Five Things to Know: Torrey Pines


The term ‘driver’ once meant something completely different at Torrey Pines.

After Camp Callan, the land was repurposed to build a grand prix racecourse, hosting car-racing contests that included some of the biggest names in driving. Among them were Carroll Shelby, who was played by Matt Damon in the movie “Ford vs. Ferrari.” The last race was held in 1956.


Torrey Pines was designed by a father-son team that was named “California’s First Family of Golf Course Design.”

William P. Bell, who was born in 1886 and apprenticed under Willie Watson and George C. Thomas, Jr., was a turf consultant for the US Army Corps of Engineers during World War II, and shortly after that was joined by son William F Bell in the family golf course design business.

A special city election in 1956 led to the dedication of roughly 100 acres of the former Camp Callan being set aside for the creation of a golf course. William P. had the original vision for Torrey Pines, but he had died by the time Torrey Pines was built. His son, William F., oversaw its creation in the late 1950s.

William P. also worked with Thomas on the Bel-Air, Riviera and Los Angeles country clubs, and William F. was involved in the building of Sandpiper and Industry Hills golf clubs, and Bermuda Dunes Country Club. Riviera is the annual host of the Genesis Invitational, which is hosted by Woods, while LACC is slated to host next year’s US Open.


In the spring of 1999, the City of San Diego Parks and Recreation began a five-year capital improvement program for the courses. Rees Jones moved four green structures and added 10 new tees to stretch the course from 7,000 to nearly 7,600 yards. He made smaller changes in 2019, and as a result is the architect most responsible for transforming the South.

But he’s not the only one. Billy Casper and architect David Rainville oversaw the first redesign in the mid-1970s. Stephen Halsey and Jack Daray, Jr., redid it in ’88.

Tom Weiskopf, who won what would become the Farmers in its first year using Torrey South in 1968 – the tournament had mostly been at Stardust CC – redesigned the North Course in 2016.

As for changes to the South, a new tee and two new bunkers down the left side have added a new wrinkle to the 612-yard, par-5 13th hole. A new tee has added 37 yards to the par-4 15th hole, as has a new low chipping area front-left of the green, which will collect errant shots.

A new tee has been added to the left of the previous tee on 17, creating a new angle that favors a draw into the fairway. The hole features the shallowest par-4 green, 26 yards.

The fairways and rough are still mostly kikuyu, the greens poa annua. Devlin’s Billabong, the small pond fronting the 18th green, is still the only water hazard (other than the Pacific Ocean). The 387-yard second hole is still the only par 4 under 400 yards.

Additionally, the picturesque, 195-yard third hole, which plays downhill into the prevailing wind, is still the signature par 3. With multiple teeing areas and wind directions, it can call for anything from a pitching wedge to a long iron.

The dogleg-right sixth hole, a par 4 for the US Open, plays as a 560-yard par 5 for the Farmers. The easiest hole is usually the 568-yard, par-5 18th, the site of Tiger Woods’ do-or-die putt at the 2008 US Open, and Dan Hicks’ call: “Expect anything different?”

It often decides the tournament, too – just ask Jon Rahm. He holed a long eagle putt on the 72nd hole to win the Farmers in 2017 and birdied both 17 and 18 last summer to win his first major.

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