What can I say? Golf is certainly not a "Game of Perfection" but the Torrey Pines North and South Golf Courses, in La Jolla, California are the closest to golfing perfection that I've experienced.

Every now and then extraordinary things happen to ordinary people, for me it was teeing off at Torrey Pines on one of the finest Spring days Southern California has ever experienced.

The day was crystal-clear and a light sea breeze kept the temperature at a refreshing 71 degrees. The grass was still lightly misted at 7:20 a.m. when they called our names to take the number one tee. An anticipatory thrill of excitement made my heart beat a little faster, knowing that I was about to hit from the same tee box that produced some of golf's most admired champions, including Tom Weiskopf (1968), Jack Nicklaus (1969), and more recently, Tiger Woods (1999), and Phil Mickelson (2000, 2001).

Not many people think that a state-of-mind is a matter of choice, but I can guarantee you that when you play the Torrey Pines Golf Courses, designed by William Bell Sr. and completed by William Bell Jr. in 1957, your consciousness will be forever changed. Rees Jones was recently responsible for redesigning and changing the championship course in 2001. By using his personal touch to the already challenging play, he allowed the landscape and legacy of Torrey Pines to take on a new life. The rolling bent grass greens, sweeping ocean views, and overall boundless beauty of these courses are unsurpassed.




Adjust for tricky
Pacific Ocean breezes.

The first hole on the South Course is a tough opening hole because of its length — from the white tees it's 432 yards and is straight into the wind. They say you don't want to miss right off the tee because the trees pass the bunker are thicker than on the left side. Although my tee shot was a respectable 150 yards, I missed the fairway and landed in the rough on the left side. The only painful part of playing this course is landing in the rough because they are U.S. Open grade roughs. It was a good thing my state-of-mind was enamored with the beauty and perfection of this world renowned "golfer's paradise," because the rough was so thick that it always cost me a stroke or two just to try and get out of it.




Play the North and The
South Course at Torrey Pines.

The second hole — par 3 — allowed me to play a club off the tee that left me with the yardage to play my favorite approach iron to the green. I had to allow for some roll towards the ocean when my approach shot landed. The greens were tricky because the uphill putts are slower than they appeared and always died towards the ocean.

Torrey Pines has long been recognized as one of the nation's foremost municipal golf facilities. Because it's a public course you can walk and carry your clubs, take a golf cart or pull cart. Because it's bounded by mountains to the north and the Pacific Ocean to the west, the seaside courses are often swept by fog, rain and chilling winds. Thank goodness I only had to deal with the U.S. Open roughs. The weather was almost as perfect as my approach shot on the 10th hole.

Jetsetters Magazine Golf MallThe #10 is a short par 4 — 373/356/344/291 — handicap 12/16. The key to this hole is the position off the tee. There is a fairway bunker on the right side of the fairway. I wanted to be on that side of the fairway to have a good angle of attack to the green. I missed the green short about 60 yards and again I was in the rough. I prayed to the golf god's and lined up my shot with the pin. But something very strange had occurred.

The blue flag had fallen from the top of the pin and was lying straight up on the green surrounding the cup. It looked a little strange, especially since everything about Torrey Pines was picture perfect. But since I was in the rough, I knew I didn't have a prayer to reach the hole anyway. So I scrunched my eyes and lined up my ball with the upside down flag pin. I took a full hefty swing with my pitching wedge. I watched the ball fly high out of the rough and head towards the pin. Flying through the air the ball hit the pin and dropped on the green. I was sure it was going to roll off the green, but to my amazement the fallen blue flag acted like a catcher's mitt, caught my golf ball and magically it clunked in the cup for a perfect birdie. Sometimes extraordinary things do happen to ordinary people and it is thrilling!




Champion golfers have played
the municipal course at
Torrey Pines.

All golfers seem to live for that one thrilling shot! It's as if we keep hitting that little ball again and again in hopes that this will be the shot that will connect with the perfect rhythm, the perfect trajectory and the perfect distance between ourselves and the course. That shot out of the rough was my moment to feel that connection and to experience this feeling of perfection, and a little luck. Like most amateur golfers, luck is always a welcomed guest any day of the week on the links.

