The newest of Southern California’s Indian casino resorts that make for memorable vacation destinations is probably the oldest when it comes to its history of getting to where it is today.
The sleek new Soboba Casino Resort, which opened less than a year ago next to the Soboba Springs Golf Club in the San Jacinto foothill region of Southern California that is less than an hour’s drive outside of Palm Springs, has a long history in both golf, gambling and the inhabitants of this area that date back centuries.
Going back to 1780 when the village settled by the Soboba Band of Luiseño Indians came under the control of the San Juan Capistrano Mission when California was still a territory of Mexico, to 1995’s opening of the first Soboba Casino in a tent structure crowded with slot machines, table games and one lounge, to the new luxury resort that features 200 finely appointed rooms in six stories, an events center, numerous fine dining options, the tribe has come a long way and developed a top-notch destination complex.
The San Jacinto Valley is ideally positioned as a resort location with its mild temperatures’ year-around, picturesque mountains and ideal location between the Los Angeles basin and the desert regions of the Coachella Valley.
Not only does the Soboba casino have a rich history, but the Soboba Springs golf course that was originally designed in 1966 by Desmond Muirhead and redesigned in 2006 and 2018 by Cary Bickler, also has a connection to the PGA Tour–and the two winningest players in its history.
But the centerpiece of this resort complex is the brand new casino that features 1,800-square foot Presidential Suites with breathtaking views of the San Jacinto Mountains, 34,000 square foot events center, a beautiful 180,000-gallon pool that looks onto the golf course and is ringed by ten cabanas that feature TV’s, refrigerators, ceiling fan and sitting area.
The Casino itself features 2,000 slot machines and 38 table games such as poker, baccarat, blackjack and roulette, while the Cabaret Lounge is lined with televisions showing all the latest sporting events.
The dining selections are outstanding, with the Noodle Bar, Chick’n It, La Casetta (Italian cuisine), Soboba Pub & Grill, El Comal (Latin kitchen), Fairway Café and Koffee Kiicha available for a variety of cuisine. The top choice for fine dining at the casino is the Canyons, which is already earning a reputation as one of the better seafood and steak restaurants in the area and takes the dinner experience to another level with its savory appetizers, creative entrées, decadent desserts and an exquisite selection of wine. The halibut is one of the best selections on the menu, and the attentive staff and relaxing ambiance is a great way to finish a day of golf and gambling!
Even though the golf course dates back over a half century, the redesign of holes 13, 14, 15 and 16 by Bickler just a couple years ago and the classic elements make this one of the better golf experiences in So Cal. A classic design that has been beautifully updated is very playable but can be challenging for even the best players. It measures 7339 from the back “Tour” tees with a rating of 75.3 and a 140 slope, but most vacationers will want to play from the Blue or Black tees that check in at 5970 and 6497 yards.
The Soboba Springs Golf Club is kept in great shape with finally manicured greens and with five sets of tees, this Par-72 layout is a great test for just about any ability. Not long after its first redesign in 2006, it served as the host of the Soboba Golf Classic on the (then) Web.com Tour as part of the PGA Tour’s developmental circuit for four years (2009-2012).
The newly designed holes were altered in part to accommodate the building of the Casino Resort, and the signature hole–# 13—is a fantastic Par 4 that runs along the hotel and its pool complex and features an island green that is surrounded by water, arched bridges and multiple water falls that make it a true scene stealer.
The new No. 15th hole—a Par 5–is said to be the fourth longest ever played on the PGA Tour at 641 yards from the back tees. It is even a hefty 542 yards from the Blue tees.
“Both of these new design elements add a unique level of excitement,” said Bickler about the changes. “Of the four (redesigned) holes, there are two very demanding Par 3s from the Tour Tees at Hole #14 (206 yards) and at Hole #16 (235 yards). Holes #13 through #16 will be a strong test in the golfer’s finishing portion of the round.
“The original golf course architect (Muirhead), had been a mentor of mine and I appreciate the value of his work. I understand what his intention was as he routed and designed this course. The new holes I designed fit seamlessly with the existing portion of the course. They mirror many of the elements that were preserved, and at the same time, they bring the overall golf course experience to an incomparable level.”
Another bit of history goes back even further. According to a number of published reports and quoting Rudy Duran—Tiger Wood’s golf instructor during his youth—Tiger was introduced to Hall of Fame golfer Sam Snead and played a couple holes with him at the Soboba Golf Club back in 1982 when Woods was six years old and Snead was 70. Ironically, both men are currently tied for the most tournament wins in PGA Tour history at 82 apiece entering the new decade after Woods notched his 82nd Tour victory last fall.
Even with so many golf resorts in Southern California, the new Soboba Casino Resort looks to have the kind of golf experience and amenities to become a major vacation destination in this region in the years to come.
To learn more about the Soboba Casino Resort, visit: www.soboba.com
Story by Terry Ross