Torrey Pines: Muscled up South Course showcase for golf's big boys

By David R. Holland, Contributor

LA JOLLA, Calif. - Little boys like Corey Pavin and Billy Mayfair have hoisted trophies at Torrey Pines.

Torrey Pines - South Course
Torrey Pines South, muscled up by the $3.2-million Rees Jones' facelift, measures a brawny 7,607 yards.
Torrey Pines - South CourseTorrey Pines - North golf course - No. 3Torrey Pines - South golf course
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South at Torrey Pines Golf Course

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11480 N Torrey Pines Rd
La Jolla, California 92037
San Diego County
Phone(s): (877) 581-7171, (858) 452-3226
18 Holes | Public/Municipal golf course | Par: 72 | 7707 yards | ... details »

Teenagers Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson posed for grin-and-grip photos, trophies in hand, that now hang in the pro shop at this historic municipal nestled against the dramatic rust-colored bluffs overlooking the blue Pacific Ocean.

But today's Torrey Pines South is a big boy golf course. Muscled up by the $3.2-million Rees Jones' facelift completed for the Buick Invitational, the course measures a brawny 7,607 yards at par 72, more than 500 yards longer than before the makeover. And its brazen new bunkering distances it from the original South Course designed by William Bell Sr. which opened in 1957.

The bunker count went from 44 to a bodacious 72. Some greens were uplifted, creating some top-hat designs that serve as tiny targets - miss and watch your ball trundle downward into deep, difficult traps. Not enough to challenge you? Just try finding your ball in the deep, thick rough.

Aesthetics? Some putting surfaces were moved closer to the bluffs and ravines that dissect the rugged golf course land creating even more stunning views and hazards for wayward shots. Hang gliders dance above the horizon as you line another tricky putt framed by another ocean view.

Ken Venturi said the retooling couples nicely with what he considers one of the premier titles on the tour - the Buick Invitational. Woods said it will be a fun golf course to play for years to come. Mickelson, who recently moved back to San Diego after years in Arizona, said it was one of the longest and hardest golf courses he's ever played.

And the United States Golf Association agreed - so much that Torrey Pines South has been selected for the 2008 U.S. Open, scheduled for June 12-15 of that year. Torrey Pines becomes the second municipal golf course to host the U.S. Open, which was played in 2002 on the Black Course at Bethpage State Park in Farmingdale, N.Y.

And if you think the course is tough during the Buick Invitational, held during the rainy season, Chris Wood, golf services coordinator at The Lodge at Torrey Pines, said summertime conditions for the U.S. Open will be an even stronger test. "Conditions in June should be firmer, drier and faster and holding these greens should be a tough test," he said.

Tiger Woods holds the South Course record of 62. He recorded it in the 1999 Buick Invitational, which he won, but that was prior to the Jones makeover. It might be a long time before anyone erases that mark.

Some of the changes? Start on No. 1, a 452-yard par 4 where a bunker was added just at the length where the big boys hit them today. The ninth was lengthened from 540 yards to 610 and No. 14, formerly 390 is now 440. You get the idea. More length, more bunkers, higher rough, tougher putting surface targets with contours, greens moved to edges of bluffs.

And even though length was added from 515 to 571 at the par-5 No. 18, Jones didn't change the famous water fronting the green called Devlin's Billabong. It was during the 1975 Andy Williams San Diego Open that Bruce Devlin came to the last hole in contention and his approach nestled halfway submerged in the water. It took him six swings to get the ball on the green and a plaque commemorates this ultimate boo-boo. It's the only water hole of the 36 at Torrey Pines.

Torrey Pines North Course

Is your ego shattered after being humbled the South Course? Then the 6,874-yard North Course, a par-72, might just heal that bruised feeling.

Possibly the best thing about Torrey Pines' North Course is being paired with locals who have been laying the course for years. They can tell you countless stories, including the one about Camp Callan, a military training site that occupied this vast mesa and once tested mortars where you are firing golf shots. Look closely in the formations of the ravines and you can still see the scars left by the mortars.

You also will hear stories of a possible star of the future on the PGA Tour, Pat Perez, who once worked in the cart barn. And Billy Casper, Gene Littler and Scott Simpson all honed their skills here.

Keep those cameras ready for the North's signature hole No. 12. It's a sensational downhill par-3 of 174 for the mortals with sweeping views of the Pacific and La Jolla.

The Lodge at Torrey Pines

Lifetime memories are made at places like The Lodge at Torrey Pines.

The patio door of the "Robinson Suite" opens and in just a few steps you can be next to the 18th green of the Torrey Pines South Course. A few days before Tiger Woods claimed the 2003 Buick Invitational title on this very spot.

What other place on earth has a AAA Five Diamond resort hotel and spa next to a world-class affordable municipal golf course?

Resplendent, but earthy - that's The Lodge at Torrey Pines. Experience top-shelf service, food and accommodations, including the feel of a 1900s California craftsman's-styled lodge perched near the rugged bluffs and scalloped Pacific coastline amidst a landscape dotted by rare Torrey Pines, eucalyptus, oak and native shrubs.

Since opening in April 2002 this striking property is becoming known as a must for travel golfers. It is a member of The Leading Hotels of the World, one of only two such hotels in the San Diego area.

Luxury is found in rooms that range from 520- to 1,500-square feet. Indulge yourself with the spa's signature coastal sage scrub or dine at A.R. Valentien. Casual diners can enjoy breakfast, lunch and dinner at The Grill, just steps from Torrey Pines' practice putting green, a great place to watch the pros during tournament week.

Where to dine at the Lodge

The Lodge's signature restaurant, A.R. Valentien, was named one of America's Best New Restaurants in the November issue of Esquire Magazine. Chef Jeff Jackson was formerly at Shutters on the Beach in Santa Monica. Try the hot smoked salmon with mashed potatoes seasoned with buttermilk and chives. After your first round of golf don't miss lunch at The Grill, the more casual dining choice. Try the fish tacos, a California favorite.

Things to do

From The Lodge and the golf courses you are within walking distance or a short drive to the Torrey Pines State Reserve, one of San Diego's most visited natural attractions. It has miles of trails through the rare Torrey Pines forest, sandstone formations and wide beaches.

The cities of La Jolla and Del Mar provide excellent shopping opportunities and the Del Mar Racetrack is minutes away. Twenty minutes down I-5 in San Diego is the Gaslamp District, Old Town, Sea World and Balboa Park.

The cities of La Jolla and Del Mar provide excellent shopping opportunities and the Del Mar Racetrack is minutes away. Twenty minutes down I-5 in San Diego is the Gaslamp District, Old Town, Sea World and Balboa Park.

The world famous San Diego Zoo, located in a 1,000-acre tropical garden known as Balboa Park, is a must for all visitors.

David R. HollandDavid R. Holland, Contributor

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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