Torrey Pines Golf Course (South) is a former U.S. Open venue and annual PGA Tour Stop. Here's how to play it for less than half of its regular rates. (Flickr/J. Telljohann)

How to save more than 50% at Torrey Pines Golf Course

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Torrey Pines Golf Course (South) is a former U.S. Open venue and annual PGA Tour Stop. Here's how to play it for less than half of its regular rates. (Flickr/J. Telljohann)

The PGA Tour rolls through San Diego's Torrey Pines this week, and once again, my friends at Golf Odyssey have the lowdown on playing this former U.S. Open venue and usually crowded municipal complex.

By "lowdown," I mean the smart way to score a tee time at what is often called "Bethpage West," and how to save a ton of money in the process.

Consider this: a traveling golfer who books an advance tee time on Torrey Pines' South Course will have to pay nearly $300 in fees and taxes (by comparison, Bethpage Black is "only" $150 for nonresidents).

That's a lot to pay for any U.S. Open course, let alone a muni.

Thankfully, there's an easy and surprisingly convenient way to play Torrey Pines for more than half that much.

The secret is to avoid pricey advanced tee times and to take advantage of Torrey Pines' walk-up system and twilight rates, which can bring the price of a round on the South Course down to $110.

Of course, this isn't really a secret at all because the course fully discloses you can play for less at off-peak times.

The real secret is that the availability of these off-peak rates is quite good and the walk-up system works pretty well.

Many people assume they'll have to wait forever as a walk-up, and therefore they don't even try.

Big mistake.

According to the editors of Golf Odyssey:

"After two days of walking from our course-side hotel rooms to put our names on the starter's list (names are taken beginning at 6 a.m.), and getting called to play about when the starter predicted we would, we left convinced this was an eminently viable way to 'do' Torrey Pines."

As noted above, the walk-up system is ideally suited for guests of the nearby Lodge at Torrey Pines or the Hilton La Jolla Torrey Pines, because you can get your name on the starter's list less than five minutes after leaving your room.

"While not guaranteed, your chances of getting on are excellent. When we surveyed the staff in the pro shop, they said if you show up on a weekday when no tournaments or special outings are scheduled, you will usually get out in an hour or two. On weekends, it may be three hours or so. However, since the starter can usually give you an estimate of how long your wait will be, you can return to the hotel while you wait."

Bottom line, if you have the chance to play Torrey Pines at twilight, you should take it.

You may or may not like the course at $300, but at $110, you'll love it.

What was your experience like at Torrey Pines Golf Course? Please share your comments below.

Jan 29, 2016

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David Eldridge's avatar
David Eldridge wrote at 2017-11-19 15:05:43+00:00:

I have played both north and south courses and in my opinion there are only a handful of holes that are memorable. The majority of holes are average at best. With that said, the whole TP experience is in fact very memorable. Even the view from the parking lot gets the golfing juices flowing. I highly recommend breakfast at the course restaurant : outstanding. But alas, I can no longer afford the green fees. My first round in 1995 as a walk up was $52 and that wasn’t all that cheap for me then. Now as someone who lives on social security I can only live with the memories. At least I have that. Go play if you can.

John Thomas's avatar
John Thomas wrote at 2017-10-18 02:56:11+00:00:

I have played a few great courses and both of the Torrey Pines Courses need to be given accolades and considered among the best. Many of the great courses can offer an unforgettable experience. However, the ocean vistas, rugged cliffs, and brilliant contrasting light of Torrey will burn a vivid and unforgettable image into your memory as you navigate the challenging fairways and undulating greens.

George Curtis's avatar
George Curtis wrote at 2016-02-06 18:27:57+00:00:

We used to drive down there from Oceanside (1980-1982)when I was still on active duty in the Marine Corps. We would arrive when it was still dark and put our names on the list. We usually had to play the North course but did get to play the South on many occasions. If I remember correctly it cost us exactly $11. Amazing what the years and a US Open have done to raise the cost. Well at least I can say I have played the course, but probably will never walk those grounds again.