The other three players in our foursome applauded my good fortune and the round took on a new kind of play. I realized that I could get out of that rough if I would choose to think positively about my swing and my ability. When I focused on lining up the ball with the pin, no matter what the obstacle, there was a greater chance that I'd sink the shot.

I remembered reading in a golf book that if you think about what you want to happen instead of what you don't want to happen your chance of success improves. Picking a target and visualizing the ball going to that target was also part of the routine I was practicing. And because golf isn't a game of perfect, but a game of practice, when I was able to focus my mind and follow through with these two simple rules, I found myself hitting a lot more "lucky" shots!

Sounds simple enough, but disciplining my thoughts to remember only what was good about what I did, instead of focusing on everything that went wrong was a challenge as deep as those U.S. Open roughs. But when I did, I found I had gained a new confidence that helped me enjoy my round of golf even more.




The locals welcome you
at Torrey Pines.

The rest of the round progressed and each hole became more spectacular than the last. The wildlife of squirrels, birds, and butterflies greeted us continually throughout the day. One squirrel was so friendly that she hopped into my golf cart and helped herself to a banana. The fragrance of the eucalyptus trees enveloped me when I hit my ball out of bounds on the #13. This was the hole that was the farthest point from the clubhouse. But we were making the turn home and we enjoyed watching the hang-gliders and para-gliders swarming over the eroded sea cliffs. Even being out of bounds on this course was a pleasure.

It was on #14 when our foursome experienced another "golf moment" that makes you remember why you play this game despite the challenges, bad shots, and missed putts. John, a member of our foursome was from Rhode Island and the president of Rhode Island University. He was a single digit handicap player but found the course tight, narrow, and challenging.

It was on #14 that he found his greatest challenge. The hole demanded a straight tee shot. So he left his driver in the bag, missed the green, hit his ball left of the hole which landed in the ice plant. Normally if choosing to swing in the ice plant even though it looks beautiful, you'll either break your wrist, the club, or both, but the ball never moves. A much better choice is to take a stroke and lift out of the ice plant. But John was inspired by my catcher's mitt approach shot that landed in the cup and because he was from Rhode Island he didn't have a clue as to how treacherous the ice plant can be to a golfer. He grabbed his pitching wedge and headed knee deep into the middle of the ice plant. Undaunted, he took a full swing and hit out of the ice plant and landed miraculously two inches from the cup! Again, his victory was truly mind over matter. My husband, a veteran of California golf courses, was quick to applaud this gutsy shot. He'd never seen anyone come through the ice plant without permanent injury to their club or themselves.

Hole #18 was a nice risk-reward type of hole. We all hit a good drive down the middle. We had the option of going for the green in two, or laying up short of "Devine's Billabong" (so named after Bruce Devlin, who took an 11 on the hole while hacking his way out of the water). I decided to plan and to lay up. The pond guarding the front of the green was about 180 yards from the area just left of the right bunker. I had about 240 yards to the middle of the green. The area in between the bunkers was a bit undulating, so besides the distance to the green and the water I had to ponder my stand and lie before I made the decision to go for it. The green sloped from back to front and to the left, but it wasn't as severe as I thought. It was an exciting finishing hole. Ron eagled it with a 3. My husband, Steve, risked all and parred it with a 5. John still feeling confident from his ice plant experience also got a 5, while I found myself with a double boogie 7.

Duffer DVDsTorrey Pines is filled with beauty, passion and the breathtaking setting is a powerful reminder that when man and nature are in harmony happiness exudes from every cell in your body.

No matter what your ability is with golf, you will be challenged, but somehow this course inspires you to do the best you can with the abilities that you have. I don't know if it's because of the superb design of creating holes from the breathtaking coastal landscape of Torrey Pines, or the inspiration that you are playing the same links that challenged the champions of golf, or the fact that we found wonderful people who loved golf.

Our time on this course was as close to heaven as I could ever imagine. You don't have to hit every shot perfectly to gain the rewards this outstanding course provides for every level of player. So if you want to experience the penultimate experience in golf, Torrey Pines, in La Jolla California is the place to play.

— By Janice Wilson, Jetsetters Magazine Golf Corresponent.