Routed on headlands high above the sea north of La Jolla is Torrey Pines, a 36-hole municipal complex operated by the city of San Diego that until recently was one of the busiest, best-loved, but also one of the most beaten-up munis in America. Its beauty was never in question: two open, windswept courses set on rolling bluffs tilted to the Pacific, their fairways spliced by coastal canyons. Enter The Century Club, a local business group, which hired Rees Jones to transform the battered South Course, site of the Buick Invitational, a PGA Tour event, into an exquisite test of golf that can now be mentioned in the same breath as Pebble Beach. Jones, known for his delicate facelifts of classic venues, performed a major $3.3 million body transplant last year to maximize the site's enormous potential. Jones created new tees,
recontoured every putting surface, added 60 large-scale bunkers to properly defend and visually define the course, and also shifted a few greens nearly 50 yards to take advantage of the spectacular clifftop setting. The new green sites enhance the ocean views but also bring the layout's deep barrancas of no-return into play. At full stretch -- 7,607 yards, par 72 -- Torrey Pines South is the paradigm of a modern championship course, with no weak holes and a handful that might scare the bejesus out of the world's best players on a breezy day. Which is why it's been short-listed for the 2008 U.S. Open. Green fees for out-of-towners are $85 weekdays, $105 weekends. Jones will revamp the facility's shorter but equally scenic North Course in 2003. Information: 800-985-4653.
Scheduled to open this month beside the South's 18th hole is the new Lodge at Torrey Pines, a 175 room-room hostelry that embodies the region's early 1900's Craftsman-style architecture, its shingle- and sandstone-bluff exteriors designed to blend the building into the coastal landscape. Spacious guest rooms, most with balconies, have granite-topped bars, leather chaise lounges, and Stickley furniture. Best of all for visiting players, the Lodge offers guests guaranteed advance tee times on the nation's finest (and only) seaside muni. Details: 800-656-0087 or visit www.thelodgeattorreypines.com.