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

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.

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, USAToday.com, and co-authored Zagat Survey’s book, America’s Top Golf Courses.
23 Comments
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Commented on

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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!

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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.

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