Golf and Gambling: Sycuan Golf Resort and Sycuan Casino form a good getaway near San Diego, California

EL CAJON, Calif. -- The nickname of the "singing valley" has stuck with the beautiful Dehesa Valley northeast of San Diego.

It's been said that, years ago, people throughout the valley could hear singing coming from the local church. The sounds would echo off the rocky mountain walls and carry.

Sounds of a different kind can now be heard throughout the valley -- the "whack" of a well-struck tee shot and a "jingle" of a slot machine. While much of the valley is still largely undeveloped, the Sycuan Golf Resort and Sycuan Casino are its economic engines. The two properties, located three miles apart, are owned by the Sycuan Band of the Kumeyaay Nation, bringing thousands of golfers and gamblers into the region every year.

The Golf

With 54 holes, Sycuan (pronounced "se quan") is California's third-largest golf resort (behind only Pebble Beach Resorts and La Quinta Resort & Club/PGA West), so why is it not more well known?

More luxurious resorts on the coast get more publicity. There are also so many strong courses in San Diego County alone that it's easy to get lost in the shuffle.

Sycuan's strengths are its convenience and value. All three courses -- Willow Glen, Oak Glen and the executive Pine Glen -- operate out of one well-stocked pro shop. None of them are championship-caliber in length, but for most of us, they're plenty good enough. All three were redesigned by Ted Robinson Sr. in the 1980s when they were called the Singing Hills Country Club.

Some nice elevated tees (fourth and 15th holes) and a signature par 3 at the 12th, featuring a pond and waterfall, make the 6,651-yard Willow Glen the most popular choice. Several other par 3s play over the Sweetwater River (which was dry due to the ongoing drought when I visited in December).

The 6,994-yard Oak Glen showcases a unique routing of three par 3s and three par 5s. Pine Glen starts out with its hardest hole, one of only two longer than 200 yards. Thankfully it gets more forgiving and fun from there with a nice mix of yardages and shots.

The Resort

Echo's Lounge at Sycuan Golf Resort


All 100 rooms are located in separate buildings, a short walk from the pro shop and restaurants (like Echo's Lounge) in the clubhouse. There's a fitness center, the Primrose Spa, tennis courts and an outdoor pool and hot tub on this side of the property.

My room was probably the most comfortable of the three resorts I visited during a recent golf trip to San Diego. The furnishings, including a large desk and two beds, seemed new and clean. My balcony overlooked a lawn near the pool. I could have easily felt at home for more than just one night.

The Casino

A free shuttle is available from the golf resort to the casino, once a small "Bingo Palace" that's grown into a major gaming hotspot. Renovations and additions in 2012 and 2015 have created space for more than 2,000 slots or video poker machines, more than 40 gaming tables; bingo; numerous restaurants; and a 457-seat entertainment venue that hosts national musical performers and comedians (Sinbad and Blue Oyster Cult are coming in January).

I like that more than 800 slots and table games are located in a fully-enclosed non-smoking room -- complete with its own separate entrance and Paipa's Surf & Turf buffet. The GameDay Sports Bar & Grill serves almost as many beers on tap (32) as it does large-screen TVs (39). Between the golf and the gaming, the action runs 24-7 at Sycuan.

Jason Scott Deegan has reviewed and photographed more than 1,000 courses and written about golf destinations in 20 countries for some of the industry's biggest publications. His work has been honored by the Golf Writer's Association of America and the Michigan Press Association. Follow him on Instagram at @jasondeegangolfpass and Twitter at @WorldGolfer.
0 Comments
More from the author
3 Min Read
January 23, 2023
The new course will complement the redesigned Cabot Barrens and Cabot Oaks courses that will open in December north of Tampa.
5 Min Read
January 23, 2023
Chase the game's biggest events, plus a coveted collection of new and renovated courses, to experience your next great golf adventure.
4 Min Read
January 12, 2023
Course and resort renovations, technology advancements and more are waiting in Arizona's Sonoran desert in the Valley of the Sun.
3 Min Read
January 10, 2023
The January GolfPass Gear Report shares profiles of new TaylorMade, Callaway and Srixon drivers and woods, Cleveland Golf wedges and more.
6 Min Read
January 3, 2023
Former Best Buy CEO Richard Schulze is putting his heart AND wallet behind improving not only the resort but the island as well.
1 Min Read
December 19, 2022
From the destruction of a golf resort to an our annual 'top 100' list, these articles moved the needle for our discerning readers this year.
Popular
1 Min Read
January 17, 2023
Our community of reviewers select the local favorites and hidden gems on the Emerald Isle.
5 Min Read
January 17, 2023
Some golfers prioritize playing fast almost as much as playing well. These golf clubs kept things moving in 2022.
1 Min Read
January 17, 2023
Our community of reviewers showcase the best public golf courses in Pennsylvania.
By Golfers' Choice
1 Min Read
January 17, 2023
Our community of reviewers determine the Bluegrass State's top 20 golf courses.
By Golfers' Choice
Now Reading
Golf and Gambling: Sycuan Golf Resort and Sycuan Casino form a good getaway near San Diego, California