By Terry Ross
The West Coast is well-known for its great weather and even better golf opportunities.
And no place fits this category better than Torrey Pines for a full-on golf vacation and experience that is hard to duplicate. Situated strategically on the San Diego coastline in one of Southern California’s most scenic locations, the two San Diego city-owned golf courses named after the Torrey Pine trees that are native to the area and the adjacent Lodge make a great combination for a weekend—or even longer.
There is so much to do in that area that you could spend a month, but with the North and South Courses perched along the California coastline in La Jolla just north of San Diego near the Torrey Pines State Reserve adjacent to the Lodge, there are plenty of adventures to be had without ever leaving the property.
This entire area is well known as the host of the annual Farmers Insurance Open PGA Tour stop every January–and two memorable U.S. Open Championships in 2008 and 2021. Tiger Woods famously won the earlier USGA event in a Monday playoff, while John Rahm rallied to win last year’s open that was played with reduced crowds because of the pandemic. Ironically, these are the only two U.S. Opens to have been played in all of Southern California since 1949!
The Lodge overlooks the 18th green at Torrey Pines—that now-famous location where Woods sank a birdie to send that 2008 Open into a playoff and another major victory.
The Lodge really is a classic beauty and impeccably maintained to a point where guests feel they are visiting the Old World—yet in a New World setting. The Old-World charm and ambience are taken to a Five Star level at the Lodge with its classic paintings that adorn the walls and the intricate brick work. The property is impeccably maintained to a level you will not find in many other resorts. Designed with the look and feel of a residence, The Lodge authentically reflects the California Craftsman style of architecture, featuring a natural color palette, graceful wing like rooflines, shingle and sandstone-bluff exteriors.
Every room has a fireplace, mini-bar and high-speed internet access, and those facing the golf course and ocean have balconies overlooking some of the most spectacular scenery on the Pacific Coast. The feel at the Lodge is one of intimacy, and with only 170 rooms there is a comfortable feel to the grounds that you do not find at larger resorts.
Custom-designed furniture, fabrics and carpets featuring William Morris-style designs give the rooms an historic yet contemporary feel of elegance and warmth, further enhanced through refined appointments such as a granite-topped bar at each room’s entrance, a rich leather chaise lounge by the bed, Tiffany-style lamps and oil-rubbed bronze fixtures.
The staff does a tremendous job with all aspects of the hotel, and the Concierge is ultra-helpful with directions and information about activities such as the self-guided nature walk to the adjacent Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve, a pristine slice of wilderness just below the lodge that offers miles of hiking trails. Other activities include electric bikes, croquet, a billiards room and putters for the practice green.
With a sweeping view of the golf course and the ocean beyond, the heated pool and hot tub in the courtyard is dotted with cabanas, chaise lounges and a full-service bar. While sitting in the raised hot tub, one can watch golfers close their rounds on the 18th green at sunset over the Cliffs at Torrey Pines–not a bad way to end the day.
After a full day of activity, the food selections at the Lodge are impressive with an inviting atmosphere that makes you want to stay longer. The Grill provides an outstanding setting for any meal–and the food is a notch above. It provides an exclusive view of the iconic Torrey Pines Golf Course and is a popular and casual dining destination and a wonderful place for gathering with friends and family with its cozy fire pits and an artfully designed trellis.
The resort’s signature restaurant—A.R. Valentine— named after one of San Diego’s greatest artists and an early 20th century impressionist–takes things to an all-new level for that special occasion under the direction of Executive Chef Kelli Crosson, who uses some of the finest fresh ingredients from local farmer’s markets, ranchers and growers to come up with some out of this world dishes! The service is first class—and guests are always greeted with a smile and prompt attention. The restaurant’s wine list focuses on highlighting California wines, including a variety of boutique wineries from throughout the state.
The North and South golf courses that the Lodge at Torrey Pines overlooks are the anchors of the current resort hotel, which grew out of the former Inn at Torrey Pines. The original Torrey Pines property, built as a 74-room inn in 1961, was purchased by the Evans family in 1995. In 2000, the hotel was closed, most areas of the hotel were demolished, and the property was completely redeveloped.
Reopened in April 2002 as The Lodge at Torrey Pines, it is now a grand 170-room luxury hotel. It received a AAA Five Diamond rating upon its opening and has continued to be awarded the prestigious award every year since then.
