Cross Creek Golf Club -- Pristine Golf, Served Old-Style Fancy

By Jeffrey A. Rendall, Photos By Jeffrey A. Rendall

TEMECULA, CA – “The original plan was to create this pristine testament to the history of golf, in modern times.  And, as it turned out, it exceeded our expectations,” remarked Dave Garner, Director of Golf at Cross Creek Golf Club, just west of Temecula in Southern California (about an hour north of San Diego).

Cross Creek Logo

Cross Creek's 12th hole provides a good example of the contrasting colors and elevation changes found at the club.

Sure enough, when you log on to the club’s website, it says ‘Pristine Golf.’  That’s a pretty heady bit of self-promotion – and lucky for the folks at this Arthur Hills designed gem of a golf course, they’re producing what they’re promising.

You’ll probably grasp the significance of ‘pristine’ right from the start, when you notice the staff is all dressed in ‘traditional’ golf garb, complete with knickers and golfing beret hats.  And their nametags reveal that it’s more than just a grand tribute to the late Payne Stewart – it’s a theme-oriented devotion to the way the game used to be.

Garner (whose ‘character’ at the club is Horton Smith, winner of the first Masters Tournament -- every staff member has a moniker/character from golf’s grand past) says they’re serious about sticking to the theme, beginning with the job interview process:  “We have people fill out an application, we interview them, then ask them to research a character and give a five minute spiel on the person – who they are, and what’s their impact on golf.”

Looking towards the green of the par five 5th hole. At 506 yards, it's a good example of a reachable par five, yet if you want an eagle here, you'd better hit a darn good second shot.

At face value, the ‘pristine’ Cross Creek experience sounds a bit gimmicky, but in practice it’s much more cool than goofy.  The club’s Head Professional, L. Hanley, acts as Frances Ouimet (who won the US Open as 20 year-old amateur in 1913), and after about two minutes, I’d forgotten his real name – but calling him ‘Frances’ worked just fine, and I’m sure they get used to it after a while.

That’s not to say the golf experience at Cross Creek needs a unique ‘theme’ to stand out.  On the contrary, the game stands on its own just fine there.

Arthur Hills, Cross Creek’s course architect, explains why he thinks it’s special:  “I think the location really sets Cross Creek apart in my mind.  You go from the Temecula area, which is getting to be pretty urban – then head down the road a mile or two and you reach this big, enclosed valley.  The whole golf course is set into that valley, with all those beautiful oak trees throughout the property.  It’s such a pretty setting for the golf course, a place you don’t find very often.”

At 457 yards, the par four 9th is Cross Creek's longest hole.

Seclusion is becoming a rare commodity in Southern California.  San Diego proper has grown tremendously in the past thirty years, and this once quiet part of the state is now a burgeoning series of new and expanding neighborhoods along I-15.  But you wouldn’t know it at Cross Creek, where Garner says these former orange groves and avocado farms won’t ever turn into a major housing community (the surrounding property is zoned for five acre lots), and don’t bother bringing your cell phone, because it won’t work in this tucked away area.

You won’t hear any highway noise, either, and the only cars flowing into the property are the ones carrying people to play some golf.  How’s that for a throwback to the ‘old days?’

Hills’ project architect at Cross Creek, Chris Wilczynski, agrees that the ‘rough’ and untamed terrain was instrumental in forming the final product:  “When we first arrived at Cross Creek, there’d already been a routing plan done previously by Robert Trent Jones Jr.  The corridors were pretty well set, but we did make some routing changes when we started construction.”

The view from the tee of the par four 16th hole presents a good summation of Cross Creek's challenges -- hit it straight, or else.

“The front nine is a little more gentle, kind of down on the valley floor and plays across the creek (Sycamore Creek) on the first five holes.  The back side is in the foothills with a lot of spectacular mountain views.  There’s quite a bit more drama on the back nine.  It’s always a challenge to build a golf course where you have steep topography, which we found on a few of those holes.  For example, we did quite a bit of grading for the twelfth green and thirteenth fairways – we had to fit the golf holes in, rather than having them appear naturally,” Wilczynski added.

It may be true that some golf courses are born, not made, but the fact that Cross Creek doesn’t fit squarely in either category doesn’t really matter at all.  When you’re playing it, it seems to blend just fine.  Garner says there are numerous sycamore and oak trees that are over 100 years old – that were preserved when the course was built.  Those leafy inhabitants give the course a broken-in feeling and look.  Well done, all around.

And because of the tight nature of the property, Cross Creek plays a bit more difficult than most courses in this part of California, despite stretching out to ‘only’ 6853 yards from the back tees (slope of 140).  What it lacks in length, it compensates with clever shot-making challenges.

The par four 4th hole's green could easily fit in about 2,500 miles to the east, at Pinehurst, North Carolina.

