Set in the South Temecula foothills, a two-hour drive southeast of Los Angeles, Journey at Pechanga (meaning "at the place where the water drips") is one of the most ecologically-sensitive golf courses in the country. This beautiful course winds through natural canyons, over hilltops, past streams and around massive boulders. It's also ranked by Golfweek as one of the 'Best Courses You Can Play.'
"The construction of the Journey at Pechanga golf course was controversial," says Paul Macarro, Cultural Coordinator for the Pechanga Indian Reservation. "Initially, the golf course builder wanted to clearcut our sacred trees but we held firm."
The Pechanga, who have a great respect for trees, managed to save their giant coastal oaks along with their 'grandmother' sycamore tree.
Replica kiicha dot the course — Photo courtesy of Sherel Purcell
Thankfully, all the conditions to honor sacred natural items were finally met, including ancient granite and the ancestral "kitchens," large boulders with built-in mortars where Native American women ground the insides of acorns and other grains and seeds into meal.
The replica kiicha, the small dome houses made of twigs and vegetation, serve primarily as a barrier between the course cart paths and the remainder of the Pechanga Band's sacred land.
Hole 5 at Journey at Pechanga — Photo courtesy of John Cameron
The result, ironically, is the best and arguably the most natural feature of the Pechanga Resort complex. The course offers clear views of the surrounding, boulder-topped hills, as well as an open-air dining option bordering the course fairways appropriately called "Journey’s End."
The surrounding hills do more than offer a great backdrop; they also provide six holes of challenging and scenic elevation. Meanwhile, closer to earth, the other holes - no two are alike - offer water hazards, deep sand bunkers and historical, natural artifacts which determine the interesting layout of the track.
Hole 1 at Journey from Pechanga — Photo courtesy of John Cameron
The Journey at Pechanga course designer, Arthur Hills, carved this championship 18-hole funhouse ride into the foothills of Temecula, routing fairways around the giant oaks, building doglegs that snake along fast-running creeks and steep climbs to cliffside tee boxes.
This is not your average resort course by a long shot; coincidentally, that's the shot you'll need to clear hundreds of yards of scrub, rock-guarded waterways, steep fairway and greenside bunkers.
To compensate for its toughness, Journey at Pechanga offers a well-designed practice area. It's divided into a separate driving range, putting green and a most-impressive short game area. It's complete with sizable sand bunkers and replica rough areas from which careful shots land on slanted greens to help golfers prepare for the challenges ahead.
10 Best: The Most Famous Golf Course You've Never Heard Of