John Wingard's avatar
John Wingard wrote at 2016-02-05 17:00:23+00:00:

Play South Course once for the experience if you can walk. That's really all you'll want, because except for a few holes, it's not really that good a course. Do not pay full fee.

Jay Bird's avatar
Jay Bird wrote at 2016-02-02 19:29:06+00:00:

SCGA Magazine rated Torrey Pines as the top golf course by SCGA Members in Southern California in the new Fore Magazine. While I am a San Diego local, I travel to many places that charge well over $100-$200 per round. Torrey can go head to head with just about any of them for the value to a visitor. Play it, you will see.

Scott's avatar
Scott wrote at 2016-02-02 17:32:45+00:00:

I went last Feb, about 10 a.m., was a rare day that looked like it could rain a touch. Checked in and the Starter looked at me and said "there's 3 guys on the tee now, you ready?" You bet! Played in 4 hours, had a quick beer with my new friends, and they told me a repaly on North was cheap (bout $60?)went out to play North, which was backed up the starter said, "look, go South, no one there for about 3 holes, you'll hit the wall about 10, and likely won't finish, but have fun!" I cut over from 15th green to 18th tee to finish in near dark,but it never rained, and a great memory.

Sharon's avatar
Sharon wrote at 2016-02-02 16:49:16+00:00:

My son and I drove in early one morning from San Diego and arrived to put our name on the list. I think our wait was about an hour so we ate breakfast and practiced putting. When our names were called and we teed up our balls, there was a small crowd on the waiting list watching us tee off! Very intimidating for a 14 year old and his hacker mom, but we somehow both hit good shots down the middle! The game went downhill from there. It remains the course with my highest score ever for 18 holes, but it was worth every shot!

Bob's avatar
Bob wrote at 2016-01-29 22:54:17+00:00:

The city of San Diego web site confirms most of this. Weekday rates are $183 and $110 for twilight on the south course; $100 and $60 for twilight on the north course. There is an advance booking fee of $30 for anyone, including residents. There was no cart fee listed, so this may be and additional fee also. The resident rates are much lower, which seems fair and is the case at many, if not most, other munis. The booking system is archaic, but I guess it works for them. Without the walkup system they would probably have a lot of no-shows, although advance payment with a credit card would probably solve that problem. The resident rate requires advance registration, payment of a fee and a pin number. I'm not sure this is a great bargain, but it is a chance to tee it up where the pros do. I played one of the courses in 1972 but don't remember much about it.

Douglas Russo's avatar
Douglas Russo wrote at 2016-01-29 20:54:23+00:00:

Walked up to Torrey at 230 on a Thursday this past August and they gave me a time of 3pm played the back tees with 2 guys from Colorado and one local. Finished the 18th in almost complete darkness wouldn't have had it any other way!

Tom's avatar
Tom wrote at 2016-01-29 16:34:44+00:00:

I used to play twilight there for $10. The starters were friendly and let me play for resident rates even though I was not a resident. And I didn't lie about it. That was 35 years ago unfortunately. Now they want non-residents to provide the lion's share of the support for their golf course. So, go ahead and pay $110 or $300, but recognize that you are paying for golf for somebody else, well beyond what would be a fair price.

Raymond P's avatar
Raymond P wrote at 2015-07-09 08:12:17+00:00:

Bethpage is better

myster E's avatar
myster E wrote at 2015-04-24 17:48:10+00:00:

I'd rather spend $110 on a fake ID and use it to get a resident rate

Randal's avatar
Randal wrote at 2015-02-09 23:14:08+00:00:

Hey I did the walk on at Torrey Pines a few years ago when I was doing my bucket list .. You are right on the money ! Beautiful course

TL's avatar
TL wrote at 2012-01-31 16:53:44+00:00:

Two great Torrey experiences:

1. after a meeting, walked on with a threesome at the twilight rate. a 4th joins us on the 3rd hole. he was dropped off by the beverage cart's his girlfriend. She drops him off and he joins partly filled groups for free. he sells Honda autos and had a rough day: started out his day surfing for two hours at sunrise, and then had to decide between more surfing or golf at Torrey at the end of the day. Tough life in SoCal!

