Course Source: Torrey Pines, Furnace Creek

By Tom LaMarre, The Sports Xchange
Rocco Mediate and his caddie Matt Achatz (L) make their way down the 17th fairway during the third day of the US Open at Torrey Pines Golf Course in San Diego. (UPI Photo/Kevin Dietsch)
Rocco Mediate and his caddie Matt Achatz (L) make their way down the 17th fairway during the third day of the US Open at Torrey Pines Golf Course in San Diego. (UPI Photo/Kevin Dietsch) | License Photo

IN THE PUBLIC EYE: Torrey Pines Golf Course in La Jolla, Calif.

THE LAYOUT: The North Course (6,838 yards, par 72) and the more famous South Course (7,607 yards, par 72) were designed by William P. Bell and opened in 1957, with the South reworked by Rees Jones in 2001.


Torrey Pines has been the host venue of what is now the Farmers Insurance Open on the PGA Tour since 1968. Among the tournament champions were Jack Nicklaus, Tom Watson, Johnny Miller, Davis Love III, Craig Stadler, Mark O'Meara, Phil Mickelson, Jason Day of Australia last year and Tiger Woods -- who won the event for a record seventh time in 2013.


Brandt Snedeker will defend his title this week, and he also won in 2012.

However, nothing in the course's remarkable history could match Woods' victory over Rocco Mediate on the 19th hole of a Monday playoff in the 2008 U.S. Open on the revered South Course, which joined Bethpage Black as the only public courses to host the national championship.

Torrey Pines in the only truly municipal course to host the U.S. Open.

San Diego has a rich golf history. Among the locals who roamed the fairways at Torrey Pines include greats of the game Mickelson, Stadler, Mickey Wright, Billy Casper, Gene Littler, Scott Simpson and Phil Rodgers.


LOCAL KNOWLEDGE: Hoping to land a major championship, Torrey Pines officials hired noted course designer Rees Jones to oversee a facelift that lengthened the South Course by more than 500 yards.

The United States Golf Association was duly impressed and awarded Torrey Pines the 2008 U.S. Open.

The Farmers Insurance Open is played every year at Torrey Pines during the PGA Tour's West Coast swing, but the longer and more challenging South Course is played exclusively on the weekend.


Seven holes of the South Course play along the cliffs above the Pacific Ocean, highlighted by No. 12 -- one of the longest and most difficult par 4s anywhere at 507 yards from the tips.

The most familiar hole at Torrey Pines is No. 18 South, a 572-yard par 5, where the PGA event finishes each year. That is where Woods made eagle to win in 1999 and where John Daly made birdie from the back bunker for a playoff victory in 2006.

Woods added to the lore on the final hole in the U.S. Open when he sank a 12-foot birdie putt on the 72nd hole to force extra holes, and he made another birdie there from 4 feet to send the playoff to a 19th hole.

Steer clear of the pond guarding the final green, known as Devlin's Billabong. That is where Bruce Devlin of Australia made an 11 to blow his chances to win the tournament in 1975 after hitting his approach into the shallow water of the pond and using six more swings trying to hit it out.

If you are looking for a challenge, play the South, but the locals will tell you that the shorter North Course is much more fun and just as scenic, especially the 195-yard 12th -- a par 3 with the Pacific as a backdrop.


The North Course reopened last November after a nine-month, $12.6 million renovation by Tom Weiskopf, who won what was then the Andy Williams-San Diego Open at Torrey Pines in 1968.

OTHER COURSES IN THE AREA: This golfing-rich region also includes the Omni La Costa Resort in Carlsbad, Fairmont Grand Golf Club in Del Mar, Encinitas Ranch Golf Course, Rancho Bernardo Inn Golf Resort in San Diego, Park Hyatt Aviara Golf Club in Carlsbad, Morgan Run Club and Resort in Rancho Santa Fe, Balboa Park Golf Course in San Diego, Carlton Oaks Country Club in Santee and Cottonwood Golf Club in El Cajon.

