2021 U.S. Open: 5 things you didn’t know about Torrey Pines

torrey pines south course second hole

Located on the cliffs of the Pacific, Torrey Pines' South Course readies to host its second U.S. Open.

Courtesy USGA/Kirk H. Owens

In the U.S. Open’s 120-year history, only 23 golf courses have earned the honor of becoming multiple-time hosts. This week, that number grows to 24 when the 2021 U.S. Open arrives at Torrey Pines’ South Course in San Diego, Calif. 2021 marks the second time the municipal course will host the national championship, and the first time a major championship will be contested on the grounds since Tiger Woods’ famed victory in 2008.

While the course lives within the consciousness of every golfer who’s ever yelled “expect anything different?!” after draining a lengthy putt, Torrey Pines has a rich history within the sport that often goes unnoticed. Here are five things you didn’t know about the U.S. Open host.

1. It is named after … a tree?

Yes, the golf course is named for the Torrey pine, a rare tree that grows exclusively along the coastline in California. The Torrey pine derives its name from John Torrey, a 19th century American botanist, and looks … not all that much unlike any other tree. Due to its unique environmental circumstances — the Torrey pine only appears in warm, dry seaside climates — the tree is currently classified as critically endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

torrey pine tree
A real-life Torrey pine … at Torrey Pines. Getty Images

2. There are two courses on property, but only one major course

Torrey Pines — or at least the Torrey Pines you know — is actually just the South Course, which is one of two tracks located on the massive, publicly owned property. The North Course, which opened for business the same year, is the smaller and more playable of the two courses. It 2016, it was lengthened and redesigned by Tom Weiskopf, who switched the nines so that the course’s closing stretch would play with panoramic ocean views. The PGA Tour’s annual Farmers Insurance Open is played on both the North and South courses.

3. The land used to be a military base

Like the greater city of San Diego, the land upon which the golf course sits holds a proud military history. Before Torrey Pines was Torrey Pines, it was Camp Callan, a U.S. Army anti-aircraft artillery base that was operational during World War II. In the late stages of the war, Camp Callan served a training ground for “massive overseas amphibious assaults” in the Pacific, though the war ended well before such an event could take place. After the Army left the land in March 1946, the state converted the majority of it into a park for public use.

4. Its original designer is considered part of the ‘first family’ of California golf course design

The original design for Torrey Pines is credited to William F. “Billy” Bell, a mid-20th century course designer known for his work at La Jolla Country Club, Brookside Golf Club in Pasadena, and San Diego Country Club. Bell’s Father, William P., ingratiated his son in the game of golf from a young age through his work as a construction superintendent for Willie Watson and George Thomas Jr. The elder Bell is credited as a co-designer for his work in the design and planning at Riviera.

7th hole at Torrey Pines
A look at Billy Bell’s South Course routing. Courtesy USGA/Kirk H. Owens

5. The South Course won’t look the same as it did in 2008 (but it won’t look much different)

Fittingly, another member of a royal family in American golf course architecture was tasked with the job of renovating Bell’s work at Torrey Pines. Rees Jones (son of Robert Trent, and brother of Robert Trent Jr.) signed on to spearhead a $14 million renovation project of three San Diego area munis, principally Torrey Pines. “The Open Doctor’s” work was completed in early 2021, a minimally invasive renovation that included reshaping contours and installing improved irrigation systems throughout the course.

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James Colgan

Golf.com Editor

James Colgan is a news and features editor at GOLF, writing stories for the website and magazine. He manages the Hot Mic, GOLF’s media vertical, and utilizes his on-camera experience across the brand’s platforms. Prior to joining GOLF, James graduated from Syracuse University, during which time he was a caddie scholarship recipient (and astute looper) on Long Island, where he is from. He can be reached at james.colgan@golf.com.

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