#1 Third tee (South course)
At Torrey, you see the ocean the minute you step out of your car. It is stunning in the Southern Cal sun. You wonder why you don't move here right away. While water is visible on almost every hole on both courses, the third tee is the first place on the South course where the ocean provides a full back drop. It is the most breathtaking view on the premises. I'd argue a more skilled architect would have placed it later in the round.
La Jolla and paragliders provide additional eye candy for this natural beauty. The paragliders take off from the Torrey Pines Gliderport that borders the property. Really. A gliderport. My flat midwestern home town doesn't have one of those either. The terrain is also unusual, even for that part of the country. Like pointing out flaws on a Rembrandt, the sun can be blinding in late afternoon (as you can see in the second photo below), but there are usually clouds on the horizon to filter it. And morning fog is the other hazard.
#2 Fourth hole (South)
The incredible fourth follows the beautiful third. This hole is one of only two at Torrey, and the only one on the South course, that plays right along the ocean at the top of the cliffs. Two other greens sit right next to the ocean, the third hole (above) and the sixth on the North course. But all other holes bordering the ocean have a broader valley between the hole and the water. Though a bit farther from the shore, the lack of trees always makes it seem pretty close.
Approaching the hole, there is an edge-of-the-world feeling rarely found anywhere. It's amplified by the height. A paraglider feeling without the fabric and fear. Your ride continues with the view beyond the hole, looking toward the North course (the sixth and seventh holes) and beyond. The view behind the hole back toward La Jolla is a little more earth bound, but no less appealing.
#3 Sixth and seventh hole (North)
The sixth tee and seventh hole, as mentioned above, are the only two holes on the North course right next to the ocean. With an elevated tee like three on the South, the sixth offers a stunning view of the area. La Jolla somehow seems closer on this hole than the third on the South even though it is farther north up the coast. The hole itself is not quite as dramatic as the third, however, since the seventh tee is behind it, which would make a better location. The tree behind the hole is nice, but a bit odd. Besides blocking the view as it shields the seventh tee - another reason to put the hole there - it looks like someone hacked off its top to clear it from power lines.
Like a splendid deck at a beach house, the seventh tee provides a panoramic view of the whole area. There should be some lounge chairs. The walk up the seventh fairway provides wonderful views back along the coast. The view is a little restricted up at the hole by trees.
#4 Fifteenth hole (North)
On the fifteenth hole and a couple other places on the back nine of the North course, there's a view of the sand castle-like hills of Torrey Pines Reserve in the distance. There are so unusual they seem artificial, which would not be surprising in a land of surgical enhancements. They are at least a great billboard to encourage you over to the Reserve - see below.
#5 Torrey Pines Reserve beach
Sitting north and below Torrey Pines Golf Course is the Torrey Pines Reserve. The cliffs and beaches are classic California, and wonderfully home-free. The surf and wind eroded cliffs are as haunting as they are beautiful. And paragliders add the Hollywood perfect accent to the whole scene.
#6 Torrey Pines Gliderport
At the south end of the course is the gliderport. Besides being a fun place to see paragliders land and take off, it also provides yet another vantage point to soak in the whole setting. A number of trails let you wander around or go down to the shore.
A stunning setting with almost perfect climate. Ocean views abound. All the positives of a municipal course without the drawbacks: friendly clientele that can play, and great course conditioning. I'd argue it falls short of its full potential due to a mediocre routing - best holes should come late in the round - and somewhat generic hole design, especially the bunkers. This is a place that should be mentioned in the same breath as Pebble Beach, but is likely not due to a deliberate decision to avoid all of the Pebble downsides: high greens fees, six hour rounds, and no tee times for locals.
- One of the best pro shops in the country
- Huge practice putting green in perfect shape
- Visiting La Jolla
- Driving north along the coast to other great beach towns