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Just north of San Diego, CrossCreek Golf Club and Maderas highlight southern California's Temecula Valley

David R. HollandBy David R. Holland,
CrossCreek Golf Club
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Designed by Arthur Hills, CrossCreek Golf Club in Temecula will tease, tantalize and terrorize you. (Courtesy of CrossCreek G.C.)

Located less than an hour north of the San Diego metropolitan area -- and the San Diego Zoo, Sea World, Legoland and miles of picturesque beaches -- the Temecula Valley features two must-play courses in the beautiful countryside: CrossCreek Golf Club and Maderas Golf Club.

TEMECULA, Calif. -- Life on the road from San Diego to today's wine country of the Temecula Valley, was thought to be somewhat harrowing back in the 1880s in a stage coach bouncing on the ruts of Old Stage Road.

Today's journey on I-15 takes one near Poway, where the Old Stage Road ventures by Maderas Golf Club, and one is reminded of those were prosperous times when families made a living on farms, planting orchards, vineyards and raising grain.

The trip to San Diego had to be an adventure of a lifetime and the Old Stage Road is still chronicled with historic markers. Still visible in the hills to the north of Poway, the stagecoach roach and the grade to the south can still be seen.

Venture some 123 years later. I-15 is a constant hum of vehicles in heavily populated southern California and the immigration checkpoint just before you enter Temecula tells you life is different in the 21st Century.

When Chris Wilczynski, Senior Design Associate for Arthur Hills/Steve Forrest and Associates, arrived to start work on CrossCreek Golf Club, in the nearby countryside, and passed through that immigration checkpoint, he knew he was a long way from home.

"When we finally got to the site where the golf course was to be built, we immediately found a recently used camp site under a large oak tree just to the right of what is now the 11th green. For me being from a small town in Michigan it was pretty interesting hearing the stories about how immigrants traveled through the site in search of a better life, but actually seeing one of their camps with beds and clothes, and the remains of their meal from the night before made their struggles more of a reality," Wilczynski recalled.

CrossCreek Golf Club and Maderas Golf Club are two must-plays in the beautiful countryside, riddled with round boulders and rugged hillsides north of the San Diego metropolitan area.

Here's a closer look:

CrossCreek Golf Club in Temecula

Meet Bobby Jones in knickers wearing argyle socks, speaking to you with a Georgia drawl. Or maybe you will be greeted by a young man, with slicked-back hair and two-tone shoes. "Hi, I'm Walter Hagen, welcome to CrossCreek." These player's assistants will even give you a speech about their life and accomplishments on the golf course.

The nostalgic theme of CrossCreek certainly gets your attention and so will this demanding, old-style golf course designed by Arthur Hills and Wilczynski. Opened in May 2001, this par-71, 6,833-yard layout has some crowned greens and false fronts that will tease, tantalize and terrorize you. And then there are the greens that are small and tilted toward wooded Sycamore Creek. Bunkers are sometimes deep with flat bottoms.

Void of houses for now, the first five holes border Sycamore Creek, then the land opens up into meadow, rolling terrain. You climb on the back nine, dealing with some rugged barrancas, and getting vistas of nearby citrus groves and farms growing avocados.

Each hole, too, has a name and a famous quote from one of the legends of golf. You will need to be inspired by an olden-day saying, especially on No. 18 if the wind has kicked up from the Pacific Ocean some 20 miles to the east.

Play 450 yards uphill, the 18th has so much trouble right, you might be happy with a smothered hook. The barranca right is dark and heavily wooded. When you come in sight of the green you see a drop of 50 feet to an amphitheater surrounded by ancient oaks, gnarly fingers reaching out to swat down any wayward approach.

At the end of the day you will appreciate the GPS or you will be tuckered out if you walked, maybe not physically, but mentally -- and you might be well-read from all the words of golf wisdom located throughout the layout.

Where to stay near CrossCreek: The Pechanga Resort and Casino has 522 rooms and suites overlooking the historic Temecula wine country, and is a place that embodies the spirit of a western resort community. Pechanga, with numerous dining options, is relaxed luxury and brand-new just minutes from I-15. While staying a Pechanga you are also just an hour's drive from the Pacific Ocean and the many attractions of San Diego, Orange County and Los Angeles.

Maderas Golf Club in Poway

Designed by Johnny Miller and Robert Muir Graves and managed by Troon Golf, Maderas Golf Club opened in January 2000. The Old Coach Road, which leads to the club entrance, was that pathway followed by the stagecoach running between Ramona and San Diego in the late 1800s.

Paying attention and course management is imperative at Maderas, a par 72 measuring 7,118 yards from the back tees. Sycamore Creek meanders through the course affecting vision on four holes, and lakes come into play on three other holes. Some fairways slant demanding placement on the high sides, bunkers have deep faces and more than 170 oak trees and 40 acres of native wildflowers make any wild drives an adventure.

On one hole you might find yourself on a tee-box perch on a rocky cliff with a forced carry and on others the forced carry might be over the creek or one of five waterfalls on the approach to the green.

Elevation changes are subtle causing some indecision and a mis-club or mis-hit could put you in a deep bunker. The course begins with the easier holes, including the 583-yard par five, but you finish the day with five tough ones. No. 9, a 382-yarder, is a target test a drive of not more than 290. The approach is over water to a green bordered by the lake right, and big bunkers in back.

After your round on this award-winning course enjoy the Italian-Style Villa clubhouse that features a bar and The Grille restaurant with indoor and outdoor seating. The food is superb.

Where to stay near Maderas: Radisson Suite Hotel in Rancho Bernardo is located in the heart of San Diego's scenic north county, within 10 minutes you'll find upscale shopping at North County Fair Mall, four wineries, more than 15 challenging golf courses, and the world-famous Wild Animal Park. It's also only 25 minutes from San Diego, the San Diego Zoo, Sea World, Legoland and miles of picturesque beaches. Tickets to many attractions are available at the hotel.

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Maderas Golf Club in PowayCrossCreek Golf Club in Temecula

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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