WHERE TO STAY: The Lodge at Torrey Pines overlooks the final hole of the South Course. Also in the area are the Hilton La Jolla Torrey Pines, Estancia La Jolla Hotel and Spa, La Jolla Beach and Tennis Club, La Jolla Cove Suites and the Grande Colonial Hotel in La Jolla.


THE LAST RESORT: Furnace Creek Golf Course in Death Valley, Calif.

THE LAYOUT: Located 120 miles northwest of Las Vegas and 275 miles northeast of Los Angeles, this is the lowest golf course in the world at 214 feet below sea level.


Murray Miller, one of the date-palm caretakers at Furnace Creek, set up an informal three-hole golf course in the pastures of the Greenland Ranch in 1927 to give the miners from the nearby Borax mines something to do in their spare time.

In 1931, a nine-hole course was developed around the ranch and date-palm orchards. It was the first grass golf course in the California desert.

During the summers, when the course was closed, the fairways were irrigated and leased to a rancher who would run about 150 head of cattle on the course. During the winter golf season, a small flock of sheep kept the fairways properly "mowed."

In 1968, noted designer William F. Bell expanded the course to a full 18 holes. Perry Dye of Dye Designs reworked the course in 1997, when a state-of-the-art irrigation system was installed to allow the course to remain open all year.

Furnace Creek Golf Course has been recognized by Golf Digest magazine in its list of "America's 50 Toughest Courses."

LOCAL KNOWLEDGE: Presidents Herbert Hoover and Ronald Reagan played major roles in having Death Valley finally being designated a National Park in 1994.


Hoover signed Proclamation Number 2028 in 1933, creating Death Valley National Monument.

Reagan, during his Hollywood days, was the last, but most famous, host of "Death Valley Days" -- a popular dramatic series on radio and television that ran from 1930 through 1966 and brought Death Valley into households across the country every week.

Don't be fooled by the wide-open fairways and the length of the course, which plays to a par of 70 and a relatively short 6,215 yards from the back tees. From there, the course has a USGA rating of 74.7 with a slope of 128.

The Panamint and Funeral Mountains, two of five ranges that ring Death Valley, frame the golf course.

The fifth and sixth holes, totally reworked by Dye, along with No. 7 provide a stretch that is the highlight of the front nine.

The 573-yard fifth hole is a par-5 dogleg right that wraps around a line of tamarisk trees running down the right side of the fairway, which rises slightly halfway to the hole and then slopes down to a diabolical green.

The drive from the back tee on the par-4, 440-yard sixth hole -- the most difficult on the course -- must carry more than 200 yards over a lake to a fairway that doglegs to the left. There is bailout room to the right, but then you must deal with a series of Scottish-style mounds.


No. 7 is called the "Goalpost Hole" because the drive must split two large trees in the middle of the fairway, 150 yards from a two-tiered trap-door green that drops off dramatically in the back.

The finish is strong, with the funky 17th hole, only 310 yards, and the 414-yard 18th hole, which has three of only 10 bunkers on the course.

Furnace Creek has nearly completed a six-month renovation project, but all 18 holes are open for play.

OTHER COURSES IN THE AREA: The Devil's Golf Course, located a few miles from Furnace Creek, is a wretched piece of unusable land named by someone with a perverse sense of humor. It actually is an expansive salt field created by evaporated bodies of water, and you can see the crystallization process at work.

The closest golf courses to Furnace Creek are China Lake Golf Course, located at the Naval Air Weapons Station in Ridgecrest, and Trona Golf and Social Club, a nine-hole layout in Trona. Both are just outside the western entrance to Death Valley.

WHERE TO STAY: The luxurious, mission-style Inn at Furnace Creek, located on a hill overlooking the golf course, was built by the Pacific Coast Borax Company and opened in 1927.


The Ranch at Furnace Creek, which was built as a working cattle ranch in the 1880s, offers hotel rooms, cabins, duplex apartments and a campground.

The Panamint Springs Resort and Stovepipe Wells Village in Death Valley offer resort accommodations and camping sites.

The Inn and the Ranch offer outdoor swimming pools that are naturally heated by warm springs that keep the pools' temperature at a comfortable 82 degrees. Guests also can enjoy tennis on the lighted courts, horseback riding, walking, jogging and hiking.


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