Torrey Pines Golf Course is far and away the most well known course in San Diego and possibly southern California. And that was before Tiger Woods’ memorable 2008 U.S. Open victory over Rocco Mediate.
Torrey’s popularity is such that many visitors to San Diego figure there’s no point trying to get out on the course. They would be wrong.
While the majority of advance tee times do go to locals, the course tries to reserve 70 percent of tee times for residents, there is a good chance to play the North Course or South Course for those who are willing to get an early start or are patient to wait their turn.
Reserved tee times do not begin each morning until 7:30 am. However, tee times are on a first-come, first-served basis before that. This means arriving early to get one of the foursomes available - longtime golfers known as “Torreyrats” have been known to show up the day before and camp out in the golf parking lot. Just one golfer from a foursome needs to show up to hold the spot for the others in the group. The earlier the better to get a spot, but these days arriving by 5:00 am is usually early enough to get one of the coveted Torrey Pines tee times.
Here is the Dawn Patrol procedure that is posted on a bulletin board adjacent to the starter’s booth:
“Prior to the starter’s arrival the early lineup is determined by the following procedure; for play on Monday-Friday the early lineup is determined by putting a bag against the rail next to the starter’s window and the same player who placed the bag must stay on the premises until they check in with the starter.
“For play on Saturday-Sunday and City of San Diego observed holidays, early lineup is established by parking your car in the golf course parking lot, with the last car to arrive having their parking lights illuminated. For all early lineups one player per tee time must establish place in line and once a player gets in line the same player must remain on the premises to hold that spot in line.
“Play will commence at 6:30 am Monday through Thursday and at daybreak on Friday through Sunday and all City of San Diego holidays. At least 30 minutes prior to the commencement of play all early lineup players should line up in front of the starter’s window in the order that was established by the aforementioned lineup policy. No players are ever allowed to start play on the course without the direction of the starter.”
The process is a little unusual, but it’s worked for some 30 years! And, if you’re able to get on this way, that’s just one more story to tell about the experience.
Don’t have a foursome to sign up for the Dawn Patrol? Not a morning person? Singles, and in some instances twosomes, are often successful getting on the greens as walk-ups.
This is a much more straightforward process. Just sign in with the starter and get on a waiting list and there is a good chance of getting out to play - especially on the North Course. The wait usually isn’t more than a couple of hours, so get something to eat. Or, as the starter told one visitor: “Maybe roll some putts. We’ll get you going out there.”
One East Coast visitor named Tony walked up for an afternoon round in late June and found himself joining a threesome 90 minutes after signing in.
“I’m all the way from Connecticut,” Tony told the starter as he paid for his round. “I’m really excited.”
Non-residents may also book a tee time 8 to 90 days in advance by calling the San Diego Park & Recreation advance tee time reservation service number at: (877)581-7171. This service is available Monday thru Friday, 9 AM to 3 PM, Pacific Standard Time. Advance tee time booking fees apply.
So don't hesitate to bring your golf clubs on your next visit to San Diego and play a round at the world famous Torrey Pines Golf Course!