U.S. Open 2021: Golf course snobs won't admit this, but Torrey Pines works

By Alan Shipnuck  

Photo By: Keyur Khamar

I have a deep, dark secret: I actually like Torrey Pines as a U.S. Open venue. To even think such a thing brings a rush of self-loathing. Saying it out loud is blasphemy. To put it in print is madness, risking the wrath of Golf Twitter, architecture wonks, the woke mobs and, perhaps, anyone not in the employ or immediate family of Rees Jones. ​

The run-up to the 121st U.S. Open consisted mostly of the golf cognoscenti wilding-out on Torrey Pines. Geoff Shackelford, a dyspeptic who has nonetheless done much to elevate the discourse of course architecture among the masses, wrote in the golf-hipster magazine McKellar, “Go ahead, you can say it out loud. We’re all friends of golf here. Torrey Pines sucks.” Not to be outdone, Andy Johnson of The Fried Egg typed, “The design of the South Course, as updated by Rees Jones, isn’t just bad. It’s offensive.” On Thursday, when Sean Zak tweeted a photo of the narrow, dead-straight, 623-yard 9th hole, Chris Solomon of No Laying Up responded, "The hardest I’ve laughed all day has been to that first image. Like…holy shit! The national championship!”

Matthew Wolff returns to golf while trying to find himself

But No. 9 at Torrey Pines is actually the perfect hole for the U.S. Open—a living, breathing embodiment of what this tournament is supposed to be. The Masters rewards artistry, the Open championship demands shotmaking, the PGA Championship is won with aggression (or, occasionally, canny course management, as we saw at the Ocean Course). But since we already have those tournaments, and the venues that define them, the U.S. Open needs to be a different kind of test. It should ask the most straightforward question in championship golf: can you execute the right shot, over and over and over again? The 9th hole at Torrey might appear utterly boring but the challenge is breathtaking in its simplicity. There is no fancy math-based decision-making to be made, no corners (or doglegs) to be cut. Can you produce two or three really good shots, four days in a row? Now do it on the other 17 holes, too. 
Would we want to watch this every week? No. Is the golf required to prosper at Torrey Pines lacking a certain charm? Yes. Good. This is the United States Muthahfuckin’ Open. It’s supposed to be a grind and a pain in the ass. If you want fancy green contours and breathless talk about some long dead architect who would barely recognise the course today, watch the Masters. If you really need to obsess about angles of play and precious ground-game options, cue up the Open Championship. At Torrey Pines, all that matters is execution and precision. May the best man win.

More U.S. Open stories from Golf

U.S. Open 2021: Frequently Asked Questions

U.S. Open 2021: Why the Brooks-Bryson pairing NOT happening is for the best

U.S. Open 2021: USGA, San Diego to unveil a plaque honouring Tiger Woods

U.S. Open 2021: It's better if Phil Mickelson never wins his national championship

U.S. Open 2021: Yep, we're taking inspiration from Rocco Mediate for our 'can't miss' Torrey pick

U.S. Open 2021 Tee Times: Starting times and pairings for the first and second round at Torrey Pines

U.S. Open 2021 picks: Why our experts are betting on Brooks—not Bryson—to win another U.S. Open

U.S. Open 2021: Yuka Saso compares meeting Rory McIlroy to winning her first major

U.S. Open 2021: Bryson DeChambeau is golf’s biggest attraction. Will he ever be beloved?

U.S. Open 2021: How a 'reprogrammed' Xander Schauffele plans to turn his major near-misses into a breakthrough win

U.S. Open 2021: Here's why NBC will use 88 cameras(!) on one hole at Torrey Pines

U.S. Open 2021: Why Torrey Pines marks the end of a design era in majors

U.S. Open 2021: Can new USGA boss Mike Whan help solve golf’s biggest challenges?

U.S. Open 2021 picks: The 13 best bets to win at Torrey Pines

U.S. Open 2021: Why Torrey Pines is a possible goodbye to the U.S. Open’s era of true public courses

U.S. Open 2021: An inside look at Phil Mickelson's love-hate relationship with Torrey Pines

U.S. Open 2021: You won't see a lot of Torrey pines at Torrey Pines this week

U.S. Open 2021 odds: Xander Schauffele's 'sleeper' days are very much over

Join over 50,000 Irish golfers and get golf's biggest stories first every day


Other news