There’s no such thing as a sure thing!
If you’re anything like me who likes to throw down a few bucks on a blackjack table or the roulette wheel from time to time, you’ll know full well that the only sure things are death and taxes.
But, there may be a loophole to that rule of thumb at the Pechanga Resort & Casino, located in the beautiful Southern California wine country of Temecula Valley.
Pechanga offers the luxury and comfort guests expect and deserve from a AAA Four Diamond Award-winning property, something Pechanga has won every year since opening in 2002. And, coming soon, the Pechanga Tribe will embark on a $285 million addition to its current resort amenities that includes a new 568-room hotel wing, a two-story spa, resort-style pool complex, two new restaurants and additional meeting and event space.
So, what is already the nicest casino in the entire state might become the finest in the nation.
Of course, it takes more than a casino and a good steak (we’ll get to that in a bit) to make for a perfect vacation and The Journey at Pechanga may well be one of the finest golf experiences you’ll ever have.
Designed by Arthur Hills and Steve Forrest, The Journey is just that, taking you on a fabulous trip into the native canyons and ravines with 18 holes that are as aesthetically pleasing as one can find that doesn’t include ocean views. Set at 7,219 yards, this Par 72 layout rises and falls more than 300 feet over the 18 holes, including the Signature Par 4, 6th hole in which golfers have to tee off to a fairway 175 feet below.
After you ease into things on the nice Par 5, 1st hole, you’re greeted by a beast of a Par 4 at 483 yards on the 2nd hole. A double fairway off the tee seems spacious enough, but the bunkers along the central diagonal face are menacing. Choose the fairway on the right to set up an unobstructed approach angle. A safe drive to the elevated fairway on the left means carrying the bunkers and avoiding the oak grove if the putting surface is to be reached in two. The long green welcomes long straight approach shots with a gentle invitation for a hard-earned par.
If you’ve navigated the Signature 6th hole successfully, a dose of target golf is offered up on the short, dogleg left 7th hole. Getting the ball airborne is no problem from the tee on the high ridge above the ravine. The challenge comes in finding the proper approach location on the broad fairway. Long and right will avoid the fairway oak and leave a favorable angle into the smallish green complex on the 330-yard Par 4.
The back nine is blessed with some stunning holes as well, including the beautiful Par 5, 13th hole that requires a fairly demanding tee shot over the corner of Little Pechanga. A drive to the left provides a better angle around the sycamore and into the second landing area. The cascading stream becomes more of a factor the closer one gets to the putting surface on the 590-yard hole. Playing close to the stream allows a better view and safer angle into the moderately contoured green.
The closing stretch of holes is highlighted by the 16th and 18th holes. A long, controlled draw will serve players well on this strong Par 4 that swings around a long lake. A central fairway bunker will give pause to many on the tee. It is best to play left of the bunker or else one faces a really long and difficult hole even though it only measures 416 yards from the back tees. The green is nestled between a great oak and a sand bunker at the end of the lake. Miss short and right or else go long to avoid a big number. Par is a very good score here.
The finishing hole provides a feeling of being on top of the world as the tee sits high atop the fairway. Stay right of the large outcrop at the edge of the chasm to remain safe off the tee and a target bunker down the fairway provides a great line. Once safely on flat land, a mid-iron approach to an elevated, multi-tiered green, guarded by a formidable bunker on the left, provides the final challenge. Miss the correct tier and you’ll probably miss the chance at par.
Of course, when your journey ends, the Journey’s End, Pechanga’s 62,000-square foot clubhouse awaits you. An award-winning Pro Shop, restaurant and bar, a great outdoor patio and pristine locker rooms for the men and women make this one helluva 19th hole.
If your round of golf put a little too much stress on the bones, Spa Pechanga offers up an intimate indulgence that will pamper your mind and body, allowing you to unwind and escape that triple bogey you might have carded earlier in the day. Everything from Massage Therapy to Body Treatments to Skin Care to Salon Services are available at Spa Pechanga. It might have been the best massage I had in a long, long time.
Now that you’re relaxed and all cleaned up, that steak dinner with your name on it is just a few feet away at the Great Oak Steakhouse, winner of the AAA Four Diamond Award and Wine Spectator’s Award of Excellence. Whether it’s a big Ribeye on the Bone or the most tender of Filets, this place has it all. Not a meat eater? No worries. The establishment has a diversified menu for the most discerning palates.
And, if Surf & Turf is not your thing, Pechanga offers up a total of 11 restaurants to choose from, including Paisano’s Italian, Umi Sushi & Oyster Bar, Blazing Noodles, Kelsey’s Bar & Grill and the always-ready Pechanga Buffet, to name a few.
Okay, so you’ve played a beautiful round of golf, relaxed at the spa, refueled with a hearty dinner and now you’re ready to liven up the night with a little wager or two. Well, the Pechanga Casino is the largest in California with more than 200,000 square feet of gaming options, including 3,400 slot machines, 130 Table Games, a 43-table, non-smoking, state-of-the-art, 24-hour Poker Room, a 700-seat Bingo parlor and, for those looking to take it up another notch, The Club at Pechanga players’ club is all that and more.
Not much of a gamer? Pechanga once again has the answers.
Whether it’s the Pechanga Theater with a host of A-List performers appearing regularly, the Comedy Club with stand-up comics making you double over in your seat or Eagle’s Nest with a live DJ every Friday and Saturday nights, Pechanga is sure to entertain you. Plus, the 2,000 seat Grand Ballroom broadcasts Live Championship Boxing, MMA and other events as they occur.
So, while you might not break 80 and you might not walk away with a life-changing fortune, the Pechanga Resort & Casino will be as close to a sure-thing vacation as you could ask for. Or, do as I did on the second day of our visit…play another round of golf and go back to the casino and make back some of your money!
Story by Larry Feldman