Tag Archives: South Course


Southland: New-Found Status For The New North At Torrey


You can find the digital link to this story in the print issue here – it’s at the bottom.

The North Course at Torrey Pines has long lived in the shadow of the more prestigious South Course, but fresh off its renovation the new North is finally enjoying a bit of its own celebrity status.

Torrey Pines Golf Operations Director Mark Marney said requests to play the North have risen dramatically.

“The demand for the North Course is off the charts right now,” he said.

Rounds have not risen in kind partly because the course is still rationing them on the North while the course grows in and a bit of remaining maintenance from the renovation is completed.

When it re-opened in November, the course only hosted play for four hours a day. That was later bumped to eight hours, but twilight rounds were withheld. The course will finally be open for play all day in the middle of May, Marney said, after Torrey completes its spring maintenance.

Restricting play has been done to protect the course, Marney said: “We’re trying not to love it to death.”
But Marney said the renovations and updates made by course architect Tom Weiskopf have been received positives reviews from locals and visitors alike.

“Players at all level have been pretty happy with their now being five sets of tee options so there’s a little better variety there for folks,” he said. “The greens are also 20 percent bigger on average, and are there are still approach where you can run the ball up to the green. All in all, it’s worked out pretty well.”

And the difficulty of the course didn’t increase, which was a primary concern of residents. The South Course, host to the U.S. Open and the PGA Tour’s Farmers Insurance Open, remains by far the tougher test and a destination course for tourists.

However, after the renovation, it’s now the North’s time to shine and Marney said he hopes see an increase in the appeal of playing 36 at Torrey.

Historically, Marney said there’s been about a 20 percent disparity favoring the South for non-resident rounds.

“We’d like to get more people playing both courses,” he said, “and right now, the interest in the North is certainly there.”

Today at Torrey in Photos

Courtesy of Paul Cushing of Torrey Pines, we’re able to share an exclusive look at the South Course this morning during the pro-am. We’ll be working with Paul throughout the week to try to provide some unique views and insights to the tourney.





A Pro At Work: We’re Talking About Practice


Billy Horschel walks with his caddie during his Tuesday practice round at Torrey

On a day when the clouds refused to yield at Torrey Pines, Billy Horschel’s white golf ball dropped out of a gray sky and nearly into the cup on the South Course’s par-3 8th hole Tuesday.

Horschel’s tee shot to the front-right pin location caught a slope in the middle of the green and nestled back to within mere inches of an ace. On Thursday, Friday, Saturday or Sunday, it might’ve been an ESPN highlight. Today? As Allen Iverson famously once said, “This was practice, man.  We’re talking about practice.”

His reward for near perfection after he walked to the green? He got to pick the ball up and go to work. A ball had been dropped in each bunker by his caddie and two more were hiding in the lush greenside rough, buried deeply like eggs left by an evil Easter Bunny.

Five balls in all and Horschel’s job was to drop each within 6 feet of the tournament’s four locations, three indicated by wooden pegs in the green.

Horschel worked through the shots, the toughest being a ball in the back bunker to a back pin, a tight shot to execute with about 5 feet of green to the hole.

Horschel’s sand shot floated out softly but didn’t land within the desired distance. Do it again, his caddy, Micah Fugitt, directed him.

“Oh, man, that was perfect,” Horschel said in a bit of mock protest. And then he hit another one that passed the test.

Hole after hole, this is how Horschel’s practice round went until he walked off the 18th green at about 2 p.m. Tuesday afternoon.

This was a PGA Tour pro at work on tournament week.


Horschel hits bunker shots to multiple pin locations

If you follow the PGA Tour, you might remember Horschel for the octopus pants he wore for a round at the U.S. Open.

Locally, you’re possibly more likely to recall that he was in the final group of last year’s Farmers Insurance Open. Playing alongside eventual, and seemingly perpetual at Torrey, tournament champion Tiger Woods, Horschel couldn’t follow up his strong start and finished T-39.