As you’d expect from an Arthur Hills designed course, you’ll find small greens and some creative short-game tests along the way.  Garner elaborates:  “I’d say it’s a pretty tough layout for someone who’s playing it for the first time, due to the small greens and demanding approach shots.  This is one course where you’ve got to know the proper place to miss, or you’ll face some very difficult ups and downs or even worse, a penalty stroke.”

Judging from experience, I faced plenty of both on my maiden trek around Cross Creek.  The thing that strikes you immediately is how unique some of the greens are.  A good example is the fourth hole.  Only 332 yards in length (par four), you’ll probably club down off the tee.  But you’ll also need to summons enough length to see around some wetlands that jut in from the left.  The approach shot to this green is especially difficult because the green’s raised up with roll-off sides, almost like what you’d see at Pinehurst (Donald Ross anyone?).

The course conditions add yet another element.  Cross Creek features Kentucky Bluegrass fairways and bentgrass greens – a very unusual combination for a golf facility this far south in basically a hot, semi-arid climate (Garner says they’re constantly watering during the summertime).  Because of the unique grasses, the greens roll very quick, and the overall playing conditions are firm and fast – including the putting surfaces.  Take that into account when selecting clubs for approach shots.

At the par three 17th hole, nature provides all the serenity you'll require.

Hills said the small greens at Cross Creek are just part of his philosophy:  “We really try to design courses where every shot presents a strategic situation, and part of doing that is having small greens – small targets where you can take a risk and try and put it close, or play it safer and perhaps face a shot that’s not a putt.  We’ll design the greens to handle the kind of traffic a course will get, but keeping them as small as we can is part of the vision.”

Who can argue with that?  When you’ve got Titanium and aerodynamically engineered golf balls in the bag, then something’s got to give the course a chance.  At Cross Creek, the big dog won’t yelp as freely as it does at most courses.

Garner says you won’t necessarily need length, if you play the right set of tees.  “I’d say the wide selection of tees we have here really allows you to choose a set where you’ll be able to hit some ‘friendly’ distances into the small greens.  We have a ladies set that’s just over 4,600 yards, and a men’s set that’s just over 5,600 yards.  Then we have relatively large landing areas – again, if you’re hitting from the proper set of tees.”

It's difficult to tell from this shot, but the par four 2nd hole's green has roll-offs that will keep you thinking accuracy from the fairway.

There’s more:  “And, the par fives are reachable – which adds a fun element.  Finally, there are very few forced carries to the greens, so you can run the ball up as opposed to always having to fly it over a creek or a lake,” Garner said.

Hole highlights on the outward nine include the second hole, which Garner says is Arthur Hills’ tribute to Donald Ross.  It’s a long (408 yards), straight par four with an elevated green – a Ross-like upside down bowl, essentially.  Another allusion to Ross’s style is the bunkering around the green – steep and deep.

The eighth hole is the longest par three at Cross Creek, playing up to 222 yards and downhill.  There’s a pond on the front and right and a large grass bunker to the left, so you’ll need to hit it high and straight to make a par here.

As Garner mentioned above, the back nine winds up and down some hilly terrain, offering quite a contrast to the front side.  You’ll grasp the elevation changes on the eleventh hole, a 420 yard par four with the second shot playing quite a bit uphill.  This hole seemed to have one of the largest greens on the course – so you’ll need to watch your putting stroke here, as well, to avoid a three putt.

Twelve is a very scenic par three.  Two large bunkers protect short and left, and there’s a roll-off area also to the left.  If you’re long, there are large bunkers in back of the green.  One of the easier holes on the course, but as is true with every hole at Cross Creek, it’ll punish imprecise shots.

Seventeen is probably the prettiest hole, a 170 yard par three with the creek running in front.  Not much room to miss here – anything short’s in the creek, and anything long will leave an extremely awkward chip back to the green (which, if struck too hard, could roll into the water).

Summing up the Cross Creek experience – it is indeed pristine.  The service was first-rate, as were the practice facilities.  In other words, it’s hard not to have a good time, journeying back in time to when gentlemen and ladies played golf.  Perhaps Garner puts it best:  “it’s only ten minutes off the interstate, but it’s miles away from modern golf.”  Pristine, man.


Cross Creek Golf Club
43860 Glen Meadows Rd.
Temecula, CA 92590

Phone: (951) 506-3402
FAX: (951) 506-6802


Course Architect: Arthur Hills (Chris Wilczynski as project architect)
Director of Golf-Dave Garner
Client Services Manager-Brett Ohley

Tees Yardage /Slope Rating
Black 6853/142 73.2
Gold 6368/132 70.8
Blue 5609/126 - 136 (L) 68.5 - 73.8 (L)
Green 4606/118 67.4


Consult the website for current rates.

Rate includes greens fee, golf cart and complimentary use of the practice range.  Walking is allowed, and encouraged.


Related Links   Comments on this article?
Maryland National Golf Club
Hollow Creek Golf Club
Rocky Gap Resort
PB Dye Golf Club in Ijamsville
Whiskey Creek Golf Club
E-mail Jeff Rendall, Editor: