Reservations at Torrey Pines Municipal Golf Course

by Martin Olivera

Here is the "SCOOP" on how to get a tee time at Torrey Pines Golf Course.  I have been playing these courses for about 20 years, so I ought to know!  It's long and detailed but if you really want the best shot at getting a Torrey Pines tee time you'll take the time to read it.  You will not find this information and advice on any other website.

Update July 2008:   There have been many, many changes to the Torrey Pines tee time reservation system and the green fees since Torrey Pines was selected and hosted the 2008 U.S. Open Championship.  My original "How to Get a Torrey Pines Tee Time" below has been updated to reflect these changes.  I've also added a Quick-Link feature to help you get to the section of your interest without a lot of scrolling.

Major Changes to the Torrey Pines Tee Time Reservation System:

  • San Diego COUNTY Residents no longer qualify for discounted Resident Green Fees. (Eliminated in August 2006)
  • The San Diego City Council and Mayor require 70% of  Torrey Pines tee times to be available ONLY to San Diego CITY Residents.
  • The Torrey Pines Tee Time "Call-in Lottery" begins nightly at 7 p.m. and is ONLY available to San Diego CITY Residents with a valid City Resident Golf ID Card and a Pin #.
  • The Torrey Pines Pro Shop no longer books tee time reservations.
  • The Torrey Pines Golf Course Administration Office begins a NEW 8 - 90 Advance Reservation System for Residents and Non-Residents to secure a guaranteed tee time reservation. Non-Residents pay a $ 39 per player non-refundable booking fee and San Diego CITY Residents pay $ 28 per player for this service.

 

NEW 8 - 90 Day Advance Reservation System

Based upon availability...Torrey Pines Golf Course now allocates 12% of both the Resident and Non-Resident tee time allocation for "Advance Booking" from 8 - 90 days in advance.  Torrey Pines charges Non-Residents a $ 39 per player non-refundable Advance Booking Fee and charges $ 28 per player to San Diego City Residents for any tee time reserved via this Advance Reservation System.

This Advance Booking Fee for ALL players is charged to a credit card (ONLY Visa or M/C) at the time the reservation is made.  The green fees are paid on the day of play directly to the Starter/Cashier upon check-in and at the rate entitled - CITY Residents with a valid Photo ID Resident Golf Card pay at the resident rate, Non-Residents at the Non-Resident Rate and Seniors and Juniors at their rate.

The Torrey Pines Golf Course Administrative Office is open for these reservations Monday - Friday from 9 a.m. - 3 p.m.  Call 619-570-1234 and follow the prompts for information and reservations.  BE PATIENT - it's not easy getting through to a LIVE person to check availability and book a reservation.  (If the phone system keeps cycling you around it means they are closed for reservations) 

BEWARE of being disappointed!  In the the Non-Resident tee time allocation pool there usually isn't anything available inside of 70 -90 Days.  The "booking window" in the CITY Resident allocation pool is usually better as many Residents take their chances in the "Automated Tee Time Telephone Lottery" held nightly for tee times 7 Days in advance in order to avoid paying the extra advance booking fees.

Non-Residents don't have that option. Besides going on standby and trying to walk on from a cancellation or no-show (most often a 2 - 4 hour wait...if at all) or buying an expensive Golf Package at one of the two adjacent hotels...this is the only way for Non-Residents to get a Torrey Pines tee time reservation.

Ah! But There is Yet Another More Stress-Free and Convenient Way to Get a Torrey Pines Tee Time!

Just like TicketMaster, StubHub, a Concierge or your Secretary...there are a few Tee Time Reservation Services in in town.

The "Torrey Pines Tee Time Specialist" is SAN DIEGO GOLF RESERVATIONS (800-905-0272). They are a full-service golf reservation company serving San Diego residents and visitors since 1992.  They specialize in booking tee times, golf packages and managing tournaments and corporate golf events at San Diego's Best golf courses... including Torrey Pines Golf Course.  Open Mon - Fri from 7:30 a.m.- 5:30 p.m. and Sat & Sun from 8 a.m. - 4 p.m.

From their Website and Call Center SAN DIEGO GOLF RESERVATIONS provides golfers with information and recommendations about San Diego's Best golf courses.  They check availability at each course and build a golf schedule for you while they are on the phone with you.  Most of the time they can book all your tee times for you in "One Call."  Then they'll email you your schedule along with a map and directions for each course you will be playing.

