Temecula Creek Inn pairs fine wine with great golf courses
TEMECULA, Calif. -- For serious golfers and oenophiles, there is arguably no better destination than the Monterey Peninsula. But what if you want the golf courses and wineries, but with better weather and lower green fees?
Head to California's southernmost wine and golf region, the Temecula Valley, home to two dozen wineries and the Temecula Creek Inn, with its 27 holes and the valley's best greens.
Nestled into foothills and ranchland, Temecula Creek Inn has meeting space, a restaurant, and 130 rooms, with most facilities overlooking the course. The oasis of golf, nature and wine is less than an hour from San Diego and 90 minutes from LAX, making it convenient for golf vacations.
Temecula Creek Inn's Stonehouse, Oaks, and Creek Courses
The Temecula Creek Inn's centerpiece is its 27 challenging golf holes. The Creek and Oaks Courses were designed by Dick Rossen three decades ago. The Stonehouse Course is a Ted Robinson Sr. layout that opened in 1990.
The Creek Course is least remarkable, with relatively flat parallel fairways. The Oaks is a solid traditional test, with undulating greens and multitudinous oaks. The Stonehouse is the jewel, with ample scenery, elevation changes and rock outcroppings.
No matter which 18-hole combination you choose, the course rating will not be more than 72.3 from the tips and the slope not more than 130, so playability and scenery are the draws, more so than difficulty.
The courses are popular with locals due to discounted fees for southern California golfers. The conditions are noteworthy, as is the contouring of the greens, which two-time club champion Steve Flores says are key to playing well here.
"The secret to the whole golf course is in the greens," says Flores. "They're incredibly hard to read. You have to have knowledge of what to do."
Local knowledge is helpful at the tee on several holes, too, and Flores shared his experience with the layout.
Starting out on the Oaks Course, one is almost immediately immersed in beauty. The 498-yard second is a par-5 that snakes around oaks to a green set into the foot of the mountains and guarded on one edge by an oak. Behind this green lives a family of bobcats, who seem not to mind golfers and go about hunting despite nearby putting.
The 537-yard fourth is also lovely and, because it plays downhill, ends up being more of a big par-4 than a true par-5. Nevertheless, the stunning approach through a neck of trees to the green, protected in front by a large bunker, requires plenty of skill and guts to go for it in two.
Temecula Creek Inn's Stonehouse Course begins inauspiciously with perhaps the property's only "bad" hole: a 505-yard par-5 with an awkward tee shot that needs only travel 220 yards with a good draw.
The layout picks up steam after the opening hole, however, and you'll admire one hole after another as they rise and drop across the landscape. Tour de France winner (then loser) Floyd Landis trained on the roads encircling the course, so you can imagine the elevation changes.
The 416-yard sixth hole presents you with what might be the most striking tee shot on any southern California inland course. A well-struck ball will fly from the elevated greens over rock and scrub to a rolling fairway. The approach travels farther down the valley to a green in an oak grove. The only blemish on this tough hole is freeway noise.
The 555-yard ninth ends your round with perhaps this nine's tightest tee shot, though flares to the right will likely run back down the hillside. The green is slightly elevated and tucked behind a pond, so it's nearly impossible to go for unless your drive is longer than this writer's (332 yards). There's a generous layup area in front of the green, but be warned: Approaches play 10-15 yards longer than the scorecard says (trust the writer, who washed two balls before discovering this).
Temecula Creek Inn: The verdict
Flores, a pitching scout for the Texas Rangers, has played golf at Temecula Creek Inn with many professional athletes, including golfers, and says the course stands up to them because of the greens.
"Mini tour guys come out here and knock down the flagsticks," he says, "but then they three-putt and walk away pissed."
The scenery, conditions and challenge are worth the reasonable fees. Amenities are also excellent. The course houses Bill Seltzer's Temecula Valley Golf School. Practice facilities are spacious and plush (the range is closed Monday morning for mowing), and the pro shop is well stocked.
Stay and play at Temecula Creek Inn
Best of all, the holes are located out the resort's back door. Stay-and-play packages and custom packages can be arranged pairing golf and winery tours, or specially made picnic lunches to take on area tours. Two miles away is the Pechanga Resort & Casino, with 188,000 square feet of gaming and entertainment from comedy to boxing to live concerts.
July 16, 2007