By Joe DeBock, PGA Head Professional – Torrey Pines Golf Club
Beauty is subjective and in the eye of the beholder, but when the beholders are the PGA.com Advisory Board*, beauty is pretty definitive. We've asked officials at each course selected to tell us in their words why their course is an appropriate representative for The World's Most Beautiful Courses.
It's certainly an honor for Torrey Pines to be recognized as one of the 'World's Most Beautiful Courses' and we're very grateful for the citation. But in all honesty, if I had a vote -- and I didn't -- but if I did, I would have put our facility here on the list myself. I define 'beauty' as a total sensory experience and here at Torrey Pines, we are able to stimulate all the senses like few golf courses in the world can do. To feel the gentle ocean breeze, to hear the surf crashing on Blacks Beach below the cliffs on which we sit, to smell and taste some of the salt air -- and of course -- to experience the visuals: some of the most scenic and amazing views found anywhere in the world, much less on a golf course, it's not a surprise to me that this venue is so highly regarded.
Most golf fans might know us as the host of the PGA Tour's Buick Invitational. In that regard, I have to say that we are recipients of some fortuitous timing. As most of the country is blanketed under snow or cold temperatures, they tune in to see our sun and sand (and green!) and try to envision themselves here on our slice of heaven on earth. The best of the PGA Tour must feel some kinship with us as well, as the top players in the world often choose to make our course their first Tour stop of the season. The television ratings bear it out, there really is something unique and special about this golf course.
One of the most aesthetically pleasing aspects to Torrey Pines is how it naturally fits into its surrounding environment. Originally built in 1957 by William F. Bell, the courses here sit high atop a bluff that give incredible views of the Pacific Ocean and the abundant wildlife that can be seen all over the course and surrounding areas. Speaking of the wildlife, we offer everything from squirrels and deer to bobcats and raccoons, all of which you might find meandering around the course during your round. Watching the dolphins surf the waves is basically an everyday occurrence and a rite of passage among many of our visitors. And occasionally, you can look out in the blue waters and see a whale breach the waves in one of the most majestic sightings you'd ever hope to see. Being that connected to nature is practically indescribable and most certainly beautiful.
And our two courses here are pretty convincing as well. In 2001, Rees Jones did some extensive renovations to our South Course; elevating many greens, adding bunkers, just giving more distinction and enhancements all over the layout -- and the result is that the course is even more stunning to the eye. Another goal of ours is to achieve a great purity in our grass on the South Course. When we say the fairways and rough are made of kikuya grass, that's all that will be there. The same goes for our poanna greens and the hybrid tift ribbons around them. By eliminating the impurities in each area, you do away with the discolorations and the imperfections that can create a less appealing look. The consistency of the grass, and how they sit in contrast to each other, is truly phenomenal. And another bonus, the rarest type of pine tree in the United States just happens to be one of the most visually appealing -- and we have it in abundance; the Torrey Pine. So the framing of the fairways, the placement of the bunkers, the undulations in the layout, the color contrasts in the green surfaces -- all work together to give our courses character and flair.
And of course, there's this little body of water we like to call the Pacific Ocean -- and you can see it from practically every hole on both courses. Many of the holes, such as the South Course's third hole, are built right alongside the water and will offer a view that you'll remember long after the victory (or sting) of your score will last.
And overall, that is what we try to provide -- a once-in-a-lifetime experience to our guests. Whether you remember the panoramic views that offer a stunning contrast of golf green and ocean blue, or the grace and power of the para-sailers and hang-gliders that are out over 300 days of each year, Torrey Pines offers a plethora of dramatic memories. I understand that beauty is in the eye of the beholder and a prestigious list like this is going to generate the most impressive names in golf. But in being as objective as I can be, I appreciate Torrey Pines as a golfer as much as I do an employee. And as a golfer, there aren't many other places that can measure up.
This June, the entire golfing world will focus its attention on us as we host the 2008 U.S. Open. We are excited and anxious to show off our home. The USGA has set up the course to be a stern test of golf, meant to identify the best player in the world. And they can grow the rough and speed up the greens and do whatever it is that they do to make this course penal and difficult. You might hear a player or two groan about certain things during the week but I know one statement that will make its way around the course a few times. And I bet it's a phrase you'll hear time and time again from the best players to the volunteers to the fans lining the ropes: "Wow, this place is beautiful."
* The World's Most Beautiful Courses is a list of courses selected by the PGA.com Editorial Advisory Board. The only prerequisites asked of the Board were 1.) they select courses open for public play and 2.) they not vote for their own course. The top 12 courses will be featured, in no particular order, other than the top vote getter which was selected by a unanimous vote.