A municipal golf facility owned and operated by the city of San Diego, Torrey Pines is set on a rocky bluff high above the Pacific, and features two championship length courses designed initially by William F. Bell in 1957. The more noted of the layouts is the South Course, which has changed substantially since first opening, particularly following a major renovation started by Rees Jones in 2001. Jones stretched the course by hundreds of yards, adding tees and moving greens but also reworking bunkers and pinching fairways to increase the difficulty of the holes.
Despite the coastal outlooks and the fact that much of the layout is routed around a deep ravine, the South course is mostly flat and sadly quite repetitive. Fairways tend to be straight and either lined by thick rough or deep bunkers, with few strategic driving lines and little chance of playing challenging out-of-position recovery shots. Approach play is slightly more interesting as the greens are attractive and well built, though again they lack variety as many are raised, titled sharply forward and protected on both sides by sand. The best holes here are the par threes, as the longer holes tend to be unpleasant bruisers that lack subtleties. Rare exceptions include the 4th, a decent two-shot test along the cliffs, and the par five 13th with its tiered greenside bunkers and exciting new back tee.
Unfortunately, for all its tournament pedigree, the sad truth about Torrey Pines is that from a design perspective neither course is outstanding. The most recent changes have made the South Course an ideal championship venue, but without its rough grown, its greens sped up and its fairways narrowed, this track would not only fail to test the better golfer, it would struggle to hold the interest of regular players.
Torrey Pines has hosted the PGA Tour Buick Invitational each year since 1968, as well as the San Diego City Amateur Golf Championships every June, and the Junior World Golf Championships every July. It was also host course for the memorable 2008 US Open championship won by an injured and ailing Tiger Woods in a playoff against Rocco Mediate. Woods had also won the Buick Invitational here 6 previous times, other notable winners of the event have been John Daly, Phil Mickelson, Scott Simpson, Mark O’Meara, Davis Love III, Peter Jacobsen, Craig Stadler, Bob Tway, Johnny Miller, Tom Watson, Fuzzy Zoeller, Jay Haas, J.C. Snead, George Archer, Jack Nicklaus and Tom Weiskopf.