Barona Valley Ranch Resort & Casino

A Vivid Native American History Imbues Another Side of San Diego

Setting foot on the first tee at northeastern San Diego County’s Barona Creek Golf Club is a truly unique experience: the rustic ranch property surrounding the course calls to mind a different San Diego than one might expect. Nestled as it is in a corner of the Barona Indian Reservation amid the rugged beauty of wild sage, chaparral and California oak, the course reminds us that before San Diego became a celebrated seaside mecca it was a thriving coastal habitation for a colorful tribe of Native Americans.


Descendants of the very tribes-people who inhabited the region thousands of years before the Spanish arrived are today known as the Barona Band of Mission Indians. This highly cultivated and historic-minded tribal community is devoted to honoring its ancestral home and culture, a quality that is apparent in nearly every aspect of the golf resort’s design and operation.


The golf club is a focal point of the Barona Valley Ranch Resort & Casino, a $260-million destination for fun and relaxation. Opened in 2002 on reservation-owned property and operated by the tribe, the resort features 397 luxury guest rooms and suites, a 300,000-square-foot gaming casino, a full-service event center and the 18-hole championship golf course. Despite its recent opening, the resort has already garnered an astounding 75 individual awards for excellence in the categories of hotel, restaurant, casino and golf course operations.


The Barona Creek Golf Club artfully balances a rustic setting, ambitious vision and a flawless design, emerging as one of San Diego’s most acclaimed courses. Since its opening, the course itself has racked up an assortment of accolades. Golf Magazine named it one of the “Top 10 New Golf Courses in the Nation,” while Golfweek rated it as the 4th best daily-fee golf course in California. Notably, the course received a Bronze Signature Sanctuary Certificate from the Audubon Society in recognition of its focus on conser­vation, environmental quality and for its land management.


Mindful of the historic and cultural legacy, noted course architect Gary Roger Baird chose to explore the natural contours and symmetry of Barona Valley’s landscape, following its graceful lines and curves, and– wherever possible– preserving indigenous features that distinguish it. The effort has been appreciated by resort guests as well as by the Barona Band of Mission Indian’s tribal leadership.


“We enjoy sharing our beautiful land with the community,” says Clifford LaChappa, the tribe’s chairman. “Our vision for this golf course was to convey to visitors the Barona tribe’s tradition of living in harmony with nature, and to provide golfers with a fun and challenging game.”


Todd Eckenrode, of Origins Golf Design served as the day-to-day project architect for the course. Working in concert with Baird, Eckenrode says that, even from an early date, the vision for the course fell into complete harmony with the Barona tribe’s goals. “They wanted the course to respect their traditions around this land, to reflect how cherished it is, and that corresponded perfectly with our own ideas,” he says.


The intensely challenging course traverses more than 7,000 yards of meticulously manicured fairways and lush, velvety greens. Challenging slopes and natural rock formations combine with more than 100 bunkers to ensure an unforgettable experience. Five sets of tees accommodate the entire gamut of skill levels. Complementing the course’s extraordinary design, every Barona Creek Golf Club cart is equipped with a global positioning system to provide exact yardage from the cart to the pin.


Eckenrode says that what makes the course particularly unique– especially for San Diego– is that it preserves the prairie- or savannah-like quality of the landscape without introducing any non-indigenous plants or trees to the environment. In addition, he says that every golf hole on the course is isolated in these indigenous grasses and rocks, an aspect of course design that has been fully embraced by both golfers and the native wildlife.


A novel reminder of the golf club’s Native American roots can be found at every tee, where the markers bear the distinctive cattle brands from some of the founding tribal families whose ranches were on the property early in the last century.


The 11th and 14th holes are two of the most popular on the course. The par three 11th makes liberal use of the native granite rock formations on both the left and right sides of the green, as well as behind it. The 14th offers a pleasing rock-clustered hill to the right of the green, and, as a short par four, provides golfers plenty of options for “risk/reward” play.


Within the 10-acre practice area are a 12,000-square-foot putting green, a 6,000-square-foot chipping green and a grass driving range that can accommodate up to 40 golfers.


The attractiveness and playability of the course are matched by the appeal of the elegantly appointed Barona Golf Events Center. With decorative motifs inspired by the Native American traditions that guided the resort’s overall design, the simple but spacious lakeside facility offers more than 18,000 square feet of flexible meeting and banquet space for groups of up to 600 people.


The award-winning Barona Casino is one of the resort’s most compelling draws. A diverse assortment of gaming options awaits enthusiasts. In addition to having 2,000 slot machines on the premises, the casino offers card players nearly 70 table games featuring, among many other games, the state’s best high-stakes blackjack.


Dining at the resort is an exercise in options– no fewer than eight, in fact– as resort chefs offer a variety of culinary experiences designed to suit every palate and any occasion. The resort’s signature dining experience is found at the Barona Oaks Steakhouse. Here, diners will find an eclectic combination of grilled favorites and gourmet fare.


Ambience, the resort’s meticulously appointed day spa, offers the ultimate experience. Its professional staff of masseuses and estheticians are well-versed with an entire range of health, beauty and fitness treatments.


Barona Valley Ranch Resort & Casino’s close proximity to San Diego makes it all the more appealing. A mere 30 minutes from downtown, guests alike are guaranteed to enjoy a splendidly relaxing experience in a setting that mixes abundant natural beauty with an ample taste of the region’s rich native history.

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