California is famous for its outstanding golf courses, including such classic California destinations as Pebble Beach Golf Links on the Monterey Peninsula and San Diego’s Torrey Pines Golf Course. In recent years, courses owned by the state’s Native American tribes have added to the collection of California golfing options open to the public, giving both newcomers and more experienced golfers new places to play that offer both challenging layouts and outstanding value.
If you’re looking to play a round or two, consider these courses affiliated with California’s tribes, listed north to south. Many of them have play-and-stay golf packages that let you enjoy top golfing experiences and the best of tribal casino resorts.
The Links at Rolling Hills Casino Resort, Paskenta Band of Nomlaki Indians
Designed by John Daly, The Links at Rolling Hills Casino Resort in Tehama County is a rarity: An authentic links course—one constructed on a natural and open layout, usually on sandy soil—in the western U.S. The Links earned accolades from Golfweek magazine as one of the country’s best new courses when it opened in 2007. Local golfers love The Links too, and one review on Golfpass.com concluded, “It’s head and shoulders better than any course in a 100-mile radius of it.” In keeping with its architect’s well-earned reputation as a big hitter, this course plays long and stretches for more than 7,800 yards from its most distant tee—named, appropriately the John Daly Tee.
Whitney Oaks Golf Club, United Auburn Indian Community
While putting for birdies and dreaming of that ever-elusive eagle, keep an eye out for geese, ducks, and the occasional wild turkey at Whitney Oaks Golf Club. Designed by two-time major winner Johnny Miller and Fred Bliss, this course—located about 30 minutes from Sacramento near the Thunder Valley Resort Casino—takes full advantage of its valley’s wetlands and creeks. That means there’s water on every hole, creating both challenges for golfers and habitat for waterfowl. Granite formations and thousands of live oaks add to the 6,800-yard course’s beauty and the varied topography will provide all sorts of tests even for experienced golfers.
Yocha Dehe Golf Club, Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation
In Yolo County’s Capay Valley, the Yocha Dehe Golf Club starts with a bang: Golfers take their first swing from a tee box elevated 160 feet above the fairway on Eagle Eye, the course’s 454-yard opening hole. From there, you go straight to the par 5 second hole, which stretches for 548 yards. This course at Cache Creek Casino Resort—less than an hour from Sacramento—has earned a number of national accolades, and was named in Golfweek’s Top 100 Best Courses you can play. The setting is incomparable: No development is visible from the course and Yocha Dehe is a place to escape from the outside world and focus on your game. That is, when you can take your eyes off the stunning valley scenery.
Teleli Golf Club, Tuolumne Band of Me-Wuk Indians
There’s a true golf gem located in the historic Gold Rush town of Sonora at the Teleli Golf Club. Course architect Robert Muir Graves, who designed or renovated more than 800 courses during his long career, designed this 6,559-yard track to highlight the gorgeous Sierra foothills. Take advantage of Teleli’s low twilight rates and watch the hills come aglow in the late afternoon sun, before celebrating your round with dinner at the Me-Wuk tribe’s Black Oak Casino.
Eagle Springs Golf and Country Club, Table Mountain Rancheria
Celebrated for its gorgeous setting in the Sierra foothills, Eagle Springs Golf and Country Club in Friant was designed by Johnny Miller. Granite outcroppings, oak trees, and undulating terrain give this course across from the Table Mountain Casino Resort its natural feel, while the views of Millerton Lake are an added bonus. There are Indian grinding holes along the 9th fairway, and the 15th green is situated in a scenic natural amphitheater.
Morongo Golf Club at Tukwet Canyon, Morongo Band of Mission Indians
Tukwet means cougar in the Cahuilla language and the Morongo Golf Club at Tukwet Canyon shares many traits with its feline namesake. “Both are sleek, powerful, and precise,” tribal chairman Robert Martin said after the Morongo Band purchased this Inland Empire club near Beaumont. That’s certainly true. Tukwet Canyon’s two majestic courses, The Champions and The Legends, stretch for over 7,300 yards through the dramatic terrain along the western edge of San Gorgonio Pass. Both let players choose from six tees, making the club accessible for players of all levels, and both have hosted professional events.
