I spent last weekend in San Diego for my sister’s wedding, so I did what any normal person would do on the morning of the wedding: I went to Torrey Pines in La Jolla, California to play golf.
Before I get to the actual experience on the course I need to speak to the massive undertaking it was to actually furnish a tee time for myself. I would like to say that I called in a favor or utilized a connection where I could name drop someone dope, but the reality is that Torrey Pines is a public golf course open to anyone.
Despite the fact that it is a public course, it is still incredibly difficult to find an opening. Torrey Pines is owned by the city of San Diego and reservations can be made up to 90 days in advance. You also cannot make reservations with the clubhouse; every transaction is made online. I understand this, because if it were the case that you made tee times at the club like almost every other golf course in America then the phone would never stop ringing. As much as I had desired to experience a slice of golf heaven, come the week of the wedding I was all but up the proverbial creek with no paddle in sight. Another point worthy of note is that if you are a San Diego resident, not only is it extremely less expensive, but they allow you to ascertain a tee time within the week, whereas a non resident pledge like myself must wait until midnight three days before to scour the Torrey Pines website for openings on short notice.
So here are the three camps that play the course and their plight in getting a tee time.
1) You plan a vacation and make a reservation three months out and have no problem.
2) You live in San Diego and can make a reservation anywhere from 90 days to 7 to make a tee time as well as get first dibs on tee times throughout the week making it only slightly more difficult than having a tee time three months out.
3) You’re like me and you don’t live in San Diego and did not have the strategic presence of mind to make this a non-issue. You check the website every 20 minutes or so, then throw your phone across the room, pound your fists uncontrollably, and cry in the corner of the room whilst in the fetal position. By that time 20 minutes have passed so you repeat.
I left for San Diego without a tee time in hand and had almost resolved that I would not be playing golf and was just going to be celebrating my sister’s nuptials. Lame. However, on Wednesday evening there was a cancellation and lo and behold a tee time for one person at 7:10 am opened up on Friday morning, which was the day of the wedding. I pounced. I danced. I let out a loud “Yawp.” I started to believe that I had in fact called in a connection in a high place. The highest place, for I started to think this was divine intervention from the Lord.
Friday morning rolled around and it was time for me to depart from my hotel and be on my way to glory. Because my tee time was at 7:10am and La Jolla is about 25 minutes away, I had to wake up at 5:00am. Now I generally consider myself a relatively early riser, but 5:00am is completely different echelon of early… and crazy. Despite the early wake up time, I was wide-awake and wired. I rolled out of bed, showered, and grabbed a cup of coffee and an Uber. (Uber is so dope.) There I was, rolling down the highway with the ocean as the backdrop and the sun beginning to rise over a pristine day.
Once I pulled up with Frank, my Uber driver, I felt a weight come over me as I stepped out of the car. This was not a heavy or burdensome weight, but more like the weight of excitement. Though I think this metaphor is too cliché, it is apt; I was like a kid waking up and running down the stairs on Christmas morning. I was expectant, hopeful, and flat out giddy.
You do not pay for your reservation in the pro shop (seriously, that pro shop gig has to be the dopest in the golf game). There is a little box office stand, just like one from the movies before everyone started purchasing movie tickets online. It’s the box office with the old time microphone where the person behind it has to press to button to listen and speak. It is now 6:15am and there is a line of 15 people waiting to pay for their reservation.
As I waited, there was a little incident further up the line. A group of four guys clearly were uninformed about how everything worked at Torrey Pines and were asking the woman behind the box a myriad of questions that she sometimes did and sometimes did not have the answers to. This took about 5-7 minutes, which frustrated others in the line. I didn’t mind it so much as it was informative for a first timer like myself. However, the two women behind me began to speak all sorts of profanities under their breath and in general had a terrible disposition about the whole situation. Either way, this did not affect me, as nothing could bring me down from what was to be the second best day of my life, behind my wedding.
Instead of breaking into an Ayn Rand style monologue about the state of the human condition I will simply say that this incident demonstrated two types of people who play Torrey Pines: There are people who play the course with frequency, and there are people who play in order to cross it off their bucket list. I am the latter. The women were the former. This also was a microcosm for another weird facet about Torrey Pines, in that every person who was staffed by the course was extremely welcoming, helpful, and in general excited that they were at one of the greatest places on earth. Everyone who was not staffed by Torrey pines was not. No one would point you in the right direction. No eye contact. Everyone looked down and kept moving. It felt like I was in Logan’s run to an extent. Was Torrey Pines a dystopian society where people became entrapped in the beauty that soon became their captor? Probably not; I’ll have to do more research to find out.
The final act before actually teeing off was appropriating a mode of travel on the course. There were three options: walking, riding a cart, or getting a set of wheels for your golf bag. I am very seldom an advocate for walking anywhere, especially in golf. Mark Twain once said, “Golf is a good walk spoiled.” In most cases I would agree. At Torrey Pines, however, I would say the move is to get the wheels for your golf bag. There was something devious about driving a cart on hallowed ground. It didn’t feel right. This was my one mistake of the day. For future reference, you have all been warned.
Finally, we were on the first tee box, it was 7:10am. It was our time. My first swing. Topped it. Strong start to the day. I will not enumerate every hole in its entirety, but I will say this: The course is immaculate. The Marshalls were friendly and helpful, and they would also tell you what the course looked like during the US Open as well as what significant shots occurred on each hole. The course was extremely difficult in the best way. The Greens were appropriately named, and the views were unparalleled. It was simply incredible.
Despite my inauspicious start, I played well. I won’t state my score, but I will say that I missed my birdie putt on 18 by lipping it in and out. Upon finishing my round, I bought a hat from the pro shop, which I am currently wearing to channel the course as I write this.
I returned to San Diego proper to celebrate the wedding, but all anyone wanted to talk about with me was my Torrey Pines experience. People were living their lives vicariously through me for the evening. People were on pins and needles as I adumbrated the day I just had.
I might’ve stolen the show that evening.