Torrey Pines’ North-South divide set to be bigger than ever at Farmer’s Insurance Open

Torrey Pines

The PGA Tour returns to Torrey Pines for the Farmer’s Insurance Open this week – and the North-South divide is as pronounced as ever.

Players split the first 36 holes between the North and South Courses, then play the final 36 holes on the infamously more difficult South Course, where Tiger Woods won the 2008 US Open.

And it seems the two courses are moving even further apart.

There was a stark contrast on the courses at the 2020 Farmer’s Insurance Open with the North coming in at a combined 221 under par but the arduous South 201 over par during the same period.

The city of San Diego, California, owns the 36-hole Torrey Pines Golf Course, which is one of the finest examples of a municipal golf facility located on the west coast. The South course features in all sorts of toughest course lists, while the North offers more casual players the chance to walk in the footsteps of PGA Tour pros without the sense that you are treading a path through a land of giants.

Originally laid out by William Francis Bell in the 1960s, both courses have undergone 21st-century overhauls, although it seems that the South Course was made more challenging when Rees Jones got his hands on it and extended the length to 7,802 yards (7,134 m) at its longest.

Tom Weiskopf did a more gentle re-routing job on the North Course in 2016 with the changes largely having to do with the aesthetics of the venue with the designer switching the nines so that the famous ocean views can now be enjoyed at the end of the round.

The South Course has hosted two US Opens: Woods won in sudden death in 2008 after an 18-hole playoff against Rocco Mediate, and Jon Rahm won in 2021.

At its longest, the North Course comes in at 7,258 yards, and it plays longer on the front nine than the back while the South Course saves its longest and toughest section for the finish.

Its extraordinary length, narrow fairways, thick rough, severe bunkers, and multi-tiered greens make it one of the most difficult courses in the world.

With fairways in a range of 23-34 yards wide and hazards or bunkers in play on every hole, the South course is not very forgiving.

Criticisms of the South course beyond its difficulty include that the course can be a little bit samey and repetitive with 14 of the 18 holes having bunkers left and right of the green, 11 of the 14 long holes having hazards left and right of the fairway and bunkers guarding fairways off the tee at around 270-320 yards from the black tees. The greens also all bear a notable resemblance to one another.

Being a public course, there isn’t a great deal that can be done to address the huge gap between the courses and the venue itself seems quite happy with the contrast.

Changes will not be possible unless a group or individual raises the considerable funds required for another renovation.