EXCEPT Torrey Pines they will book your tee times COMPLIMENTARY with no additional service or convenience fees.  Their service is FREE to the golfer and you pay the same green fee you would have paid if you had done all the research yourself and called each course directly.  Often times they extend their customers discounts and special offers off the regular green fees at those courses too. (they get paid by San Diego's golf courses to provide this service to you)

SAN DIEGO GOLF RESERVATIONS also offers a Torrey Pines Tee Time Reservation Service. Here's how it works: 

On your behalf they will contact the Torrey Pines Administration Office.  Sometimes they can get right through while you are on the phone with them and sometimes they will suffer the same frustrations as it takes them hours or days!  But they won't give up!   When they get through one of two things will happen:

SUCCESS:  If the Torrey Pines tee time you want is available they will book it in your behalf.  They will give Torrey Pines your name, email address and credit card number so Torrey Pines can charge you the $ 39 or $ 28 per player non-refundable Advance Booking Fee.  Then they will call you back to let you know they were successful or not.  Torrey Pines will then email a confirmation of the tee time and check-in instructions directly to you.  All players will then pay their respective green fees by cash or credit card directly to the Starter/Cashier on the day of play.  (Remember Torrey Pines ONLY accepts Visa and M/C!)  For this service you will pay SAN DIEGO GOLF RESERVATIONS a $ 29 per player coordination / convenience fee.

TO HAVE THE GREATEST CHANCE OF SUCCESS IN GETTING A TORREY PINES TEE TIME

Contact SAN DIEGO GOLF RESERVATIONS more than 90 Days in advance with your request.  They will track your request in their Advance Reservation System.  EXACTLY 90 days from the day of your request they will be contacting the Torrey Pines Golf Course Administration Office to secure you one of these limited and difficult to get tee times.

SORRY:  As disappointing as it is, the demand for Torrey Pines tee times far exceeds the supply, especially when trying to get a tee time inside of 60 days.  At the same time SAN DIEGO GOLF RESERVATIONS passes along the disappointing news about the unavailability of a Torrey Pines tee time they will also help you make COMPLIMENTARY tee times at many other San Diego golf courses that many consider equal to or better than Torrey Pines. San Diego is a great golf destination so I'm sure you'll want to golf somewhere and they have just the service to help you.  Their LOCAL Golf Specialists will match you to a courses within your budget, are close to your hotel and away from the traffic choke points!

The "San Diego CITY Residents ONLY" 7 Day Advance (Fee-Free!) Automated Tee Time Reservation System

ONLY San Diego CITY Residents can use this reservation system to make "fee free" tee time reservations up to 7 days in advance. This is a computerized phone reservation system that will cascade you through several options. You respond by pressing the appropriate number on your touch-tone telephone.   Residents will be asked to identify themselves by entering the six digit Pin # on their City of San Diego issued Resident Photo ID Card.   This system will let you reserve a resident tee time and will NOT collect any green fees.

In order to qualify for discounted city resident green fees and use the tee time the resident who made the tee time reservation must be present, check-in and show their Resident Photo ID to the Starter/Cashier on the day of play.  The tee time reservation is not transferable to another golfer.  All other players with the resident who made the reservation will either show their own Resident Photo ID to the Starter/Cashier and also get the discounted city resident green fee rate or they will have to pay the Non-Resident green fee. Guests of a resident DO NOT get the resident green fee rate. In fact, even if you are a resident but have not purchased a Resident Photo ID you will also have to pay the Non-Resident green fee.

You can get your City Resident Photo ID Cards at either Torrey Pines or Balboa Park Golf Course Mon - Fri from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. The cost is $ 25 annually.  You must show one of the below documents to prove your are a City Resident (No Exceptions!)

  • Permanent CA Driver License (They will NOT accept a PO Box for an address)
  • CA Auto Registration (Again...they will NOT accept a PO Box for an address)
  • A City of San Diego Property Tax Statement (San Diego City Address ONLY)
  • Active Duty Military ID and MUST be stationed in San Diego
  • A San Diego City High School or a San Diego City College Photo ID (must be enrolled in current session) (

"The Beast" of all Reservation Systems - The Call-in Telephone Lottery!

The computer for the reservation system starts accepting calls at 7 p.m. (PST) every day for tee times seven days later. You better be a fast re-dialer if you want to get through because it's like trying to win a radio station contest by hitting the redial button over and over until you get that lucky ring!   And if that's not hard enough, all the finishable tee times are usually gone within 5 to 15 minutes!   I know people that are long time city residents, pillars of the society that were never able to get through.  Some swear that it's easier to get a tee time by becoming a scratch player and qualifying for the Buick Invitational Golf Championship!

You can call this system anytime throughout the day to search for tee times with 7 Days that may have been cancelled and returned to the automated system.

Rumor Has It...some people swear by calling the system the night before they want to play to pick-up last minute cancellations.  They say this happens when two or more golfers in a regular foursome each got a tee time from the Lottery 7 days prior.  They hold onto the tee times all week until the group decides upon which one to play the night before.  Then they cancel the other tee times.  I dunno...give it a try?

The "Dawn Patrol" (Walk-On's or Stand-By's)

There are two major "procedures" for early morning "walk-ons". The "Weekday Procedure" and the "Weekend Procedure". They are somewhat similar and don't ask me why there are two procedures when only one would do. These "procedures" have been established since the time of the guta-percha ball.

