The Takeaway: The South course at Torrey Pines has acquired its fame as an annual host of the PGA Tour and as a multi-time host of the U.S. Open, but it's the facility’s logistics and accessibility that qualify it for such high status; not its architectural merits. Beyond a couple holes of note, the South course can fall short of many player’s expectations; but the views are certainly enjoyable Grade B
Designer: William F. Bell in 1957
Cost: $65 - $265 plus $30 - $45 advance booking fee ($27 - $42 for a cart) Click for current rates
Phone Number: 877-581-7171
Course Website: Official Website - Visit Torrey Pines Golf Course (South)'s official website by clicking on the link provided.
Directions: Get here! - 11480 North Torrey Pines Road, La Jolla, California 92037 – UNITED STATES
What to Expect: Often in the discussion with Bethpage Black's course as the best and most famous municipal owned courses in the country, the South course at Torrey Pines has been lauded for years due to its picturesque setting on the ocean and history of hosting the PGA Tour and U.S. Opens. Despite its impressive pedigree, Torrey isn't close to having as compelling of architecture as mighty Bethpage displays and lacks intrigue in several stretches. The 3rd and 4th holes on the ocean add to the experience, but the 7th and 13th holes are virtually the only interesting holes from a design standpoint after that. The 18th is famous simply because of the drama it creates in tournaments with a finishing par five, but the pond fronting the green looks wildly out of place. The setting is fantastic, no doubt about it, with the ocean providing a backdrop throughout the round and coastal trees framing various holes to counter Mark Twain’s famous “a good walk spoiled” comment about golf. The course also features the difficulty and logistics necessary to host major championships, but one has to look at a property as compelling as what Torrey enjoys and think "what could have been" had a top tier architect been given the land without restrictions to work with. The routing and gentle terrain makes Torrey Pines an easy walk which is how most players will enjoy the course, but carts are available as well. The sooner you play after the PGA Tour has been there the better the conditions tend to be, but you can also deal with thicker rough and more difficult scoring conditions. From a service perspective it operates like any other municipal course with it being hit or miss on how welcoming the staff is and there is often a line out the door to get checked in for your round. In the end, as a San Diego resident Torrey Pines is one of the greatest values in the country, but for an out of state player, the green fees seem to mirror most things in California; overpriced.
By the Numbers
Individual Hole Analysis
Signature Hole: 3rd Hole – 201 Yard Par 3 – The postcard hole of the South course, photos of the 3rd hole grace marketing material and every player’s Facebook page when making a post after the round. The slightly downhill one-shotter boasts the Pacific Ocean as the background to deliver an inspiring visual as players tee it up. Missing long and left can result in a lost ball, so if you’ve lost your confidence then staying to the right is clearly the place to aim. The hole isn’t long but the green is much wider than it is deep, so your distance control needs to be spot on to set up a good birdie opportunity. With the change in elevation and being exposed to the wind coming off the ocean, dialing in the right shot here can prove to be a challenge.
Best Par 3: 16th Hole – 227 Yards – The final one-shotter on Torrey Pines' South course plays southwest towards the ocean and is susceptible to a wind that wants to knock balls down short of their target. The green is protected by a pair of deep bunkers on the left and a shallower bunker on the right. The slight bowl effect of the putting surface can help feed balls toward the middle of the green which is a generous feature late in the round. The distance can vary wildly on this hole, so when you catch it on a day it is playing shorter you'll want to take advantage of it.
Best Par 4: 7th Hole – 462 Yards – The dogleg right 7th is one of the more intriguing holes from a terrain aspect at Torrey Pines' South course with the ravine on the right acting as the trouble the fairway bends around. Bunkering is found on the outside of the dogleg ready to punish players that steer too far away from the ravine and a series of trees are found further left in case players really bail out. The approach shot plays to a raised green featuring a bunker on the right with a raised lip while the left side has a tightly mown chipping area that can cause havoc when trying to save par. The ocean backdrop is a nice visual, but you'll need more than eye candy to card a par here.
Best Par 5: 13th Hole – 621 Yards – The longest hole at Torrey Pines is presented at the 13th and has the most distinct Rees Jones stamp on it of any hole at the course. The newly extended tee creates a delightful tee shot over a ravine to a fairway flanked on each side by a total of six bunkers with the far side of the fairway featuring four of the pits. A drive over 300 yards will be required from the back tee to fly the bunkers on the inside of the bend so it isn't a terrible idea to take a club out that will leave you short of the trouble since you'll need three shots to get home anyway. The approach shot plays to a raised green with a series of bunkers fronting the green on each side with a distinct look and feel to what Rees employed on the back nine at Bethpage Black; particularly on the 15th and 18th greens. While it gives more visual intrigue than many holes at Torrey, it looks out of place a la the pond fronting the 18th green. Despite the distinct Rees stamp on this hole, it is a good par five, especially with the new back tee.
Birdie Time: 18th Hole – 570 Yard Par 5 – One of the more famous finishing holes on the PGA Tour, the 18th features the only water hazard on the property with a pond fronting the left half of the green. The hole plays along tame terrain that slopes slightly from right to left, so it is best to favor the right half of the fairway with your tee shot. The shaping of the putting surface is the most compelling feature of the South’s closing hole and the site of many dramatic finishes at Torrey Pines. A good drive will give players the green light to try and reach the green in two, but even if played as a three shot hole, just staying short of the pond will put players in a position to go flag-hunting with their third shot in an effort to finish with a birdie and walk off the course with a smile.
Bogey Beware: 12th Hole – 505 Yard Par 4 – The hole that consistently plays the most strokes over par when the PGA Tour plays at Torrey is this 505 yard behemoth. Bunkers sit on each side of the driving zone and the WNW direction it plays means a head wind is almost always in play. After needing to rip a drive long and down the middle, the approach shot plays to an infinity green flanked on each side by deep bunkers and the ocean setting the backdrop. There is nowhere to hide here, you simply has to hit two super high quality shots to reach the green in regulation and missing the raised putting surface doesn't yield as easy up and down. Do your best to minimize the damage here, but if it gets ugly just enjoy the scenery and paragliders that frequent the skies behind this hole.