A closer look at the challenges of one of Torrey Pines’ most beautiful holes

South Hole 7

Mark Degnan

January 27, 2021

When the Torrey Pines golf complex opened in 1957, it was symbolic of the most optimistic vision of American golf. The sport was exploding in popularity, and here were two new 18-hole public courses (North and South), located on beautiful oceanfront cliffs and designed by the region’s most recognizable name (William F. Bell)—all sealed with a sunny Southern California kiss. Times were good, especially when the Andy Williams-San Diego Open Invitational (now the Farmers Insurance Open) moved here permanently in 1968.

As years passed, Torrey Pines’ municipal DNA began to show, and the two courses turned lovably rough and scruffy around the edges. That changed with a comprehensive renovation of the South Course by Rees Jones in 2001 coinciding with its announcement as host of the 2008 U.S. Open. That transformed it into a heavyweight, in part by adding over 500 yards in length. While overshadowed now by par-4 brutes like the fourth and 12th, the long par-4 seventh remains one of the course’s sternest holes, an iron fist in a velvet glove perched in a sublime setting that’s surrounded on three sides by the deep canyons of Torrey Pines State Reserve.


The hole appears simple with a narrow strip of fairway that doglegs to the right around several Torrey pines that can interfere with shots played from the penalizing rough. Two bunkers guard the outside corner, including a new one approximately 310 off the tee that Jones added in 2019. The green is perched out on a promontory, protected on the right and front-right by a deep bunker.


The majority of greens on the South Course sit up and are tilted forward, visually presenting all or most of themselves to the player. The seventh green is unique because it’s oriented more on an axis, running away from the line of play with a beautiful skyline aspect to the narrow back-right section. While placing the ball in the fairway to avoid the bunkers and deep rough is essential, this a second-shot hole that demands precision and control—misses leave surprisingly unfriendly recoveries from either the bunker or chipping hollows left and long (misses that go too long are in the canyon).


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The green is typical of many at Torrey Pines South, with fairly level hole locations separated by steeper transitions, with the back-right quadrant being quite small. Stroking long putts through the transitions requires a great sense of pace, but pay close attention to the contour lines and arrows (above) surrounding the perimeter of the green—these are the real defense. Incoming shots that don’t safely secure the putting surface are quickly detoured away into lower chipping sections, leaving touchy recoveries, especially if short-sided.


The seventh green is historically the South Course’s most difficult up and down. It’s already difficult to hit with just 56 percent of the field finding the green in regulation over the past five years, and those that miss make par or better less than half the time. The chipping swales to the left and behind the green have been modified several times through the years and are actually now more conducive to scrambling than they were previously—from 2003 through 2015 the field recovered for par (or birdie) from off the green only 42 percent of the time.

(Green mapping courtesy of StrackaLine)