2. walked on at 7 am without any problem. first group of the day because we were "ready to play right away" after a "fog hold" with three others. one, a just-retired USN quartermaster, a +3 about to head off to the Texas mini tours who fortunately knew the course like the back of his hand and had a GPS. He guided our shots into the green in the pea soup with unbelievable accuracy!

Billy Mauldin's avatar
Billy Mauldin wrote at 2012-01-25 14:32:26+00:00:

I played there 2 years ago and had a cousin who lived there. He made advanced tee times through a special code when he called in through an automated system. It's only available to residents of San Diego. I was able to pay $60 or something like that when I played with him. I didn't have to pay $110.

Charles's avatar
Charles wrote at 2012-01-25 13:36:20+00:00:

I have walked up all 6 times I have played there and the worst was a 2 hour wait. The place is wonderful and the North course is also very sweet for alot less money-around $80. I have run into some locals that treasure the greatness of the courses and some that think it is a muni. It is, but it is funny that they don't appreciate that it may be the best muni in the world.

Joe's avatar
Joe wrote at 2012-01-25 13:25:11+00:00:

Played both ways. High priced advanced tee times when schedule didn't permit waiting and as a walk on. Loved it every time. Staff was very friendly and helpful and the course is just fun. The North is also available (and much cheaper) and is loads of fun. If you're in SD a must play.

Scott's avatar
Scott wrote at 2012-01-25 00:01:06+00:00:

Twilite is my favourite time to play. I am just not awake at 7am, so you can have the early, expensive times! If $110 is Twilite weekday, when does twilite usually start? Is it so many hours before sunset and changes time of year or is it for ex, 3pm fixed, kwim? Also, if earlier than Twilite, what is that rate $$ for walk on? Is it the full $300? In which case, I sure wouldn't tee off and pay 3 bills within an hour or two of twilite starting, that's for sure.

Fred White's avatar
Fred White wrote at 2012-01-24 23:47:52+00:00:

At $110 way over priced. Residents pay much less, as low as $25 with purchase of resident card or $37 without. A premium of $73 is higher than the prime time Resident Green Fee of $61. So no it is not worth the fee.

Jim Dodge's avatar
Jim Dodge wrote at 2012-01-24 21:29:48+00:00:

On a business trip to SD, I decided to walk on at Torrey Pines. I arrived at TP about 1:40 pm and ran to the starter window to put my name in. I was told about 1-1 1/2 hr wait for the South course. That was perfect to get ready, have a bite of lunch and warm up for a few minutes. So I head back to the car and am putting my shoes on at my rental car trunk, when I hear my name called to head to the first tee. So no lunch, stretching, practice, I rush back to the starter and told to get to the first tee. Played 18 from the back tees with two young locals and had a great time trying to chase them down the fairways. Go walk on...and walk the course as the pros do!

Stu's avatar
Stu wrote at 2012-01-24 20:56:25+00:00:

Nice to know you can still walk on relatively easily. I did exactly that a few years ago after needing to be in SD on business. Nice course, the South. I specifically remember the par-3 third hole, probably because I air-mailed the green and my ball wound up in the Pacific Ocean.

Craig Better's avatar
Craig Better wrote at 2012-01-24 20:53:05+00:00:

$110 is the weekday, twilight rate for non-residents on the South Course. Goes up to $137 on weekends and holidays.

gary s's avatar
gary s wrote at 2012-01-24 19:53:02+00:00:

So is the $110 the lowest or always the price when walking on?

Craig Better

Staff Writer

Craig Better is one of the founding editors of Golf Vacation Insider. In addition to traveling to 15 foreign countries, he has twice traveled across America to play golf courses in all 50 United States. Prior to joining Golf Vacation Insider, Craig was a freelance writer who contributed to GOLF Magazine, Travel + Leisure Golf, Maxim Magazine,, and co-authored Zagat Survey’s book, America’s Top Golf Courses.