Soboba Springs Golf Course, Soboba Band of Luiseño Indians
With the San Jacinto Mountains as a dramatic backdrop, the Soboba Springs Golf Course blends scenic grandeur with a challenging layout. The Inland Empire course at the Soboba Casino Resort in San Jacinto was originally designed in 1966 by Desmond Muirhead, once lauded by Golf Digest as “the most innovative designer in 100 years.” After the Soboba Band purchased the course, it underwent a renovation by Muirhead’s disciple, Cary Bickler, that added new bunkers and other features to the 7,204-yard course. There’s an island green on one oasis-like hole, and Soboba also boasts a monster: the 641-yard 15th.
Indian Canyons Golf Resort, Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians
A venerable destination that has drawn presidents and celebrities since its 1961 opening, Indian Canyons Golf Resort ranks with the best in the golf-mad Coachella Valley. Part of a onetime country club on the edge of Palm Springs, the resort’s two courses both have gorgeous views of the nearby mountains and plenty of water hazards. Those hazards include a lake where the Disney Fountain (Walt Disney owned properties adjacent to the club) sends water 100 feet into the sky between the North Course’s 9th and 18th holes. The newer South Course is notable for its stands of native California palm trees, and the resort’s Donald Wexler–designed clubhouse is a mid-century modern landmark.
Eagle Falls Golf Course, Cabazon Band of Cahuilla Indians
English golfer and onetime Walker Cup player Clive Clark has designed more than 30 courses around the world. His Eagle Falls Golf Course in Indio earned “Best New Resort Course” from Golfweek and was described by one website as “a creative masterpiece.” Crafted out of the low desert, the course includes a good mix of long and short holes, with plenty of water features—there’s even a waterfall on the 18th hole—and deep bunkers between tee and green. Add it all up and this course at the Fantasy Springs Resort Casinocertainly merits its accolade from Indian Country Today as “a hidden gem in the Coachella Valley.”
Temecula Creek Golf Club, Pechanga Band of Luiseño Indians
With three outstanding and challenging courses, Temecula Creek Golf Club gives golfers plenty of choices. Adjacent to the Temecula Creek Inn, the club opened in 1969 and was purchased by the Pechanga Band of Luiseño Indians in 2018. The three nine-hole courses can be combined into full 18-hole rounds and sit on historic Pechanga land at the base of boulder-strewn Pu’éska Mountain, a sacred location. The Creek course, with its forgiving fairways, is considered the best option for newcomers, while the Ted Robinson-designed Stone House course enjoys a reputation as the most demanding. Together the club’s courses earned a four-star rating from Golf Digest.
Journey at Pechanga, Pechanga Band of Luiseño Indians
Notable for an exquisite design by award-winning course architects Arthur Hills and Steve Forrest, the links-style Journey at Pechanga has earned honors as one of the country’s best casino courses, as well as a place on the list of California’s top public courses from Golfweek. The course in Temecula at the Pechanga Resort Casino is also notable for a strong commitment to sustainability thanks to numerous water-saving measures and the protection of native vegetation over its 7,219-yard length. And with dramatic elevation changes, including nearly 300 feet on the sixth hole alone, the course takes full advantage of its rolling foothill terrain.
Native Oaks Golf Club, San Pasqual Band of Mission Indians
Native Oaks Golf Club is really two courses in one. The front nine of this course, formerly known as Woods Valley Golf Club, is more open with a rolling ranch-like feel, while the back nine is lined with stately oak trees. Within easy reach of three North County San Diego casino resorts—Valley View Casino & Hotel, Harrah’s Resort Southern California, and Pala Casino Spa Resort—Native Oaks emphasizes a combination of accuracy and length. Its restaurant, the Shawii Kitchen, celebrates the course’s Native American ties (the name is a Kumeyaay word for a sacred food made from acorns) and serves a combination of lighter dishes and classic sandwiches.
Singing Hills Golf Resort at Sycuan, Sycuan Band of the Kumeyaay Nation
The three 18-hole courses at Singing Hills Golf Resort at Sycuan let you play golf your way. Located east of San Diego in El Cajon, these venerable Dehesa Valley golf destinations date back to the 1950s and have a little something for everyone. Test your skills on the doglegs and narrow fairways at Willow Glen, or head over to the recently renovated Oak Glen Championship Course to take on one of the San Diego area’s finest holes. The Sweetwater River crosses Oak Glen’s 5th hole, forcing golfers to make a good drive—or pay the price. Meanwhile, Pine Glen ranks with Southern California’s top par-3s and is a great place to work on different aspects of your game, especially when time is limited.