Course Review: Journey at Pechanga

Three-word review: Worth the wait!

Long-winded review:

Wow! What a difference a week makes. Last Sunday, I was slated to play the highly touted Journey at Pechanga course for the first time. However, the weather was so ugly when I showed up, that I decided to cancel my tee time and play Summerly instead. I wanted my first (and who knows, only) experience here to be somewhat special. I knew the views were spectacular and were a key component of the experience here, so I was hoping for a nice sunny day.

A day like today.

The weather today couldn’t have been more different than it was last weekend. It was picture perfect, and though other parts of Southern California have been windy the last couple of days, there was nothing more than a slight breeze out here today. It’s ironic, because this course is known to get a bit windy (especially in the afternoon), so I figured with all the high wind advisories elsewhere, it would be howling out here. It did pick up a tiny bit as I finished my round, but not bad at all.

This course is normally quite expensive as part of the Pechanga Resort, where the table minimums are high and the prices are lofty for just about everything. Normal rack rates for Journey range between $150-200. Very few courses are worth that, and I never had any intention of paying such a price for this course. I knew it was a great course, but I was still waiting for the right deal to come along.

My own “Journey” here started a couple weeks back. It’s funny because I rarely pick up any of the free golf magazines when I am at courses, but for some reason I felt compelled to take home a copy of Southland Golf a when I was at Cottonwood earlier this month. When I opened up the first page, I saw an ad on the inside cover for Journey at Pechanga. In it, I saw a coupon that was good from 10/15-11/15. The prices were $74 weekend and $64 weekday (no blackout dates or time restrictions). I knew the course was reopening after fall overseeding/maintenance, but the price point was too good a deal to pass up for this course.

I’m so glad I waited until the weather was better, because I know I wouldn’t have enjoyed the course nearly as much last week as I did today. The great weather highlighted what is a really fun and scenic course that was in fantastic condition. Everything was green and lush as the grass continues to come in from overseeding. Things are running a little slower on the fairways and greens than they are supposed to usually, but I couldn’t imagine things being too much better than they were today. I was very impressed with the conditions.

They have an exceptional practice area with a nice putting green and chipping green. The driving range has complimentary balls and it is probably the nicest range I’ve ever seen. It was beautifully manicured with target greens, sand traps and neat undulations. It is all a bit unnecessary for a driving range, but I appreciate the attention to detail here. In fact, I would say the driving range at Pechanga is better conditioned than 95% of courses (the actual courses, not their ranges) throughout Southern California!

As for the course itself, it did not disappoint. There is a great variety of holes here. No two designs are the same, yet they all flow together with a cohesive look and feel. I loved that. There’s a good variety of distances and hole shapes here. I like that some are more target/strategy holes and others are “grip it and rip it” layouts that allow you to be aggressive. A few holes are a bit unusual (the 7th comes to mind) and may not be enjoyed by every golfer, but I like that they threw in some unorthodox design elements.

The tee boxes are appropriately spaced out to provide the right amount of challenge for each person’s skill level (assuming they pick the proper one for themselves). Big oak trees, creeks/arroyos, boulders and ponds come into play and create a scenic look. And of course, there are some great changes in elevation. Holes 6, 17 and 18 are kind of the signature holes here and provide some amazing views of the surrounding valley.

The 6th hole features one of the biggest drops from tee to fairway you’ll find anywhere. From the back tees (copper), it’s a par-4 that plays at 488 yards and the drop is over 250 feet! I wasn’t playing from back there, but I did go up to the top to see the best view. The 18th is also quite a drop from tee to fairway as you come in from the hills toward the clubhouse. Speaking of the clubhouse, it’s an impressive facility that evokes the high-end resort feel that Pechanga is all about. Everything about the service here is top-notch, as well.

Also peppered throughout the course (primarily the back nine) are remnants and displays showing the history of the Pechanga tribe. It’s a little bit of a history lesson as you play golf. There are a bunch of old huts (or newly constructed to make look “old”—I’m not really sure) and other tribal things that provide unique atmosphere for this stunning course.

If you are like me and have been waiting for the right time and right deal to play Journey at Pechanga, THE TIME IS NOW! Grab a copy of Southland Golf, get out there and take advantage of those deals before 11/15 and you will not regret it. Conditions will probably only get better over the next couple of weeks. I am so glad I finally got to play here and I’m even happier that it actually lived up to (and exceeded) my lofty expectations. If they have similar deals next fall, there’s a good chance I’ll be out there again.

For the price I paid, I found Journey to be worth the visit. However, when considering regular prices I’d generally opt for plenty of other great courses that won’t cost quite as much to play.

Some pictures from Journey at Pechanga (10/27/12):

The incredible view from the 6th hole’s back (copper) tee box. The guy hitting is teeing off from the whites, where I played from:

The “lousy” view from the white tees on the 6th:

A close up view of one of the tribal huts:

The beautiful par-3 17th:

The great view from 18th tee:

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