I challenge you to find a course that plays tougher from the white tees, let alone all the way back at 7600 yards at the "US Open" tees. (Those are typically not open to the public, but the blue tees provide all the course you'll want to play, believe me.)
The course rating/slope from the "whites" on the South Course at Torrey Pines is a whopping 73.1/133 at 6623 yards. Compare that with most modern courses that place the white tees in the 6100 yard range, and add factor in the difficulty that was built in when the course was redesigned by Rees Jones in 2002 and I'm willing to put it up against just about anything.
Jones tightened the driving areas on most of the par 4's and 5's by placing fairway bunkers in all the right landing zones. The rough is healthy all year, and the greens provide a huge variety of pin placements.
The downhill par 3, 3rd hole is an example of where Jones took a pretty hole with a Pacific Ocean backdrop and added drama by extending the green to what looks like, from the tee, the cliff's edge. It's kind of like a disappearing edge pool. If the pin is on the left side of the green, this is one scary shot. The 14th, a dogleg left par 4, has a similarly-redesigned green that brings the hazard long or left into play and provides a number of "fun" pin placements. It's my favorite hole on the course.
In San Diego, locals have always enjoyed the fact that not only was their "muni" reasonably priced (at least if you live in city limits, but that's another story) it is the host of the PGA Tour's Buick Invitational every year. And who doesn't like teeing it up in the footsteps of the pros?
The US Open in June of 2008, won in dramatic fashion by Tiger Woods, helped take Torrey Pines South Course to the next level.
So whether you're lucky enough to get the local rate, or you need to pay the top weekend rate of almost $250, amateurgolf.com rates Torrey Pines a "must play" because, after all, you only live once.
No matter what your score, your senses will be overwhelmed by the scenery as you soak in one scene after another along the Pacific Ocean. Standing on the par 3 third green after a good shot, and looking south towards La Jolla as your partners putt out is as good as it gets.