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Casino, Golf, Grapes & Olives in Temecula

By Wes and Angela Bolyard

Just a short journey north of San Diego is Pechanga Resort and Casino, an exciting resort in the wine country of Temecula, California.  

As early as 900 A.D. the ancestors of the Temecula Indians lived on the hillsides of what is known today as the Temecula Valley Wine Country. Over the years, the meaning of “Temecula” has been translated into several different versions, the most popular being “Where the sun breaks through the mist”. This truism has made a significant impact in turning Temecula, California into a unique wine region.

The grape vine is a very resilient plant and will grow almost anywhere, however, a specific combination of climate factors results in high quality juice. The desert and the Santa Rosa Mountains to the east of Temecula, and the proximity of the ocean to the west, where the “Rainbow Gap” allows just enough moisture to come through as fog and marine layer, are two of those factors. The warm days, cool evenings, altitude, and soil all add to this micro-climate to create the perfect environment for growth of a premium wine grape. Currently, there are 50 wineries among the rolling hills where you can tour, taste and shop.

Adding to its AAA Four Diamond Award-winning prestige, Pechanga recently completed a massive $300 million resort expansion that adds 568 hotel rooms and suites (totaling 1,100), a 25,000 square-foot standalone day spa and salon, a 4.5-acre pool complex called The Cove, two new restaurants (14 bars & restaurants total), and another 68,000 square feet of meeting and event space for concerts, trade shows and other events. Included in the 200,000 square feet of gaming space are five sections of non-smoking areas. 

Guests of the Hotel at Pechanga receive very competitive room rates, free use of the golf driving range including putting and chipping areas, use of the fitness center 24/7, access to their own RV Resort, complimentary Wi-Fi, internet and parking, and NO resort fees. Entertainment selections are vast:  a 300-seat comedy club, a 1,200-seat theater for live entertainment and a phenomenal golf course.  

Just a little over 20 years ago, the Pechanga Band of Luiseño Indians were looking for something, anything that would offer self-sustainability and self-reliance to their people. They have certainly achieved that with what stands now the largest resort and casino on the West Coast.

Know what you can do besides taste wines, shop, and play games of chance while in Temecula? Play golf! The most interesting and exciting option is Journey at Pechanga, situated between the Pechanga Resort and the Pueska Mountain. Its popularity has dramatically increased since opening in 2008.  You need to personally experience this design to realize how scenic, stimulating and challenging it is.

Director of Golf, Scott Mallory said “The layout is somewhat unique having been built into the hillside, including two areas with a 300-foot elevation change. Hole 6 is where people want to hang out for a while and take pictures, and rightfully so with over a 200-foot drop to the fairway and another large drop to the green. Plus, this tee offers a beautiful view over the Temecula Valley. 

Hole 5 is one of the signature holes (the course abounds with several) with a little stream that runs in front of the green and into the lake guarding the right side of the fairway.  You are hitting into the hillside and it is amazing to watch the ball travel against the backdrop.” All the par 3’s are very beautiful.  

Number 17 is picturesque with a 100-foot drop to a Redan-type green with drop-offs in the front, right and behind the green. Number 3 has a deep green making club selection challenging. Hole 8 is another downhill par 3 over a canyon to an hourglass shaped green. The greens do have quite a bit of undulation that tend to break toward the hotel. 

There are five sets of tees so choose how much of a challenge you want the round to be. Stay and play packages are available that include a reduced green fee. Either before teeing off or after your round, visit the Journey’s End Restaurant for some great food!

In the spring of 2018, The Temecula Creek Inn was sold to the Pechanga Band of Luiseño Indians. Originally built in 1969, the 305-acre property borders the Pechanga Reservation in southern Temecula. The assets include a full-service golf shop, a 27-hole course, 130 guest rooms, a 240-seat restaurant, meeting space, and multiple wedding venues. “We are very pleased to regain this property that holds special historic and cultural meaning to our Tribe,” said Pechanga Tribal Chairman Mark Macarro.

Temecula Creek Inn golf course, adjacent to the Inn, offers three completely different challenges. Director of Golf Peter Wininger says “The Creek nine is a great opening of holes to get you warmed up. It is flatter and lined with trees on most of the holes with some doglegs and the greens are very subtle; everything pretty much breaks toward the creek; generally, a traditional layout.  

The Oak nine is a little more challenging, where you go up against the mountain and again with some doglegs.  The quick greens are the factor here; they are very generous but have nice subtle breaks to them. Not much water on this course, but again, lined by trees.  The Stonehouse is the most interesting and challenging nine with blind tee shots on three of the first four holes.  

Number five is an uphill par 3 and then the fun begins with a big downhill par 4.  The wind picks up in the afternoon on Stonehouse, so play it in the morning.  Try to be below the hole for putting, as the greens are ‘sneaky fast’ on all three nines.” 

Downtown Temecula, known as Old Town, has a charming Main Street with quaint buildings, relaxed restaurants and upscale bistros and unique shops including The Temecula Olive Oil Company. The building where the Temecula Olive Oil Company resides was built in the late 1800’s in Old Town and has an interesting history of many different occupants. 

Owners Thom and Nancy Curry own or manage about 300 acres of olive trees with over 50 different varieties of olives and offer a large variety of products. There are seven different tasting rooms in Southern California, so stroll in for free samples of the company’s extra virgin olive oils and balsamic vinegars: there’s also a terrific selection of olives, flavored oils, spreads, soaps (olive oil soap has a lot of vitamin E, which is great for the skin) and salts. They have taken an ancient craft to a whole new level and are producing products everyone can enjoy.

Temecula is a great year-round getaway and vacation destination. There are many opportunities for relaxation and just plain fun with the golf, wineries and casino. Head over and find out for yourself!


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