TEMECULA, Calif. -- Rare is the golf resort that offers its guests such ease of access as the Temecula Creek Inn. While the vast amount of stay and plays require some form of shuttling or drive from room to round, the venerable Inn presents guests a mere three-minute wooded walk from your bed to the first tee.
Set amid southern California's placid Temecula Valley wine country, the 27 holes at the Inn present a spread of vintage diversity that will truly fit all level of player.
"The Oaks and Stonehouse are my favorite nines. Both are very pretty, but not without challenges," said Roland Skumawitz, a local mid-handicapper. "The Oaks is very peaceful and quiet, and is the farthest from the freeway. The Stonehouse is most challenging, with lots of up-and-down elevation. The Creek is the flattest, and most think the easiest."
Creek golf course at Temecula Creek Inn
Akin to its two sister nines, the Creek Course concludes play with water in play around its ninth green.
Preceding the final-hole hazard, however, the Creek is a namely open and benign nine, which proves an ideal course for beginners or juniors to join in on the fun.
"The Creek is old style," said Curtis Rowe, Temecula Creek Inn's director of golf. "It's a little flatter, and the nice thing about Creek is even though people seem to think it's the easiest of the three courses, it's not always true. The fairways can still be narrow on some holes, and there is some good bunkering. It's a good starting course where you can generally spray your driver a bit, and the Creek will get you warmed up for the other nines."
Oaks golf course at Temecula Creek Inn
The mellow vibe of the Dick Rossen-designed Oaks Course (opened in 1969) plays with mature trees lining the fairways to ensure players aren't too subdued by the inviting, mellow mood. For what the Creek allows in generous landing areas, clubbing-down on the Oaks will help keep the ball in play.
A tough run on holes 3-6 states the Oaks' authority.
"You feel like you've accomplished something if you can get through that stretch without giving up too many strokes," Rowe said.
On the skinny 498-yard, par-5 second, don't get lost in the beauty of a backdrop.
"You can hit what you want from the tee because the fairway is pretty generous," Rowe said of the Oaks' second hole. "But go extremely right, and then you're flirting with trees and O.B. And the green is well protected by tree cover on the right and a large bunker on the left."
Two holes later, a blind tee shot asks for prudence on the 404-yard fourth, before a roller-coaster approach with a downhill fairway to an elevated green.
"Depending on your length, the player that carries the ball far can actually carry it right into the trouble, because there's a tree over the hill that you can't see from the box. So, it's worthy laying back a bit from the tee here," Rowe said.
Stonehouse golf course at Temecula Creek Inn
A former rock quarry turned golf course in 1990, the Stonehouse Course will prove testy for first-timers with ample blind shots.
"It can be a 'love/hate' course. People will call up for tee times and say, 'You know, I really don't want to play that Stone ... henge Course,'" Rowe said, laughing. "It's interesting; this was the only nine done here by Ted Robinson, so it's got a lot of doglegs. And it's actually shorter than the other two courses -- and you can make it even shorter by cutting some of those doglegs with drives if you've played it enough times."
From the outset, the Stone's first sports a quizzical tee shot begging to play left blindly.
"We always say that you can't hook it enough from the box," Rowe said. "I generally tell people to hit a 4-iron from the tee; unless you're a really talented player trying to hit a big, controlled hook or draw -- unless you think you can get there in two -- the hole really doesn't afford that for most. Most often, it's a 4-iron to 5-wood and then you have a wedge in your hand."
The lengthy par-4 third asks for more seeing to believe.
"You're really just trying to play toward the left and go for the 150-pole there, because anything to the right is to the hazard and you're playing for double bogey," Rowe said. "Another very difficult hole, especially when the wind is blowing your downhill approach."
Added challenge at the Inn's toughest nine will be faced on the 416-yard sixth.
"It's our signature hole, and reputed as one of the tougher challenges across the entire Inland Valley," Rowe said. "There's some tough risk-reward there, with O.B. left and then a little pot bunker in front of the green catches a lot of balls. Normally, there's a 15-to-20-m.p.h. wind there, so the approach can find you with a 5-iron or a 9-iron, just depending on the wind. And then the way the green sets up, if there's a front pin and you leave it a little bit to the right, you can catch the hazard."
Farm-to-table dining at Temecula Creek Inn
"They've got such a great restaurant here; I come out here all the time just to have dinner," Skumawitz said.
Skumawitz isn't alone in his impressions of the Inn's exceptional Cork | Fire Kitchen.
For what the lodging present in homey comforts, the progressive, farm-to-table menu at Cork | Fire Kitchen is far beyond your typically-cautious golf or resort fare. This is one of the best dining experiences in the entire Inland Valley.
Inviting, warm and upscale casual, the bar and restaurant environment are complemented by an excellent wine list offering a host of regional and local options. Moreover, the ever-evolving menu offers both daily specials and weekly ingredient experiments that complement the ongoing options.
Seeking standards? A host of salads prove fresh with the bounty of local farmers, and an awesome post-round snack can be had with Mike's Bratwurst, served on a pretzel bun with caramelized onions, mustard and mayo.
For the more adventuresome dinner, start with a Shrimp Bisque, Truffle Mac 'n' Cheese or Gruyere, Leek and Ricotta Pie before graduating to a Braised Rabbit or Roasted Quail entree.