The first reserved tee time, everyday, tees off at 7:30 a.m., so there is a lot of daylight between sunrise and the first reserved tee time.  Of course the infamous "Dawn Patrol" tee times vary with the seasons. The Starter usually opens the course at 6 a.m.  Again, some Starters are better than others and open a tad earlier, particularly in the summer, when by 5:30 a.m. you see people stretching out at the first tees. Starters usually wait for the Pro Shop to open to begin letting people on the course. This way, those who prefer to ride can rent a cart from the Pro Shop. Having said this, let's look at the two procedures:

"The earlier the better" applies to every day.  On WEEKDAYS, obviously, it's easier to get on before 7:30 a.m. Upon parking your car, take your golf bag to the rail on the deck facing the North Course first tee. Place it as close to the Starter's window as possible, without by-passing other bags already "in the line". The Starter's window is to your right as you get to the deck walking up the stairs on either side of the Pro Shop. You will notice that the first 4 or 5 bags are empty and chained to the rail. They belong to people that showed up very, very, darn early and went to sleep in their cars! After placing your bag along the rail, you may go to the restaurant at the adjacent Lodge at Torrey Pines, if already open, or to your car to sleep. It's an unwritten rule NOT TO LEAVE THE PREMISES, but I'm not sure how bad this is enforced on weekdays? When the Starter opens the window, each bag owner takes their place in line per bag position. Usually there is room for 7 or 8 foursomes per course before 7:30 a.m. Each person may sign up for up to one foursome.

On WEEKENDS the situation is tight. The "DO NOT LEAVE THE PREMISES" rule is fully enforced, and unless you like to live dangerously you'd better respect it. Some people say the "L.A. Riots" got started by a group of people mobbing on a guy who left the premises at Torrey. They caught up with him in L.A. This is the procedure: You get to the parking lot and look for the car with its lights on, or for the one flashing its lights as you get there. That's the signal from the person who has THE NUMBER. The Number is exactly that, a number, or position in the line when the Starter opens the window. Once you get The Number, you wait in your car for the next arrival to pass it on. If they tell you: "You are 14", then you tell the next person: "You are 15". And so on. People look very skeptically at cars leaving the parking lot. Again, you may go to the restaurant at the adjacent Lodge at Torrey Pines, if open, once you've passed along the number. Or you may go anywhere within the premises. Another no-no is to skip a Number, thus securing two spots in the line!  If they catch you doing this the "Dawn Patrol" will feed you to the wildlife in the nearby canyons. Now, here's the bad news. Unless you don't have a life, or your family doesn't really like you, you'll try to get to the course by 4 to 5 a.m. only to find that you are Number 27. The die-hard, truly brave "Dawn Patrollers" get there by 11p.m. or Midnight, THE NIGHT BEFORE .They are the ones without a life or whose families don't like them. It is not hard to get to Number 10 before 2 a.m.  Several factors affect the Number:  football, Christmas, Thanksgiving... "your wife or husband dying" is usually not a factor. Still, if your Number is high, say beyond 20, take your place in the line. Chances are that you and your group won't tee off before 7:30 a.m., but at least you will be in a reasonable position to get on within a few hours if the reservation system yields some cancellations or no-shows.

The common ground for both, weekdays and weekends, is the jargon:  If you want to play the South Course, you tell the Starter: "your-name, n, for the South"; if you don't have a preference, or are willing to take whatever you get, you say: "your-name, n, either course". Of course, n is a number from 1 to 4 representing the number of players in your party. The desperate option is to settle for 9 holes. They let people on the course at  #10 North for 9 holes until about 8a.m., which is when the first 18-hole group gets to the 9th green and is ready to make the turn. Since the #10 tee on the South is a mile away, they don't let people play 9 holes on that course. Several people just go straight to the 9 hole line. It's a line next to the regular line (to the right).

TIP: If you are by yourself or with a buddy, pay attention to the Starter, as sometimes there is a threesome or a twosome ahead of you in the line and the Starter fills the foursome out with the "NEXT TWOSOME (SINGLE) IN THE LINE FOR THE NORTH (SOUTH)". When you hear words like these, jump like a Budweiser frog and land at the window. You may skip over several foursomes ahead of you. And it's "legal", so there's no danger of being sued for this.

Torrey Pines Twilight Tee Time Protocol

Twilight rates apply starting at 3:30 p.m. from April through October, and at 2:00 p.m. from November through March. The sign-up for twilight is at Noon, at the Starter's window, for the very same day. The line to sign up usually starts at 11:20 a.m. and to the left of the Starter's window, along the rail overlooking the North course first tee.

One special day I haven't covered yet is the Monday after the Buick Invitational. The course management does not take reservations for that day. Both courses play with the pin locations from the last round played by the PGA TOUR pros (Friday for the North, Sunday for the South). The demand to play the South Course on that day has reached the White House, some people say. It may be easier to get on at Augusta National, believe me. The Torrey Pines Management office gives out tee times for this Monday via a lottery. Information about how the current year's Lottery will be run is posted on the Starter's Bulletin Board.

I believe this pretty much covers it. Oil up your touch tone phone and your dialing finger, or set your alarm for pretty $#&^%$ early if you want to play Torrey. It's not as bad as it may sound. It's very rare that you won't get to play, and if you don't it's because you and the rest of your foursome got to the course after 9 a.m., in which case you'll have to go back to your country club. This is "muni golf", buddy.

Birdie putts to you.