I will be playing Bethpage Black this summer, but, that will not be my first foray onto a US Open course. Back in 2002 I was fortunate enough to snag a tee time at Torrey Pines (South Course). The same course Tiger Woods battled through a torn-up knee and partially broken leg to win the 2008 US Open on.
It is always easier to get on a course as a single, and that is how I managed to find my way onto one of the nicest public courses in the United States.
The South Course is spectacular. The fairways are plush and quite short. The rough wasn’t particularly high when I played, but it was still thicker and more consistent than anything here in Western New York. The opening hole, a beautiful gradual dogleg par four, is challenging from any tee box. I played from the white tees at the time, the course plays a staggering 7600 from the black tees. Hole one runs out towards the ocean and isn’t too difficult if you avoid the right side.
The second hole is a forgettable 360-yard par four, but it leads to, perhaps, the most breathtaking hole on the course (pictured). The par three third is a challenging downhill, well protected, hole that has the most picturesque view on the course. I put my first shot in the sand but managed to save three after a miraculous bunker shot. This hole is one that you could play over and over again.
The fourth hole runs right along the ocean, giving you a great view as you attempt to get home in two and make par, I managed to “save” bogey. While, holes five through eight skirt the rock outcropping throughout the course. All the while you have periodic flyovers from F-18 Hornets from nearby Miramar (home to Top Gun).
The next standout hole, for me, was the ninth. A 613-yard par 5 from the tips, and a respectable 535 from the whites. The tree-lined fairway sets up an awesome alley right down to the well bunkered green. This leads you into the back nine, which is choc-full-of outstanding holes.
The 13th was far and away my favorite hole on the back nine, a 520-yard par-5 that has an unbelievable uphill finish to a well protected green. This hole and the third are the two best at Torrey Pines. The picture you get walking up the fairway to the five bunkers on either side of the green is outstanding, luckily I put mine on in regulation, one of the few pars I made on the day.
Holes 14-17 are all strong in their own right. The 17th is well protected and a very fun par-3 i the pin is over the front bunker. Depending on your tee, the 14th has some risk-reward for playing up the left side of the fairway. You get a good angle to the green, but bring a large fairway bunker into play.
However, 18 is the capstone for the South Course. While I would take the 3rd and 13th over 18, it is still a great golf hole. One of the best finishing holes I have ever played.
A deep par-5, with a tight landing area, 18 also brings risk-reward into play with the pond on the front left of the green. I wasn’t long enough at the time to go for the green in two, so a three shot hole was in order. Of course, I played it in four and made bogey, but that is beside the point. One interesting tidbit about this hole is how open it is behind the green. On Sunday at the US Open the grandstands run up close to the hole. On Sundays in July, there is plenty of room to go long over the green. It is a great ride up to the green as you can look out on much of the two courses on your way up. It also is an end to a great round at a course that is difficult, but isn’t set up to beat up the players either.
Overall, this is one of the best tracks that I have played on. It is well manicured and plays tough if you don’t hit the right shots. But, it is also somewhere that I would like to play again, especially now that I could truly appreciate the course. I have never played Pebble Beach, but I would like the opportunity to play both, just so I could get a feel for which California course is the better of the two.