Torrey’s little brother packs a punch, too

Charlie Wi tees off the par-3 third hole of the South Course at Torrey Pines during the 2009 Buick Invitational.

Charlie Wi tees off the par-3 third hole of the South Course at Torrey Pines during the 2009 Buick Invitational.

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SAN DIEGO – It’s easy to forget there are 36 holes on the cliffs atop Torrey Pines State Reserve, and two courses in use for this week’s Farmers Insurance Open.

Torrey Pines’ South Course is famous for its gut-busting 7,628 yards and as site of one of the most exciting U.S. Opens in history, Tiger Woods’ 2008 playoff victory against Rocco Mediate. There’s another course – the North – that shares Torrey Pines’ majestic views of the Pacific.

It’s usually just looked at as the South’s understudy. This fact was no more apparent than during the ’08 U.S. Open, when the North’s 18th green served as a practice chipping green, the ninth and 10th fairways were used as a driving range and the second hole housed the media center.

While the South Course is something of a tourist destination, the quainter North is a local favorite. The North measures 6,828 yards, 800 yards shorter than its big brother, which is expected to play between 7,200 and 7,400 yards this week. Both courses were designed by William P. Bell.

The North’s course rating (an indication of a scratch player’s expected score) is 73.2, five strokes less than the South’s. In the first round of last year’s Tour event here, the North had a 71.7 scoring average and the South played to a 75.4.

The North logs 80,000-100,000 rounds per year, compared with 40,000-50,000 on the South. The North has a seven-minute gap between tee times; the South, 10. Seventy percent of tee times on each course go to local residents.

“The locals like the North Course. It’s their golf course,” said Jon D. Maddern, golf operations manager for the city. “It’s easier to play, although it’s a challenge. I don’t find it to be any easier than the South Course. It’s a different style of golf course.”

photo

With the Pacific Ocean and the La Jolla, Calif., pier as a backdrop, Brandt Sedeker tees off on the seventh hole of North Course at Torrey Pines during his first-round 61 at the 2007 Buick Invitational.

Even though there are more rounds on the North, it plays faster, which helps endear it to local players. The North Course plays in about 4 hours; the South takes about 4 1/2-5 hours, Maddern said.

Part of the difference is due to the South’s difficulty, plus “you have everybody taking in the aura of playing the South Course, and the U.S. Open golf course, and walking in the footsteps of Tiger and everyone else,” Maddern said.

The disparity in difficulty between the two courses is nothing to sneeze at. It’s worth noting when considering which members of your fantasy team to use each day.

The North’s reachable par-5s – the longest is 548, and the other three are all 520 yards or less – account for most of the birdies. There also are two par-4s of less than 350 yards.

“You put pressure on yourself on the North Course because you know you have to shoot a low round if you want to be in the tournament going into the weekend,” said Brandt Snedeker, who finished third in ’07.

Snedeker knows the North well. In the first round of ’07, he was 10 under through 10 holes there before settling for 61 (if that’s ever possible).

“Right now being 10 under through 10 out here and shooting 61 my rookie year was something that kind of burst me on the scene,” he said. “I get more about Torrey Pines and Augusta (T-3 at ’08 Masters) than I ever do about my win (at the ’07 Wyndham),” he said.

Snedeker shares the North Course record with Mark Brooks. Greg Chalmers’ 63 is the course record for the renovated South.

The North, to compensate for its lack of length, has more undulating greens than the South. This forces them to run slower than the South’s putting surfaces.

They run between 10 and 10.5 on the Stimpmeter for the tournament, compared to 10.5 to 11 during the summer. “We could get them faster, but you wouldn’t be able to keep a ball on a lot of them,” Maddern said. The South’s greens usually run about 12 for the tournament.

The North’s heavy traffic also makes it more difficult for the rough to grow as thick as the South for tournament week, he said.

Both courses were hit by the same weather that canceled play last Thursday at the Bob Hope Classic. Torrey Pines received 3.89 inches of rain last week, and lost more than 20 trees, most of them on the South Course, Maddern said. Torrey Pines’ maintenance staff, volunteers from local courses and the Century Club (the tournament organizers) aided in the cleanup.

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