By Joe Passov
Friday, June 26, 2009

There are two likely scenarios attached to the U.S. Open being held 18 months from now at Torrey Pines in San Diego: Tiger will hoist the silverware, and golfers across America will start a gold rush for tee times at the scenic municipal course. Call it the Bethpage syndrome: the USGA pats itself on the back for taking the national open to a public course, and the rest of us get a backlog. The answer? Get there before Tiger does.

The Golf

Torrey Pines (South Course)

Torrey Pines (North Course)
6,874 yards, par 72; Greens fee: $80-$132

The North Course at Torrey co-hosts the first two rounds of the PGA Tour's Buick Invitational with its brawnier sibling. You won't find better views along this coastline, particularly at the tee of the seventh hole. Be sure to linger a while, because that's the end of the appeal—the rest of the round is strictly mediocre municipal golf with conditions to match. But the lower price tag (it might be worth $80, but certainly not the $132 peak rate), friendlier challenges and extra photo ops make the North every bit as tough a tee time to obtain as the South.

Maderas Golf Club
7,115, par 72; Greens fee: $155-$195

San Diego's premier inland golf experience is in Poway, 30 minutes east of La Jolla. Maderas offers the whole package: rolling terrain, tournament-worthy conditioning and great service. That goes some way toward justifying the hefty price tag. Trees or environmentally sensitive areas frame most holes, and jaw-dropping mansions ring the canyon tops. (Don't miss San Diego Charger LaDainian Tomlinson's house at the 15th hole.) A few design quirks detract from the overall feel, but the canyon-laced stretch of holes from Nos. 14 to 17 will bring you back.

Barona Creek Golf Club

The Cark Wrecker
Torrey Pines, South Course, No. 12
504 yards, par 4

Peter Kostis on how to play it

Local Knowledge

What to do

    [LIST "Next Level Sailing will take you out on San Diego Bay on the only two America's Cup yachts (Stars and Stripes and Abracadabra) licensed by the Coast Guard for charter in the U.S.
    800-644-3454,"] [LIST "Panda-monium reigns every day at the sprawling San Diego Zoo, near downtown in Balboa Park.
    619-234-3153,"] [LIST "Catch some NFL action: take in a San Diego Chargers' game at Qualcomm Stadium.

    Where to Eat

      [LIST "George's at the Cove in La Jolla combines innovative California cuisine with superb ocean views. The corn and lobster soup and braised short ribs are sublime.
      858-454-4244,"] [LIST "The Lodge at Torrey Pines' A.R. Valentien offers views of the South Course, and you'll enjoy chef Jeff Jackson's emphasis on fresh local ingredients even more.
      858-453-4420,"] [LIST "Both La Valencia's Sky Room and the Whaling Bar & Grill are great, but the crab and avocado omelette at the hotel's Mediterranean Room is a must. 858-454-0771,"]

      Where to Stay

        [LIST "Opened in 1926, La Valencia is an Old World gem on the ocean. Rooms from $275. 858-454-0771,"] [LIST "The Craftsman-style Lodge at Torrey Pines offers superb Pacific views and access to Torrey Pines. Rooms from $325. 858-453-4420,"] [LIST "The huge casino and the topnotch Oaks Steakhouse elevate Barona Valley Ranch. Rooms start at $119. 888-722-7662,"]

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