Richard Wallace, the Director of Golf Services at the Lodge, is the go-to source for getting a tee time on either of the two courses and brings a long history of having worked at the property when it was the Inn– all the way to the present day.
The golf courses are operated by the city, so Wallace is the link with the Lodge—which is only steps from the first tee. Since these two courses are two of the most popular anywhere, you can imagine what his job entails. Local residents can play for as little as $33, but vacationers are going to pay considerably more—and tee times are at a premium. That is why Wallace’s role with the Lodge is an important amenity for guests with his access to preferred tee times in completing their stay with a memorable round at this iconic golf resort.
North and South Courses
Not only is Torrey Pines famous for the two United States Opens played on the South Course, but every winter since the 1960s television viewers have been entertained by the best players in the world who visit La Jolla for the Farmers Insurance Open on the PGA Tour each January in one of the first professional events of every year on the US mainland.
The Tour uses both the North and South courses, and they have become familiar sights to golf fans throughout the world. The City of San Diego, which opened the William Bell, Sr.-designed courses in 1957 on what used to be the Camp Callan Naval Training area, named the facility after the native pine trees with clusters of five pine needles.
Noted architect Reese Jones was brought in to renovate the tougher South Course in 2002 and did a commendable job of keeping the old classic values yet modernizing the course and making it a worthy U.S. Open venue—and a particularly challenging, but fair test for the average golfer at 7,802 yards from the back tees.
The North Course was redesigned by the late Tom Weiskopf in 2016 and now plays at 7,258 yards from the tips. Weiskopf’s first professional win came at Torrey Pines in 1968 when he beat Al Gieberger by one stroke.
“You create aesthetic value by having big mature trees, beautiful vista water features and bunker styles. That creates the beauty of the golf course, I think. How could you find a better piece of property than this piece of property for 36 holes of golf?” Weiskopf has been quoted as saying after his redesign of the North Course.
Torrey Pines South is a relatively flat course and very walkable—as many of the locals do regularly. It is not tricked up as many modern courses are—what you see is what you get. It is fairly wide open, and depending on which set of tees you play, a good long game comes in handy. The course has an old-school feel because of the generous expanses and breathtaking ocean views, like the Par 3 third hole that is a signature of the course and worth gazing at for a few minutes before you play it. Most players do not get to reveal in scenery like this very often.
The par 4 fourth hole is also among the most scenic as it runs along the coastline and at 420 yards from the green tees is all you can handle.
The cool ocean breezes will hit about any time of year, and this makes club selection challenging sometimes because the ball is not going to travel as far at sea level and into a wind.
Where Torrey Pines South really tests you is on the greens, which are tricky and take multiple rounds to adjust to avoid the dreaded three putts.
The South Course is a classic and a good test of golf—but after experiencing a breathtaking experience like this you will always come away with a smile on your face.
The Lodge at Torrey Pines Celebrates 20th Anniversary with Exclusive $20,000 Platinum Premier Package
The AAA Five Diamond-rated Lodge at Torrey Pines, one of Southern California’s most distinguished hotels, is celebrating its 20th anniversary as a leader in luxury hospitality with an exclusive $20,000 Platinum Premier Package – curated for an unforgettable, once-in-a-lifetime stay for up to two people.
“A sojourn at The Lodge is a treasured and extraordinary travel experience,” said Bill Gross, General Manager of The Lodge at Torrey Pines. “For such a significant milestone as our 20th anniversary we wanted to showcase the finest amenities and activities The Lodge is renowned for with a truly unique and exceptional VIP package.”
The pinnacle of panache, the Platinum Premier Package features some of the most lavish and notable offerings at The Lodge including a four-night stay for two in the luxurious, 2,500 square-foot Blacker or Gamble Suite overlooking the La Jolla coast (both include a Presidential parlor, full kitchen, two fireplaces, private balconies or patio); any combination of up to six rounds of golf on the legendary Torrey Pines Golf Course or up to six spa treatments at the award-winning Spa at Torrey Pines; daily breakfast, lunch, and dinner for two at the Lodge’s signature restaurant A.R. Valentien or The Grill at Torrey Pines, and a special welcome amenity. Guests can book this incomparable package by calling (858) 453-4420 or visiting the web site: https://www.lodgetorreypines.com/20th-anniversary
For more information: www.lodgetorreypines.com