The North Course (6,838 yards, par 72) and the more famous South Course (7,607 yards, par 72) were designed by William P. Bell and opened in 1957, with the South reworked by Rees Jones in 2001.
Torrey Pines has been the host venue of what is now the Farmers Insurance Open on the PGA Tour since 1968 and among the tournament champions on the course have been Jack Nicklaus, Tom Watson, Johnny Miller, Davis Love III, Craig Stadler, Mark O’Meara, Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods -- who won it for a record sixth time in 2008.
But nothing in the course’s remarkable history could match Woods’ victory over Rocco Mediate on the 19th hole of a Monday playoff in the 2008 U.S. Open on the revered South Course, which joined Bethpage Black as the only public courses to have hosted the national championship.
Hoping to land a major championship, Torrey Pines officials had noted course designer Rees Jones oversee a facelift that lengthened the South Course by more than 500 yards.
The United States Golf Association was duly impressed and awarded Torrey Pines the 2008 U.S. Open, making it the only truly municipal course to host the national championship.
San Diego has a rich golf history and among the locals who have roamed the fairways at Torrey Pines include greats of the game Mickelson, Stadler, Mickey Wright, Billy Casper, Gene Littler, Scott Simpson and Phil Rodgers.
The Farmers Insurance Open is played every year at Torrey Pines during the PGA Tour’s West Coast Swing, but only the longer and more challenging South Course is played exclusively on the weekend.
Seven holes of the South Course play along the cliffs above the Pacific Ocean, highlighted by No. 12 -- one of the longest and most difficult par 4s anywhere at 507 yards from the tips.
But the most familiar hole at Torrey Pines is No. 18 South, a 572-yard par 5, where the Buick finishes each year. That’s where Woods made eagle to win in 1999 and where John Daly made birdie from the back bunker for a playoff victory in 2006.
Woods added to the lore on the final hole in the U.S. Open when he sank a 12-foot birdie putt on the 72nd hole to force extra holes and made another birdie there from four feet to send the playoff to a 19th hole.
Just steer clear of the pond guarding the final green, known as Devlin’s Billabong. That’s where Bruce Devlin of Australia made an 11 to blow his chances to win the tournament in 1975 after hitting his approach into the shallow water of the pond and using six more swings trying to hit it out.
If you’re looking for a challenge, play the South, but the locals will tell you that the shorter North Course is much more fun and just as scenic, especially the 195-yard 12th -- a par 3 with the Pacific as a backdrop.
OTHER COURSES IN THE AREA: This golfing-rich region also includes Del Mar National Golf Club, Encinitas Ranch Golf Club, Rancho Bernardo Inn and Country Club, Doubletree Carmel Highland Resort, Park Hyatt Aviara Golf Club, Morgan Run Resort and Club, Balboa Park Golf Course, Carlton Oaks Country Club and Cottonwood at Rancho San Diego Golf Club.
WHERE TO STAY: The Lodge at Torrey Pines overlooks the final hole of the South Course. Also in the area are the Hilton La Jolla Torrey Pines, Estancia Hotel La Jolla, La Jolla Beach and Tennis Club, La Jolla Cove Suites and the Grande Colonial in La Jolla.
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