Torrey Pines North Course – A World Class Test Of Golf

The North Course on the Torrey Pines complex gets gobbled up by its sister South Course.

The South Course hosted the U.S. Open in 2008, where Tiger Woods won in a playoff with Rocco Mediate, playing the tournament with what turned out to be a broken leg. It will host its second Open in 2021.

See story on the South Course at

It also is the main course for the Farmers Insurance PGA Tour event (January 26-29), although the North Course is used the first two days of the tournament as well.

While the North Course, simply put, is the ugly sister in comparison to the publicity generated for the South Course, the reality is far from the truth.

Recently I had a chance to get out on both courses and it confirmed what several of my golfing buddies had told me before I made the trip – they would rather play the North.

Make no mistake, the South is a bucket list course given the history. But keep in mind the golfers who committed to the North did so before getting to play the new, redesigned course.

The course that gets 80,000 rounds a year, went through a 5-plus month renovation under the eye of Tom Weiskopf and came out a winner.

The total for the redesign was $12.6 million, with new irrigation and a new pumping system being a large part of the work.

Among other changes:

*All tee boxes and greens replaced.

*Greens enlarged 20-30 percent.

*Number of bunkers reduced from 60-to-42

*Cart paths were replaced

*A fifth set of tee boxes were added to accommodate more skill levels of golfers

*The nines were flopped (more on this later)

*The new 16th hole had the green lowered a dozen feet to make it more accessible.

*The new 17th went from a 370-yard par 4 to a 525-yard, par 5.

*The new 18th was made into a 486-yard, par 4 with the largest green complex on the course.

As I have no frame of comparison between the new and old course, I talked with some of the golfers the day I played and to a person, they loved the changes. For the sake of consistency, we will go through the course from start to finish, but the flopping of the nines may be the key that puts the North over the top.

The first hole is a great way to ease into the course as a 410-yard par 4 with a view of the ocean. The fairways are wide and accommodating, something you will fully appreciate as the 2nd hole is the No. 1 handicap hole on the course.

A 432-yard, par 4 with a dogleg to the left and natural landscaping protecting the right side of the hole. It’s a great hole and is followed by another. The 3rd is a 215-yard, par 3 that features the Pacific Ocean as the backdrop. To me, this is a hole that personifies Torrey Pines.

The tee box on No. 4 is situated out on the bluff overlooking the ocean.

The 7th hole is a stunner. A 290-yard, par 4 features a multi-tiered green leaving an accurate approach mandatory or face an incomprehensible two-putt justto save par.

The new back nine starts with a wonderful test – a 524-yard, par 5 – that flows downhill towards the ocean. From the fairway, you get the sensation that if you fly the green, your ball is headed over the bluff and into the ocean far below. The reality is there is plenty of room for long shots.

The next few holes all offer different tests and set up the thrilling five closing holes.

No. 14 is a 408-yard, par 4 where you can’t see the green until you are about 175 out. The approach is a thing of beauty as once again the ocean serves as the back drop.

Torrey Pines North – No. 15. Photo courtesy

The 15th is a 177-yard, par 3 and is arguably the best tee shot on the property. The downhill shot gives the feeling of teeing off from the edge of the world. Stunning.

The 16th follows with a tee box on the edge of the bluff on the 384-yard, par 4. This hole runs along the bluff and plays uphill. Part of the redesign lowered the green a dozen feet to make it more accessible. I can’t imagine the hole without the lowering. One of the highlights of this hole was being in the fairway, looking out to the ocean and seeing a small plane at eye-level. The pilot even waved!

The beauty of the last three holes better be stored away quickly, as No. 17 is there to jolt you back to reality. At 520 yards, the par 5 has a canyon protecting the entire length of the hole on the left. A smallish green complicates the approach.

I have always felt the strength of a closing hole is whether a match can be won or lost on the hole. Weiskopf achieved just that with this hole. A 486-yard, par 4 heads back towards the clubhouse and is no walk in the park.

The fairway appears wide open off the tee, but the problems start with your second shot. The amateur player will be hitting a long iron into the biggest green complex on the course and it is a rolling green. It could be a one-to-two club difference depending on the pin placement, as well as the skill set of the golfer. Most would be hard pressed to think birdie, but double – or even more – comes into play very easily.

The rates for the North Course range from $105 to $131 so the course is the value play of the two.

Torrey Pines is a golfers’ paradise with two wonderful courses and world-class lodging property. Plan a trip down, stay a few days at the Lodge and experience the thrill of the two courses.

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By Dennis Miller