Sometimes golf travelers get all upset and bothered when they can’t play a highly rated course at a particular destination. I know some snooty golfers who won’t visit San Diego unless they’re assured of playing the South Course at Torrey Pines, the site of the historic 2008 U.S. Open won by Tiger Woods on a broken leg. I’m not so picky. The last time I visited San Diego the South Course was closed for maintenance so I gladly scheduled a tee time on its neighboring North Course
I had zero regrets about not playing the South. The North was a joy to play and it offered the same breathtaking views of the ocean, the beaches, the cliffs, ridges and canyons. And under sunny skies and mild temperatures, it was a perfect day for the round. Luckily, one of my playing companions also walked and pulled his clubs with a trolley and so the pace of play for our group was ideal. My oft-said advice about not using a riding cart when playing a memorable course couldn’t have been truer. Walking enhanced the journey of the game, heightened the senses and the pleasures of Torrey Pines.
The conditions were very good with healthy fairways and quick greens that were surprisingly smooth given the amount of play. The rough was gnarlier than expected but supposedly it was benign in comparison to when the Tour players visited only a few weeks previously. My favorite hole was the par-four 7th at 399 yards that runs parallel to the Pacific along the coastline. What a sight from the back elevated tee! Playing uphill and a slight dogleg left, this is a tight driving hole with a canyon on the left with signature Torrey Pines and trees and a bunker lurking right. The second shot requires more club to the elevated green which nicely holds even a well-struck hybrid. Par is a good score here yet our humble foursome played it at only one-over par. Ah, grinders.
In spite of missing a six-footer for birdie on the 487 yard par-five 18th hole, I walked off Torrey Pines exhilarated by the experience and buoyed by my courteous and ready-golf playing companions. Torrey Pines North offers up a thoroughly enjoyable round, marked by a walkable layout with many scenic holes. And it’s no pushover Visit www.sandiego.gov/park-and-recreation/golf/torreypines/
Meanwhile, my patient spouse hardly ever knew I was gone on my links journey, thanks to the relaxing and bountiful amenities of The Lodge which included a first-class spa treatment. Staying at The Lodge, one of the golf’s most elegant addresses, rightfully deserves a high spot on one’s “bucket lists” for accommodations.
Opened in 2002, The Lodge is a Five-Diamond Award winner by AAA and suffice it to say more than exceeded that lofty accolade. With its architecture inspired by the early 1900s California Craftsman Movement, The Lodge and its 170 guest rooms, meeting and banquet space all neatly complement the area’s pristine environment with an emphasis on natural materials, attention to detail and service, ambience, and yes, craftsmanship. There’s no better place to stay if you’re playing Torrey Pines. (Heck, if you have a broken leg and can’t even play, stay here.) Splurge and take the plunge like we did. Visit www.lodgetorreypines.com
Special note: One of the best sidelights of visiting La Jolla is the convenience (walking distance from The Lodge) and absolute wonder of the Torrey Pines State Nature Preserve. Home to the nation’s rarest pine tree—yes, the Torrey Pine—this State Preserve offers unparallel beauty with its array of hiking trails overlooking ocean bluffs, sandstone formations, gorges, and chaparral. Don’t miss it.
Rounding out a short visit to San Diego
There’s no way to take in all of this lively city in 48 hours so we focused on a few major attractions and stayed downtown near the famed Gaslamp Quarter district. For accommodations, we received a savvy tip about the Hotel Indigo that’s only a few blocks from the Padres baseball stadium, PETCO Park. It rightfully prides itself as an environmentally conscious, sustainable and “green” property, and with LEED (Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design) certification. Hotel Indigo is San Diego’s first LEED-built hotel and one of only seven in the state. More on this winning hotel later.
Our first downtown destination was Balboa Park, located just minutes from our hotel, and home to 15 major museums, gardens, and performing arts venues. It offers a “one stop” cultural experience, one noted for its striking architecture and landscaping. The buildings and grounds all originate from two major historic Expositions held here: The 1915-16 Panama-California Expo and the 1935-36 California Pacific International Expo. Could there be a better example of sustainable architecture and smart land use? We particularly liked the Mingei International Museum, the bonsai trees at the Japanese Garden, the SD Museum of Art, and the quirky but fun Model Railroad Museum, the continent’s largest such operating museum. Visit www.balboapark.org
A special delight and amenity of the Hotel Indigo was the Phi Terrace, its hip 9th floor outdoor lounge. Again using sustainable and green principles, the Phi Terrace offered stunning views of the city, the baseball park, and the sunset-washed harbor while we sipped a libation during its extended Happy Hour. To add to the cozy atmosphere, there are two natural gas-fueled fire pits (lined with recycled glass) providing warm and mesmerizing conversational areas. It’s a highly recommended oasis as is this entire hotel with its ideal location, spotless and colorful decor, spacious rooms and friendly service. Visit www.hotelindigo.com/sandiego
Any trip to San Diego must include a visit to its world-class zoo, again only minutes from downtown and actually a part of Balboa Park. The San Diego Zoo offers the ultimate in environmental awareness with its expertly managed, organized and naturally presented displays of over 4,000 animals from forests and jungles the world over. Seeing giraffes up close and personal and strutting their stuff is an unforgettable sight and I’m sure the feeling is mutual. There’s so much to tell and too little space or time here. But don’t miss the koala bears, the rhinos, the new elephant odyssey, snow leopards, meerkats and two regular shows: Take Flight (a wonderful free-flight bird show) and the Sea Lion Show. Special note: The Zoo can be physically taxing for some but buses, trams and even single motorized carts all make it accessible and do-able. Check out www.sandiegozoo.org
After paying a return visit to the Phi Terrace for another glorious and gratis sunset, we took a cab for one last memorable dinner and evening in San Diego. We chose the award-winning Bertrand at Mister A’s restaurant located atop a 12-story building overlooking the brightly lit city center and harbor areas. Seated at a table near the floor-to-ceiling windows, we marveled at the view that included planes in their descent for San Diego International Airport. The service was spot-on and the food was delicious. What more could one ask? Only a return visit to San Diego.