Drink in Redhawk Golf Club amid Temecula wine country

By Judd Spicer, Contributor

TEMECULA, Calif. -- Descending from the parking lot toward the clubhouse at Redhawk Golf Club feels like being transported into a golfing oasis: A subtle scent of wine country, chill music playing over the practice green, foliage surrounds and an intimate clubhouse nestled adjacent to Rico's Cantina.

Redhawk Golf Club
Redhawk has been ranked among the top 10 non-resort courses in California.
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Redhawk Golf Course

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Redhawk Golf Club is one of California's 10 best public courses. Located on the outskirts of San Diego in Temecula, the course is home to one of the southern California's only island greens. The layout is challenging no matter what your skill level but it is still immensely enjoyable.

18 Holes | Public golf course | Par: 72 | 7071 yards | Book online | ... details »

Drink in the vibe while you can. Though the mellow mood transcends to the course itself, Redhawk plays more like an eye-bending shot of Jack than a subtle sip of syrah.

"Every hole is definitely different and offers different views," said Gena Dells, the head professional at Redhawk. "The great thing about this course is that it's challenging, but manageable. It's one of those courses where you have to play it once and then you want to come back out and play it again just a little smarter."

Cut through an affluent residential community with mountain surrounds and memorable elevation changes, this 1991 design from Ron Fream and Mark O'Meara plays with a maturity that belies its 20-plus years.

With mature tree lining throughout, making for several skinny tee corridors, the driver won't always fly at Redhawk. Moreover, continually testy approaches to sizeable, yet skinny and well-undulated greens will challenge the best iron players, whether you play from the back tees (at 7,110 yards) or forward.

"All of the greens are unique," Dells said. "We have a lot of differently tiered greens. Some are more dramatic than others."

Such drama extends to the putting surfaces, which present the added defense of long-cut rough just beyond fringes. Two-putts are continually acceptable at Redhawk, especially when playing above the hole. And for those hitting askew approaches toward oft-tucked pins, your wedge game must be polished to avoid messy double bogeys.

Big hitters should tread lightly at Redhawk Golf Club

Clubbing down on several holes will aid in avoiding trouble at Redhawk Golf Club. Along with exchanging driver for hybrid or mid-iron on several par 4s (advisable on Nos. 3, 6, 14 and 15), the 528-yard, par-5 first sets the tone for prudence.

"If you're a long hitter, you don't want to hit your driver because you'll go through the fairway," Dells said of the double-dogleg opener. "You need to play respectful and set yourself up for a birdie."

Of the diminutive sixth hole, Dells said: "There's a great view from the tee box, but the hole always gets the best of us. You try to drive down the middle, but the fairway slopes off to the right a bit. But then there's a fairway bunker on the left. And the green is guarded by a waste bunker, so you have to play the hole safe."

Novelty also plays a factor at Redhawk, as is best evidenced by the clever 14th hole, a mere 342-yard par 4 that sports a run of pot bunkering before a roller-coaster green.

Equally brazen are Redhawk's memorable collection of par 3s, beginning with the slight 153-yard fourth.

"It's a shorter hole, but also straight uphill," Dells said of the five-tiered target. "You have to be smart with your tee shot and the green is surrounded by bunkers. So if you hit above the hole, stopping the ball is going to be a challenge."

The 167-yard eighth is among the Inland Empire's most deservedly lauded holes, featuring an island green and beautiful backdrop. With wind considerations (especially in the late afternoon), clubbing becomes paramount to par.

As if to toy with the concept, the ensuing par 3 features a less-traditional island-style design.

"It really is kind of an island feel, just because it's surrounded by the waste area," Dells of the 161-yard 12th locked by sand.

Redhawk's penultimate task is a downhill doozy, presenting an exceptional, elevated view of the Temecula surrounds and a not-so-subtle final reminder about the value of clubbing down.

"No. 17 is a hole that I love," Dells said. "It's all downhill with an insane view from the tee box. It's fun to shoot it out there and watch if you're going to hit the green or hit the road."

Redhawk Golf Club: The verdict

With nearly 40 wineries in the region, Temecula is a burgeoning golf-and-grape destination, drawing weekenders from San Diego and Los Angeles.

Dave Palmer of Venice, Calif., drove out with his wife for a 30-hour getaway that included Redhawk Golf Club by day and a tasting by night.

"It was a fun course," Palmer said. "Very challenging and you definitely had to make some shots. Some of the tees were really tough and a number of the par 4s didn't require a driver."

Instruction and facilities

Redhawk Golf Club boasts a full practice facility is present, and lessons and clinics are available to all levels. As carts lack GPS, first-timers should study Redhawk's web site, which offers a satellite view of the grounds and thorough hole-by-hole descriptions.

Judd SpicerJudd Spicer, Contributor

Judd Spicer is an award-winning, veteran freelance writer hailing from St. Paul, Minn. After 12 years of covering MLB, NBA, NCAA and the active golf landscape of the Twin Cities, he relocated to the Palm Spring, Calif. region to further pursue his golf work and Champions Tour dream. Sporting measured distance off the tee, Spicer refers to his pitching wedge as his "magic wand." Follow Judd on Twitter at @juddspicer.

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