Torrey Pines South – A Bucket List Course

There have been many memorable rounds of golf on memorable courses I have been blessed to play over the years, all usually highlighted by a couple of historic individual holes.

At Pebble Beach, it has been the tee shot at No. 7, the second shot on the 8th, the tee shot at No. 17 or any of the shots on the 18th hole. Playing 17 and 18 at the Olympic Club Lakes course are tough to forget, especially the approach on No. 18.

You think about the legendary players that have stood on the same tees, walked the same fairways or putted on the same greens and it adds to the ethereal experience of the course.

It’s a sensation that makes the game great to me, so when I had the chance to experience it all again at Torrey Pines, I jumped at the chance. That Torrey Pines is a municipal course (run by city of San Diego) made the chance to play the courses that much more enticing.

Playing the courses less than two months before the Farmers’ Insurance PGA Tour event, added to the feeling, as most of the luxury boxes and grandstands were either done or close to being completed. It gives the amateur golfer a chance to experience the site lines and claustrophobic feeling the professionals face.

Such has the case on the 18th hole of the South course, the course of the 2008 U.S. Open (Tiger with the broken leg) and will also be the course for the 2021 Open as well.

We will get to the 18th in a while, but more about Torrey Pines in general.

There are two courses on site – the North and South courses – and both are used for the first two rounds of the Farmers. The South course is the only one used on the weekend of the tournament, as well as the only course used for the U.S. Open.

The South course gets all the glory and is a wonderful experience, but as good as the South is, the North is that much underrated.

Please see the story on the re-designed North course here:

The South Course has all the holes that are glorified by the televised shots and they are every bit as stunning in person, albeit from a different perspective.

The 2nd-4th holes all provide wonderful vistas of the Pacific Ocean high above on the bluff. No. 3 is perhaps the Signature hole on the course and outside of the 18th hole, gets the most coverage on TV.

3rd green/4th tee. Courtesy

The downhill, 159-yard par 3 is back-framed by nothing but the beautiful ocean. Watching the tournaments on TV make hole seem like there is more of a drop-from tee to green. You might also see paragliders from the near-by Torrey Pines Gliderport (

The one other hole on the front that caught my attention was the 7th, a tough, 445-yard par 4, with a smallish green well-guarded by bunkers.

The back side got going to me on the 12th, a 462-yard, par 4 that plays downhill and back toward to the ocean, another beautiful hole. But be ready once you finish the hole as a monster 535-yard, par 5 looms next at No. 13.

The well-bunkered hole sees the fairway plunge down above 125 yards out from the green. The pros take this area out of play, but for the average player, you want to lay up back of the gully or face a sizeable approach uphill to the green.

The final three holes are a great way to end your round and a testament to the quality of the course.

The 16th is a 209-yard par 3, once again well-framed by the ocean. There is a canyon along the right, but realistically it should not come into play. The 17th says 422 yards, but plays longer thanks to being uphill. You can catch your breath on the tee box as it is backed by the ocean, before playing inland again.

Then comes No. 18. The hole has its fair share of dramatic moments over the years, including the big putt from Tiger Woods in 2008 Open, forcing the playoff with Rocco Mediate.

18th hole – South Course

Standing on the tee looking down the fairway it is impossible not to embrace the history of the hole. That intensifies when you are standing over your ball for your second shot, contemplating going for it or laying up.

It sure look like there is more room on TV. It doesn’t help that all the luxury suites are set up, making the green look even tighter, almost claustrophobic. The pond guarding the creek seems smaller as well, but trust that it’s ready to gobble your golf ball.

My rule here would be 220 yards and further out, lay-up and under 220, let the big dog eat!

The South course at Torrey Pines is a bucket list item for any golfer. The course was immaculate, even with the on-going preparation for the PGA Tour event. The staff was professional and courteous, always going out of their way to help.

The rate can go from $240 for weekends and holidays to $192 for non-weekend is very worthy in relation to what some other ocean courses charge.

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