On The Road In California: Get out of town, explore the Temecula Valley

By David R. Holland, Contributor

LOS ANGELES -- Here in smoggy, shaky town there is never a lack of things to do. But sometimes even Angelinos need to get out of town. One just needs to escape the traffic and smog. And what's great about living here is the abundance of places you can drive to for just a weekend of golf, sightseeing and fun.

Pala Mesa Resort golf course
Pala Mesa Resort's course challenges with elevation changes through aged oaks, pines and sycamores.
Pala Mesa Resort golf courseRedhawk Golf Club - 2nd
If you go

The Temecula Valley is just two hours from the heart of L.A. and only an hour from San Diego and in the foothills of the Palomar Mountains there is a burgeoning golf destination in a land of year-around sunshine and perfect golf temperatures.

The Temecula Valley and Fallbrook area date back to the Temecula Indians, who inhabited the hillsides before the white man came. In the 1800's it was a mail route which connected the east with the west, and today it is home to a blossoming wine industry and a golf course explosion.

Visit here once and you will want to return time after time.

Pala Mesa Resort

Pala Mesa Resort in Fallbrook, only 14 miles from Temecula, is a perfect place to base your weekend golf trip. Despite the short distance, Fallbrook is in San Diego County and Temecula is in Riverside County.

The resort's 6,502-yard, par-72 course follows the beauty and rolling land. The hillsides are covered with huge round boulders and the twisting terrain presents the golfers with daring elevation changes through aged oaks, pines and sycamore trees.

Built in 1961 and designed by William H. Johnson, this course has unique subtle-breaking greens which are always in excellent condition. In 1997 the course added 15 new fairway bunkers and reconstructed 39 fairway and greenside bunkers. Dick Rossen was the first to redesign this course, followed by Ted Robinson in 1984.

The back nine climbs into the foothills with a variety of hilly golf scenes. You will strike golf balls uphill and downhill with little margin for wild shots. The only rap on this course is that it is in high demand.

"This is just an absolutely beautiful spot," said Jim Rogers of San Diego. "I know golfers who have been coming here for years and I finally tried it. You can't beat the scenery, the staff, the golf and most of all the weather. You can play golf in San Diego Country all year long. That's why we live here."

In a 2001 survey of golf professionals in San Diego County by GolfIndustryOnLine.com, Pala Mesa Resort was rated the no. 5 public golf course in the county.

Courses throughout San Diego County were evaluated by the golf professionals on the basis of 12 different criteria including practice facilities, amenities, course condition, pro shop, on-course service, tee time availability, playability, aesthetics, ease of access, value and intangibles (such as staff and management attitudes).

Pala Mesa Resort's 18-hole course moved up in the rankings from no. 8 in 2000. Others ranked include Four Seasons Resort Aviara, Maderas Golf Club, Barona Creek Golf Club, Coronado Golf Club, Riverwalk Golf Course, Carlton Oaks Country Club, Torrey Pines North Golf Course and Cross Creek Golf Club.

Pala Mesa has countless other activities including pool, spa, fitness center, jogging trails, tennis and more.

The resort features 133 guestrooms and suites. Clustered in two-story California Ranch style buildings overlooking the golf course or scenic foothills, each provides a host of amenities including a large, convenient work desk, two telephones with data ports, coffee maker, hairdryer, iron/ironing board and mini refrigerator. The Executive King rooms feature a wet bar and private terrace.

Directions: From central-eastern Los Angeles communities and the San Fernando Valley Take I-15 south and get off at the Mission Road-Fallbrook exit. Proceed to stop sign and turn left on Old Highway 395. Continue for two miles and Pala Mesa will be on the right.

Redhawk Golf Course

Just 30 minutes from Pala Mesa the travel golfer can view snow-capped peaks as an awesome backdrop for Redhawk Golf Course, which opened in 1990.

Mark O'Meara liked the layout so much he fired the course record 64, but he did have some inside information. He gave course designer Ron Fream some ideas that lead to the 7,095-yard par-72 layout.

"Most of the visiting golfers think Redhawk is a challenging, interesting layout," said David Tung, general manager. "The greens are undulating but fair and golfers like that."

The signature hole is the 165-yard par-3 eighth. From one of eight terraced tee boxes the golfer sees an island green with an 8,200-square foot flower-shaped putting surface. Access to the island is a cobblestone bridge inspired by the Gene Sarazen Bridge at Augusta National.

Another signature hole? That's no. 12, a 165-yarder, this time the green becomes an island surrounded by a huge sand box. The tee shot is struck from an elevated tee.

Another often remembered hole is no. 14, a tricky 340-yard par 4. Those trying to reach it in one will find three very deep pot bunkers fronting the green. You won't find any other bunkers like it on the rest of the layout. From the air the 9,000-square foot green is shaped like the silhouette of a man with a huge dip where the neck would be. From head to shoulders the green dips eight feet. A large oak tree guards the left side of the fairway.

Redhawk has been ranked no. 7 among the state's top 50 public courses by one golf publication. There's no doubt when you finish your round here, after negotiating the lakes, boulders, oaks, islands and bunkers, you will be able to remember many of the unique holes.

Directions: From Interstate 15, take 79 Indio Exit, travel east for 2 1/2 miles to Redhawk Parkway. Turn right and follow for 1/4 mile directly into parking lot.

Other golf

Also worth a look are Legends Golf Club, Temecula Creek Inn, and in Murrieta, Bear Creek Golf Club, California Oaks Country Club and The Golf Club at Rancho California.

Temecula off course

Float above Temecula's Wine Country in a hot air balloon. Go fishing at Lake Skinner. Browse the antique shops of Old Town Temecula. See a play at the Temecula Valley Playhouse. There's no shortage of activities.

Fallbrook, the "Avocado Capital of the World," also has antique shops, art galleries, and an Old West flavor with buildings from the late 1800s, and many outdoor activities.

The Temecula Valley Wine Country has 11 wineries that produce award-winning premium wines and offer tours and tasting. In addition, events are held throughout the year including Barrel Tasting and Nouveau Wine and Food Tasting. The Concierge at Pala Mesa Resort will arrange visits to the Wine Country.

Mission San Luis Rey was founded in 1788 and known as the "King of all Missions". It houses the largest collection in the U.S. of Spanish vestments and has a museum of relics from early California.

The Palomar Observatory has the world's largest reflecting telescope as well as a space museum.

David R. HollandDavid R. Holland, Contributor

David R. Holland is an award-winning former sportswriter for The Dallas Morning News, football magazine publisher, and author of The Colorado Golf Bible. Before launching a career as a travel/golf writer, he achieved the rank of Lieutenant Colonel in the Air Force reserve, serving during the Vietnam and Desert Storm eras. Follow Dave on Twitter @David_R_Holland.

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