on the weekend. The Eagle’s Next has dancing on Friday and Saturday nights while the Casino Cabaret has live music and dancing.
The accommodations at the Pechanga Resort have all been remodeled – and those in the newly-constructed towers feature spacious spa studio rooms and one and two-bedroom suites with floor to ceiling windows that have breathtaking views of the mountains and golf course. The high definition 55” and 65” flat screen TV’s, coupled with the many other luxury room appointments, are the perfect touch for the resort.
But perhaps the overriding feature at the Pechanga Resort is the constant attention to service from everyone you encounter – from the valet’s, the concierge, in the restaurants and bars and at the golf course. The resort has made customer service the highest priority and it shows in the ways guests are treated throughout the entire facility – and making a visit here a memorable one in so many ways.
To learn more about the Pechanga Resort or to look at vacation options, visit: www.pechanga.com
12th Annual Kore Pro-am Golf Tournament
For the sixth year in a row the ladies of the LPGA – fresh from their first major of the year in nearby Rancho Mirage – spent two days at the Pechanga Resort Casino this spring for a two day Pro-Am at Journey for the 12th Annual Kore Pro-am Golf Tournament. Pechanga has been the host sponsor for the last six years, where 29 talented LPGA golfers were invited to participate in this highly anticipated tournament along with the Pro-Am’s tee sponsors. Joining the LPGA players for the second year were 22 golfers from the Great Oak High School (GOHS) Girls Golf team in Temecula, Calif. The students got an opportunity to meet and greet pro players, receive advice on their game and future endeavors as well as experience the overall tournament.