Horschel, dressed in a pink shirt, white PING hat and white pats, was working hard Tuesday to prepare himself to better last year’s finish at a tournament that was his breakout a year ago.

“I still have good vibes about the place, for sure,” Horschel said. “There’s a learning curve out here and that was a learning experience.

“I’m looking forward to playing well the first two days and then playing better the last two days.”

To better his best finish at Torrey, Horschel spent his practice time Tuesday with a heavy emphasis on the short game, but with no neglect of anything.

His overall game certainly seemed sharp. He followed his near ace on No. 8 by bouncing his pitch shot into the pin on the par-5 No. 9 for a near eagle. The reward? Two more pitches to alternative pin locations and more work on the green – by Billy and his caddie.

While Horschel worked, Fugitt hand-rolled multiple balls to one peg and studied the break.

Two holes later, Fugitt switched to being videographer. On the long par-3 11th, as Horschel teed off with an iron, Fugitt stood behind him taking video with a cell phone camera. Horschel’s shot came up short right of the front pin location.

Horschel studied the video for about 45 seconds and re-teed. Similar result.

“Too high,” Horschel self-analyzed as he walked off the tee.

At the green, the short-game game began all over again with him hitting chips, bunker shots and putts to various locations.

After watching a putt to a back pin location veer wide, Horschel asked his caddie, “Didn’t I three-putt here last year?”

His caddie confirmed and Horschel dropped more balls.

On 12, the tough par-4 played toward the ocean, Horschel spent more time testing the Torrey rough, which was ankle-deep and thick. After Horschel’s club hit the rough with a grassy thud his swings produced divots the size of small house plants.

Trying to hit a flop from a particularly tough patch, Horschel’s flop flailed meekly and promptly returned to the rough prompting him to self-scold, “Geez, Billy.”

He hit four or five more from that spot.

The desired short-game goal always seemed to be six feet, but Horschel wouldn’t be that specific when asked later.

“The closer you get to the hole, the better your chance on the putt,” he said. “If you average getting it within 6 feet on your short-game shots, you’ve got a pretty good chance of getting up and down.

“Everyone has their way of practice and mine is to spend more time on my short game. It’s just a little game we play.”

On 13, a par-5 played with two split tee boxes, Horschel found the middle of the fairway with his drive and then tried to get home in two to a green fronted by tiered bunkers.

His first attempt slammed into the wall of the front left bunker; his next did the same on the right.

After taking a minute to recalibrate, Horschel fired a 3-wood that cleared easily and bounded onto the green.

“That was a solid,” Horschel said while handing his club to Fugitt. It was the closest he came to an audible self-compliment all day.

After he walked off the 18th green, I asked about his practice routine and the amount of time, especially, he spent playing out of the rough.

“The rough is thick. You know you’re going to miss some greens, unfortunately, so I needed to find out how the ball was going to react. Getting up-and-down can save you a lot of shots,” he said.

Starting Thursday, we’ll find out if Horschel’s practice saves him enough.


Taste of Torrey: Taking the Test of the South Course

ImageNo. 12 at Torrey Pines (South)

Seventeen months after unpacking my golf clubs in Southern California, I finally realized one of the tee times of my dreams on Tuesday: the South Course at Torrey Pines in La Jolla.

The South, site of the 2008 U.S. Open and the annual PGA event, is where you come to walk in the footsteps of the pros and test yourself against the best.

As much as I had wanted to play this round soon after I moved out, I was cautioned to be leery of the challenge and really wait until my game was ready, or, I was told, it’d be like booking a luxury cruise and spending the entire time fighting sea sickness.

So I waited and let destiny decide the day, which finally arrived when I was invited to play the media event for the PGA’s Farmer’s Insurance Open, which takes place Jan. 23-26.

The day before my round, I recalled the speech I gave in golf school about the history of Torrey Pines. After my presentation, I asked for a show of hands from people who’d played the course. Six hands went up, which was reduced to two when I asked about the South.

