A hole-by-hole tour of Torrey Pines South, the 2021 U.S. Open host

Torrey Pines gets its first major since the epic playoff won by Tiger Woods in 2008.
The 5th hole on the South Course at Torrey Pines.

The 2021 U.S. Open returns to Torrey Pines South. It's the second U.S. Open for the famed municipal course in San Diego. We all remember its first staging vividly when Tiger Woods, playing on a broken leg, holed a birdie putt on the 72nd hole to force an 18-hole Monday playoff with Rocco Mediate. That playoff would also require a sudden-death playoff hole.

A lot has changed in golf and at Torrey Pines since 2008. The U.S. Open has abandoned its 18-hole Monday playoff in favor of a more fan-friendly, two-hole aggregate playoff. Tiger Woods will not be in competition in 2021, out due to injury following his car crash earlier this year.

The South Course at Torrey Pines also looks a bit different. The city of San Diego spent $14 million on a slight redesign by Jones in 2019 to add even more difficulty, though most of the work was done underground, installing a new irrigation system. Perhaps the most noticeable change for viewers is the shifting of the par-4 17th fairway to the left, bringing the canyon more into play. New championship tees stretch the course to 7,765 yards.

Despite its scenery along the cliffs of La Jolla, Torrey Pines South is not a favorite of all architecture critics, including the most famous one: Phil Mickelson, a local resident who has been outspoken about the changes Rees Jones has made over the years. Even so, you won't find Lefty complaining if he hoists the trophy to complete the career grand slam after being six times a bridesmaid.

If it plays more firm and fast in the drier month of June than it traditionally does for its Tour event in the winter, Torrey Pines should be a strong test of golf, but will it be tough enough to land a third U.S. Open down the road and keep its place among the pantheon of major championship munis?

Here's a hole-by-hole tour of the South Course at Torrey Pines with new photography from the USGA prior to the 2021 U.S. Open.

  1. Par 4 | 451 yards
    The First hole on the South Course at Torrey Pines.

    Par is always a great way to start a round at Torrey Pines. Favoring the left side off the tee sets up the right angle to a green bracketed by bunkers.

  2. Par 4 | 389 yards
    The second hole on the South Course at Torrey Pines.

    Most players will hit less than driver to hit the correct spot on the fairway. A miss right will force a blind shot from a grove of Torrey Pines.

  3. Par 3 | 201 yards
    The third hole on the South Course at Torrey Pines.

    The view from the signature par 3 on the course never gets old. Depending on the tee used, it play as short as 9 iron to as long as a hybrid. Playing downhill, the hole is more difficult if when players hit it beyond the green.

  4. Par 4 | 490 yards
    The 4th hole of the South Course at Torrey Pines.

    No. 4 introduces the famous cliffs that will claim balls hooked and pulled by right-handed players. The two fairway bunkers on the right collect bailouts. Approach shots hit to the right to avoid the lone bunker will follow the contours toward the middle of the green.

  5. Par 4 | 454 yards
    The 5th hole on the South Course at Torrey Pines.

    A strong tee shot will climb past the rise in the fairway and the bunkers on either side, leaving a mid-iron approach. A bunker on either side of the green will catch misfires.

  6. Par 5 | 564 yards
    The 6th hole on the South Course at Torrey Pines.

    Favoring the right side of a dogleg right could set up a chance to go for it in two and avoid the three bunkers on the left side. The two-tiered green is guarded by two bunkers.

  7. Par 4 | 462 yards
    The 7th hole on the South Course at Torrey Pines.

    The dogleg left requires a tee shot up the left side to set up the best angle to the green. The elevated putting surface slopes severely back to front. It is one of three holes (along with the 9th and 13th) to feature newly expanded, closely mowed collection areas around the greens that will make getting up and down much more difficult.

  8. Par 3 | 177 yards
    The 8th hole on the South Course at Torrey Pines.

    A front bunker will likely get a lot of action, especially if players don't hit enough club for the uphill.

  9. Par 5 | 615 yards
    The 9th hole on the South Course at Torrey Pines.

    Despite this hole's sheer length, and the six fairway bunkers along the way, going for the green in two is a real possibility on such a straightaway par 5. A slew of bunkers defend the green.

    La Jolla, California

  10. Par 4 | 454 yards
    The 10th hole on the South Course at Torrey Pines.

    A new tee added 39 yards to force more players to hit driver. As with any par 4 in a U.S. Open, hitting the fairway is paramount to the chase for a birdie. It's tough to make putts on a sloping green as well.

  11. Par 3 | 225 yards
    The 11th hole on the South Course at Torrey Pines.

    Although this par 3 is downhill, it tends to play longer than the yardage due to the prevailing wind. The undulating green tends to kick tee shots from right to left.

  12. Par 4 | 505 yards
    The 12th hole on the South Course at Torrey Pines.

    Such a long par 4 demands an aggressive and accurate tee shot for any chance to hit the green in regulation.

  13. Par 5 | 621 yards
    The 13th hole on the South Course at Torrey Pines.

    A new tee has been built to add length to a strong hole that already plays uphill. This fairways rolls with a lot of movement, leading to tough lies.

  14. Par 4 | 437 yards
    The 14th hole on the South Course at Torrey Pines.

    The canyon left is certainly a threat every step of the way. More hazards off the back of the green make long very wrong.

  15. Par 4 | 517 yards
    The 15th hole on the South Course at Torrey Pines.

    Despite no fairway bunkers, Eucalyptus trees pinch the fairway tight, leaving not much margin of error. The green bends hard right to left.

  16. Par 3 | 227 yards
    The 16th hole on the South Course at Torrey Pines.

    Multiple teeing grounds can change not only the yardage but the angle to the green. The shorter yardage must take on the bunkers, while the longer shot opens up the approach to the green.

  17. Par 4 | 443 yards
    The 17th hole on the South Course at Torrey Pines.

    A soft draw off of the two fairway bunkers on the right is the ideal shot, although the canyon on the left that's now more in play than ever makes it hard to hit that drive with confidence. Front bunkers must be negotiated to hit the elevated, sloping green.

  18. Par 5 | 570 yards
    The pond in front creates a risk-reward par 5 on the 18th hole of the South Course at Torrey Pines.

    The risk-reward 18th always plays a hand in who wins the Farmers. Golfers chasing the title are often forced to go for the green in two, bringing the pond into the equation. The water is still in play for those who lay up. Spinning a wedge off the green into the hazard is a painful way to end the round, win or lose.

    6 Min Read
    January 24, 2021
    Here are a few things you should know as you plan your San Diego golf trip and want to include a round or two at Torrey Pines.

Jason Scott Deegan has reviewed more than 1,000 courses and golf destinations for some of the industry's biggest publications. His work has been honored by the Golf Writer's Association of America and the Michigan Press Association. Follow him on Instagram at @jasondeegangolfadvisor and Twitter at @WorldGolfer.
Commented on

WOW....Par 5's over 600 yards! The PGA needs to create a restricted Ball for the pros----rather than adding lenght to golf courses!!$$$$$$$$

Commented on

Will be able to enjoy the golf on TV now that I know each hole.
Thank you.

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A hole-by-hole tour of Torrey Pines South, the 2021 U.S. Open host