The "artist rendition" of the first
green at Torrey Pines North
The new North at Torrey Pines
By Torleif Sorenson on 1/16/13
Last month, we told you about Phil Mickelson's redesign of the North Course at Torrey Pines in San Diego. The cost of the changes is still estimated at $7 million, leaving many of us wondering if the non-resident green fees will still be "only" $125.

The Rees Jones-redesigned South Course costs non-residents $183 on weekdays and $229 on weekends. In exchange, golfers have the privilege of being broadsided, steamrolled, and generally tossed around like a bowling ball on a Tilt-a-Whirl. Known as "The Open Doctor," architect Jones has either redesigned or otherwise toughened numerous U.S. Open, Ryder Cup, and other major championship venues over the last two decades.

Kudos to Phil Mickelson, however, for his "anti-Rees Jones" approach to the North Course redesign. Mickelson is known to dislike Jones' re-working of the South Course and obviously is taking a deliberately different tack here:
"I do believe that modern-day architecture is the single-most [sic] reason why play and participation in golf has declined. It's just too hard. It's not fun. Torrey North is the golf course people enjoy. Torrey South is hard... it beats me up. We need to have an option that lets everybody play. That's Torrey North.
Mickelson made those comments on December 18 at a public meeting in San Diego. Last week, Phil Mickelson Design Group chief architect Mike Angus unveiled some of the specifics to a group of public golfers at the course site. Changes were announced for the first three holes:
  • HOLE 1: Mickelson and Angus will eliminate the fairway bunkers that are in-play from the white tees, replacing them with new bunkers that will challenge better players from the back tees. The landing area will be widened for shorter-hitting amateurs, while the green will be lowered by eight feet to show off more of the Pacific Ocean. In addition, the green-side bunkers will be reduced in number and size, replaced with a swale to gather approach shots that miss to the right.

  • HOLE 2: This becomes a drivable par-4 at 280 yards from the whites, 320 yards from the tips. Shorter hitters will be afforded a short-iron approach, with the forward tees positioned at 240 yards. The back bunker disappears, replaced by a bunker to the right. Mickelson simply wants players to go for it, with Angus quoted as saying, "We wanted to make it a more exciting hole for tournament play."

  • HOLE 3: The green at this short par-3 will teeter on the edge of a canyon, but amateurs get a large bail-out area on the opposite side of the green.
Further details are expected as time progresses.

Intelligent approach? Absolutely.

Mind-blowingly original? Not at all.

The legendary architect Dr. Alister Mackenzie (1870-1934) set forth a list of 13 general principles for good golf course design; from this writer's chair, Mickelson and Angus seem to be following at least two of them at Torrey Pines:
  • "There should be a sufficient number of heroic carries from the tee, but the course should be arranged so that the weaker player with the loss of a stroke, or portion of a stroke, shall always have an alternate route open to him."

  • "The course should be so arranged that the long handicap player or even the absolute beginner should be able to enjoy his round in spite of the fact that he is piling up a big score. In other words the beginner should not be continually harassed by losing strokes from playing out of sand bunkers. The layout should be so arranged that he loses strokes because he is making wide detours to avoid hazards."
  • Source: Alister Mackenzie, The Spirit of St. Andrews (Chelsea, MI: Sleeping Bear Press, 1995)
At least at this point, it really does look like the North 18 will be the "anti-Rees Jones" design. Fears over increasing green-fees notwithstanding, Mickelson may end up winning additional fans for his amateur-friendly improvements to Torrey Pines' North Course, not just for his on-course "everyman" demeanor.

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Image via, Phil Mickelson Design Group

[ comments ]
mjaber says:
There is a club near me, one that I played frequently when I started, that was designed with the idea that "a golfer should be rewarded for a good shot, but should not be penalized more than 1 stroke for a bad one."
mustang6560 says:
That is a great philosophy.
GBogey says:
What I find funny about this is that Rees Jones father, Robert Trent Jones, is famous for designing courses for "hard par, easy bogey." I guess Rees forgot that one.
[ post comment ]
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