Torrey Pines North course, 6th hole
(The affordable version)
The gentrification of Torrey Pines
By Torleif Sorenson on 12/11/12
Torrey Pines in San Diego is, along with the five courses at Bethpage State Park on Long Island and Harding Park in San Francisco, one of the most famous and notable public courses in the United States. Now, San Diego resident Phil Mickelson and his design team will get a chance to redesign the North Course at Torrey Pines. The big question is, at what ultimate cost?

When the "Open Doctor," architect Rees Jones, redesigned the South Course in advance of the memorable 2008 U.S. Open Championship, the results were popular with Tour players – but not with the general public. Not only is the South course considerably more punishing and difficult, but it is also much more expensive to play. The non-resident rates for the South Course are $183 on weekdays and $229 on weekends.

Currently, the North Course fees for non-residents are $100 and $125, respectively – but those rates are likely to soar. The scope of the renovation encompasses 18 new greens, rebuilt tees and bunkers, full cart paths, and a new irrigation system. The San Diego Union-Tribune quotes the city's golf manager, Mark Marney, as insisting:
"We're not looking at starting over. We're not going to re-route the golf course."
But the estimated cost for this work on the North course is north of $7 million. The South course was redone for $3 million, by the way – and green fees for the South course skyrocketed afterward. With the economy in a worsening recession and no end in sight, it is likely that even the North Course at Torrey Pines will be out of the financial reach of most golfers.

Then why even re-do the North course? Unless water usage, drainage, and/or maintenance issues are paramount, the impetus may be comments from golfers who play the North course exactly one week out of the year. As writer Geoff Shackleford pointed out, PGA Tour players have ranked the North course 48th out of the 52 Tour venues.

Mickelson and his design team have a monumental task ahead of them: They have to make sure the course remains playable and fun for amateur and recreational golfers 51 weeks out of the year, while keeping the world's best from griping about the disparity in challenge between the North and South courses. And why $7 million? Two possible answers go hand-in-hand: The seemingly inevitable court challenges from environmental extremists, as well as the need to mitigate legal and liability issues in the future.

Torrey Pines is open to the general public 51 weeks out of the year. But how long will Torrey Pines be affordable to the general public? For this writer, perhaps once in a lifetime - if that.

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Image via Flickr, sfanshier

[ comments ]
Dusty23 says:
I wouldn't say greens fees ranging from $100 to $229 for both courses is affordable to the "general" public right now. Certainly not for me.
bkuehn1952 says:
The green fees mentioned doesn't include the $43 advance booking fee per non-resident player that they charge if you want to make a tee time.

Rather than spend $7,000,000 on the North renovation, they should drop a little coin on the driving range & practice area. That facility should embarass everyone associated with the course. Ancient worn out mats and practice greens that are almost as crappy as the grass in my yard (okay, maybe that is a bit of an exaggeration). It was still a dump the last time I was there (03/2012)

The North is not very memorable and replacing all the greens, irrigation system, tees and cart paths won't have much of an impact. At least the suckers in San Diego have to foot the bill and not me unless they qualify for federal disaster aid. "Oh my, the PGA Tour doesn't like the North Course - this ia a disaster!"
Wes11point5 says:
What the heck does Ron Burgundy know about golf?
Torleif Sorenson says:
Stay classy, Wes11point5... stay classy. :)
Torleif Sorenson says:
Brian, one interesting point that has been raised is that Mickelson apparently does not like (or generally play well) on Rees Jones-designed courses, so it could possibly be that he wants to make the North the "anti-Rees" layout. Mickelson would do well to follow Alister Mackenzie's design philosophy that calls for challenge, but not to punish higher-handicap players.

When Mickelson unveils his basic design next month, I will be interested in seeing how closely he follows Mackenzie's maxims.
Bryan K says:
BK makes a good point. I get to go to Torrey Pines next month to see the Farmer's Open. And since I was going to be there anyway, I was looking at maybe taking in a round once the tournament was done. Nope. $229 plus a $43 booking fee puts that one well out of my budget. The North Course was $125 plus a $43 booking fee. That's still way out of my budget. For that price, I expect free drinks, a meal, and a shirt.

I'll never pay more than $100 for a round of golf.
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