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San Diego Golf Course Review - Barona Creek Golf Club | Barona Creek Golf Course | Barona Golf Resort & Casino | Barona Valley Ranch Resort and Casino

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Barona Creek - Challenge Your Senses by Martin Olivera

When you exit Highway 67 and connect with Wildcat Canyon Road you also leave the noise and the complexities of life behind. You are about to enter the Barona Indian Reservation, just 20 minutes northeast of downtown San Diego. As the six-mile drive takes you closer to your final destination, the Barona Valley Ranch Resort and Casino, it's hard not to notice the badly burned vegetation on either side of the road. Darkened rocks, charred sage, chaparral and oaks are a reminder of the savage San Diego fires that decimated a great part of San Diego County last year. But just like an oasis in the middle of the desert, the sudden appearance of the majestic, 1930's-style casino and hotel buildings as you negotiate the final turns of the winding road, are a spectacular sight in dramatic contrast with the gloomy landscape created by the fires.

Back in 1932 when the Mission Indians purchased this San Diego ranch and settled in the Barona Valley - now part of Lakeside, California - they changed their name to "Barona Band of Mission Indians" and went about their usual farming business. Their former land near El Capitan Reservoir, given to them back in 1891, had just been purchased by the local government for its valuable water. For several years they struggled in this new water-poor settlement. But in 1984 they took their first step towards their dream of self-sufficiency when they established a bingo hall on the Barona Reservation. By 1994 they had grown up to become the first Indian gaming operation to integrate a central theme into its casino and marketing. Today that operation expanded into a $260-million complex that features the largest casino in California, a 397-room hotel, and a 7,088-yard championship golf course that has already won awards and the recognition of golf experts.

Deployed like a blanket over the hillsides and valley in the Southwest corner of the Reservation, the Barona Creek Golf Course was built with very little earth movement. This natural looking Gary Roger Baird design - Todd Eckenrode was the project architect - opened to the public in 2001. This brand new San Diego golf course consists of wide open, gently rolling fairways and spacious, undulating Bent grass greens embraced by forgiving, multifingered bunkers filled with soft, snowy white, Augusta sand. At each tee box players are greeted by a granite rock etched with the hole number and yardages from each of the five sets of tees. But the actual highlight on each rock is the tribal name brand of one of the original Indian families that moved there, conveying the feeling that the family itself is hosting the players along as they play the hole. Several old oaks scattered about Barona Creek Golf Course gives this par 72 layout a rustic flavor.

Unlike the neighboring casino, there is little chance for gambling. No extreme forced carries and just a few risk-reward situations are present in this friendly, yet challenging San Diego golf course. The front nine holes feature undulating fairways with subtle changes in elevation. On some holes, bunkering about 50 to 60 yards from the green and the grassy swells give the visual illusion of shorter distance for the approach. You must trust the yardages on the sprinkler heads and markers for correct clubbing. The back nine holes climb up and down the hillside, some of them hugged by prominent rocky outcrops.

The shortest par four hole on the course - the uphill 14th, 315 yards from the back - is followed by the farthest point from the clubhouse, the 15th tee. This tee is also at the highest elevation on the Barona Creek and offers a magnificent panoramic view of the lakes at the bottom of the valley and the hotel and casino. You can't help but pull your camera out of your golf bag and snap your own postcard. The finishing hole is also the toughest. A 474-yard par four into the prevailing wind, it entices the player with a wide open fairway running parallel to an elongated lake, but then it demands a careful approach to a large green next to the water. Among the distinctions earned by Barona Creek Golf Course are: "Top-5 Daily-Fee Course in California" and "Top-100 Modern Course in America" by Golfweek magazine, "Top-10 New Course in America" by GOLF Magazine, and "Bronze Signature Sanctuary Certification" by Audubon International.

In addition to the outstanding golf facilities which also include a fully stocked Pro Shop and snack bar, and a complete short-game practice area and turf driving range, the 18,000-square-foot Barona Golf Events Center - located immediately adjacent to the course - provides an ideal venue for a post golf tournament reception and dinner or other special events. It's divided into four ballrooms of different sizes to suit the needs of any occasion. A Victorian-designed, white washed wedding chapel seats 68 guests and is located overlooking a small lake with stunning views of the foothills.

There is a first-class restaurant within the casino, the Barona Oaks Steakhouse. Exquisite cuisine and excellent service. The hotel, situated next to the casino, is surrounded by wild sage and California oak, and was designed to capture the flavor of the reservation's 1932 origins. Besides its spacious rooms furnished with earthy hues and rustic wood accents, it offers many conveniences such as a fully-equipped fitness center, and a business center.

Click to book tee times, corporate golf events or read more information about Barona Creek Golf Course or any of "The 20 Best Golf Courses" in San Diego."

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