Re­sort Re­port: Tor­rey Pines North

Golf Vacations - - Contents - By David R. Hol­land

It’s an un­mis­tak­able scene. You ar­rive at Tor­rey Pines, a PGA Tour stop, where a beau­ti­ful, rugged, cliff­side Pa­cific Ocean view is the star at­trac­tion. But some­thing is dif­fer­ent. This is a pub­lic 36-hole fa­cil­ity where the South and North cour­ses draw count­less lo­cals daily head­ing to their tee times pulling or push­ing their golf clubs and all set to walk 18 holes of amaz­ing scenery and nor­mally awe­some weather – Jan­uary or June.

LA JOLLA, Calif. -- It’s an un­mis­tak­able scene. You ar­rive at Tor­rey Pines, a PGA Tour stop, where a beau­ti­ful, rugged, cliff­side Pa­cific Ocean view is the star at­trac­tion. But some­thing is dif­fer­ent.

This is a pub­lic 36-hole fa­cil­ity where the South and North cour­ses draw count­less lo­cals daily head­ing to their tee times pulling or push­ing their golf clubs and all set to walk 18 holes of amaz­ing scenery and nor­mally awe­some weather – Jan­uary or June.

Ask a lo­cal who has played Tor­rey Pines North count­less times about Tom Weiskopf’s re­cent $12.6 mil­lion re­design and he’ll talk about sev­eral as­pects.

There’s green size, con­tours and tiers. There’s quick bent grass (a Tyee 007 blend) in­stead of poa an­nua. There’s miss­ing trees and there’s bunkers that were ei­ther re­moved or moved up to be in play for the tour pros.

Fol­low­ing a com­pre­hen­sive nine-month ren­o­va­tion, the North Course, orig­i­nally de­signed by Wil­liam F. Bell and opened in 1957, is as pop­u­lar as ever ex­pect­ing 80,000 plus rounds a year.

The ren­o­vated North Course was al­ways a lo­cal fa­vorite for am­a­teurs – a stun­ning lay­out with less pun­ish­ment de­liv­ered that the Rees Jones’ re­designed South Course that hosted the U.S. Open in 2008 and is set to host again in 2021.

“It will take a learning curve,” said Joe Thomas of La Jolla. “The greens are brand new. The speed is quicker and the reads are dif­fer­ent – es­pe­cially when you reach greens with tiers and greater move­ment to putts.”

Weiskopf holds Tor­rey Pines with a spe­cial ad­mi­ra­tion. His first ca­reer win came at Tor­rey Pines at the 1968 Andy Wil­liams-San Diego Open, which was fore­run­ner to the cur­rent Farm­ers In­sur­ance Open played ev­ery Jan­uary at Tor­rey Pines.

“To work on a piece of prop­erty this amaz­ing doesn’t hap­pen very of­ten. The sheer beauty of the place al­ways cap­ti­vates me. Now peo­ple can look for­ward to play­ing 36 in­cred­i­ble holes at Tor­rey Pines by play­ing the North and the South,” he said.

Switch­ing the nines just made sense for Weiskopf. “To­day’s back nine was al­ways the more iconic golf holes with the ravines over­look­ing the ocean down to the pier in La Jolla and it leaves you feel­ing a more mem­o­rable ex­pe­ri­ence fin­ish­ing the day with the scenery.”

The ma­jor changes came in bunkers and greens.

“When look­ing at the old North golf course we saw 60 bunkers that we brought down to 42. Those bunker shots were just hard shots for av­er­age golfers. We made bunkers more strate­gic rel­a­tive to each hole – off the tee they are a lot fur­ther down the fair­way than they used to be and re­ally only af­fects the long­est hit­ters.”

Green sizes were in­creased by 20 to 40 per­cent (they av­er­aged 4,500 sq. ft.) to av­er­age now 6,000 sq. ft. which gives more pin place­ments. But over­all he said the orig­i­nal rout­ing was ex­cel­lent.

Along with more spa­cious greens larger tee spa­ces was also cru­cial to im­prov­ing Tor­rey Pines North.

“There we were only three tee spa­ces on ev­ery hole and now we have as lit­tle as five,” Weiskopf said. “Length is as lit­tle as 5,197 yards to 7,258 from the back. That gave even more length to the long par fours that will chal­lenge the tour pros.

“The thing that I like about what we did and this in­cludes the en­tire team in­volved is that we did it on bud­get and on time,” he said.

Brant Snedeker, who stung the North Course in 2007 with an 11-un­der-par 61, said he thinks the pret­ti­est views are on the North Course. “You’ve got some great high points that give you some cool van­tage points. It’s def­i­nitely a lot hil­lier than the South, and it also doesn’t hurt that it’s way more playable. I def­i­nitely wouldn’t want to play the South ev­ery day if I lived in the area,” Snedeker said.

Those views def­i­nitely come at the down­hill No. 15, a 202yard par three, and the snaking up­hill 16th (393 yards) where you can look back­wards to the La Jolla panorama with the surf break­ing and hang glid­ers putting on a show for you.

Add New York’s 90-hole Beth­page State Park on Long Is­land and San Diego’s 36-hole Tor­rey Pines Golf Cour­ses and you have the most pub­li­cized mu­nic­i­pal com­plexes in the USA.

The North Course is also af­ford­able for travel golfers at $105 dur­ing the week (cart fee is an ad­di­tional $40), but for lo­cals it can be as lit­tle as $29. Lit­tle won­der this place is busy – you might show up as a sin­gle and get on, but prob­a­bly not as a four­some.

Off the course, where to stay in La Jolla

Don’t miss a high-end get­away, too, if you are com­ing as a snow­bird golfer. I spent two nights in the Pan­tai Inn in La Jolla. I had a Pa­cific Ocean front-row ex­pe­ri­ence with bal­cony, huge living room, fancy bath­room, full kitchen, and gourmet break­fast. I didn’t want to leave.

Shell Beach Tide Pools and La Jolla Cove are within sight of Pan­tai Inn.

Within walk­ing dis­tance I took on Duke’s La Jolla, the restau­rant chain that orig­i­nated on Oʻahu’s Waikiki. Duke’s is named in honor of na­tive Hawai­ian Duke Ka­hanamoku, an Olympic swim­ming and wa­ter polo medal­ist and the fa­ther of mod­ern surf­ing. The at­mos­phere was surf­side and the friend­li­ness and food out­stand­ing. I had a filet mignon with corn just har­vested from the cob and a mashed pota­toes ver­sion with horse­rad­ish.

I also dined at Nine-Ten Restau­rant in the his­toric Grande Colo­nial Ho­tel that dates back to 1913. The seared ahi tuna was first rate and ser­vice out­stand­ing.

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