Having not even walked the course, but plenty aware of its reputation, I asked what made it so tough.

The greens? “No, not any more severe than many country clubs you’ll play,” I was told. OK.

The sand? “Plentiful, but not impossible and avoidable with smart play,” I was told. OK.

The rough? “Can be a little tough,” they conceded.

OK, what is it then, I asked.

“The par-4s.”

I looked up the scorecard for Torrey and immediately understood. I saw par-4 blue tee yardages of 467, 445, 462 and 422 and grasped what they meant. More or less, make friends with your hybrids and long irons before you go because you’ll be playing them often on your second shots.

Per the set up of my event, I played the whites on Tuesday, which spared me about 400 yards and I figured would mitigate the challenges and make the course manageable.  That proved correct on the par-3s and par-5s, but some of the par-4s still proved beastly hard.

When we arrived at the first tee, we were cautioned about the thickness of the rough due to recent overseeding and told to make sure to track our shot “or you probably won’t find it.” In other words, it was the starter’s way of saying, “Good luck.”

When I got out on the course, I discovered the rough to be about like after a good five-day rain in the Midwest. Uncommonly thick for California, the rough, combined with the narrow fairways, proved to be the real challenge of the round.

Having played the beautiful, but more benign, North Course back in May, the South felt familiar, but it didn’t take long to realize I was in a very different place than just the other side of the course, although my game certainly held its own in the early going.

ImageNo. 3 at Torrey Pines (South)

Highlighted by a par on the iconic No. 3, the par-3 with the postcard-perfect view of the ocean and La Jolla in the distance, I actually carded a respectable opening nine (even on the par-5s, one-over on the par-3s) and finished the front with the type of momentum that had me expecting the best was ahead on the back. I’m here to report that didn’t happen.

Rather than bore you with a hole-by-hole breakdown of my closing bogey-fest, I’d like to walk you through a hole to give you an idea of what it’s like to be caught in the clutches of the South course.

For that, I submit my experience at the 12th, a gorgeous uphill 443-yard par-4 played back toward the ocean into a gentle breeze. Save for the length and the standard bunker cluster and tree trouble on the right, the hole looks manageable from the tee and might be if you hit the narrow fairway, which I didn’t. Instead, I pushed my tee shot right, about 20 yards into the thickest rough on the course.

After a lengthy search, during which I discovered two other balls before my own, I found my drive and was pleased to discover it was actually plenty long, just misplaced. I was 210  yards out, but a tree and the rough made a shot at the green impossible. It was a classic punch-out scenario, so I took my 4-iron and tried to muscle it out of ankle-high rough about 150 yards back in the fairway. I watched the ball shoot out low, hit the rough 5 feet before the fairway and … stop. Sigh.

I was 81 yards out but at the mercy of the rough I’d had already hacked out of too often. And this is where the course starts to work on you. Fearing the thick rough muting my shot, I hit a full gap wedge. I caught it clean and carried the green, with my ball, ignoring my pleas, just barely disappearing off the back. Ugh.

I found my ball just where I’d expected: five feet off the putting surface in thick rough, chipping back to a downhill. You probably can guess what came next. Trying to be too precise, I flubbed my chip four feet, leaving myself another nightmare chip. This time, naturally, the ball whizzed past the pin, leaving me a 25-footer.

I two-putted for a seven. The same scenario had basically played out on the two long par-4s on the front. As I was told, that’s where the course gets you.

Anyway, when you come to Torrey and are faced with deciding North vs. South, if you chose South, expect this to be you at some point. It’s part of the whole risk-reward thing, but, challenge aside, the rewards are many. A peaceful, awe-inspiring, historic setting. Birdies you truly will cherish if you are so lucky (I really would have loved to sink that 10-footer on No. 3). And a challenge that lets you know where your game really stands in the great golf universe.

The only question now is if you’re ready to hear the answer.

ImageVIew from the 17th fairway (South), looking back toward ocean and the North Course.