Most players will know Torrey Pines as host to the
Buick Farmers Insurance Open and as the site of Tiger’s 2008 win at the second municipal course to host the U.S. Open. But a little less well-known is The Lodge at Torrey Pines, located adjacent to the Torrey Pines Golf Course with a view of the Pacific Ocean in the distance. A mere 30 minutes north of downtown San Diego in La Jolla, California, The Lodge is easily accessible from the San Diego International Airport. Doormen in traditional kilted Scottish attire welcome guests to the Lodge, which features two restaurants, a full-service spa, pool, and 36 holes of golf right outside the door. The Lodge sits on six and one half acres and, for you architecture buffs, was built in 2002 to replace a 1960’s era motel on the site and modeled after the Gamble and Blacker houses in Pasadena, California, the craftsman style of architecture practiced by Greene & Greene in Southern California in the early 1900s. Picture shingles, sandstone and brick, with rich dark woodwork.
The Lodge features 170 guest rooms and 8 suites, ranging from 470 to 2,500 square feet. Our Palisade Room offered a good-sized deck and a view across the croquet lawn to the 18th green of the South Course, with the Pacific Ocean farther off on the horizon. The Lodge is consistent in its craftsman design throughout, including artwork and wallpaper, some of which looks like something that might be found at your grandmother’s house. Dark wood is a dominant theme, accented by fireplaces, leather chairs, muted colors and dimmed lighting via the omnipresent stained glass.
We took advantage of The Lodge’s two restaurants, A.R. Valentien and the Grill & Bar, where we enjoyed excellent service and food. Aside from playing golf, eating, and sleeping, we made sure to squeeze in some time at The Spa at Torrey Pines. The 9,500 square foot indoor spa features a handful of rooms for massages and special treatments. It’s a simple spa, and not surprisingly is accessible without any additional fee for all guests, regardless of whether they are having treatments or not. And if you still have time left over, there is a croquet lawn, outdoor pool and hot tub.
This isn’t a bright, shiny glass and chrome accented hotel, and there is no DJ spinning electronic dance music in a nightclub stocked with supermodels. The Lodge is designed to look and feel like a comfortable (albeit grand) residence, as opposed to the crisp lines of a contemporary Ritz-Carlton or Four Seasons. At The Lodge at Torrey Pines you’ll get a very high level of service, good food, and the ability to sleep soundly in your room knowing your confirmed tee time awaits.
- Just steps from both courses at Torrey Pines
- Access to Torrey Pines Golf Course tee times
- Exceptional service
- Room rates on the high side
- Lack of integration with golf course
- Watch your bill!
Don’t let the laid-back San Diego sunshine lull you into thinking that service at the Lodge at Torrey Pines has an overly relaxed vibe. Quite to the contrary, the hotel staff was among the best that we’ve encountered, from the first bellman we met to the front desk staff to restaurant waiters. The team was extremely polite and pleasant and seamlessly worked together to provide a high level of attention. Not everything went right on the trip, but the way that the staff responded to the problems was exemplary.
- Reservations. Golf packages can’t be booked online, so we had to call the hotel to arrange our stay. The reservation agent was quite polite, but seemed distracted, asking three times for the dates of arrival and departure during the conversation. We weren’t surprised then when our confirmation e-mail had the wrong dates for arrival and departure. Thankfully, the golf tee times were correct! Now about that pesky detail of having a place to sleep…Fortunately when we called to point out the error, rooms were still available on our desired dates, and the Lodge was able to quickly make this change, with apologies.
We called back a few days later to make dinner and spa arrangements. Lines were busy and while the Lodge representative said they would have someone call back in 5 to 15 minutes, the return call didn’t come until 40 minutes later (at which time we weren’t able to pick up the phone). No matter, we dialed them up again and the agent assisted with dinner arrangements at the upscale A.R. Valentien restaurant at The Lodge, although the available time slots were limited even several weeks in advance. The spa has a completely separate system for appointments, so we were transferred to the spa to make arrangements. They weren’t able to attach the appointments to our room reservation, and we had to leave our credit card information with them as well. This seems to be a strange hiccup in integration given that it’s all at the same resort.
We did appreciate the call two days in advance to remind us of our spa appointment (a good way to avoid any penalties in case you forget) and the day prior for our dinner reservation.
- Checking In. We took a cab from the San Diego airport and were greeted upon our arrival at the Lodge by a bellman in traditional kilted Scottish attire. There was no line at the reception desk so we stepped right up. The front desk clerk was extremely pleasant and quickly checked us in. The only snag occurred when they presented us with sign-in paperwork specifying a higher rate than was quoted in our reservation confirmation letter (it was clear from their reaction that the confirmation letter had an error). The front desk clerk handled the situation gracefully, never challenging our position and instead politely asking if she might be able to check into it and get back to us. The next morning she left a message stating that they would honor the lower rate, and thanking us for bringing the discrepancy to their attention.
One nice touch was that we were provided with a small packet with little cards for each reservation we had made for dinner and golf (although no cards were included for our spa appointments). The clerk also efficiently assisted with changing our dinner plans at the Bar & Grill on the evening of our arrival, taking our request for a revised time when we were checking in and coordinating seamlessly with the restaurant, which then called us in our room just a few minutes later to confirm our new reservation.
- Housekeeping and Services. The room was well kept upon arrival, and nicely maintained by housekeeping during our stay. There are two services, one each in the mid-morning and early evening. They also responded very quickly to a request for a toothbrush, arriving in just minutes.
- two queen beds
- a chair and desk
- an easy chair and ottoman
- 32″ flat screen TV
- gas fireplace
- a good sized bathroom with double sinks, separate tub and shower, and a separate room for the toilet
- Bose Wave Radio/CD player
- coffee maker
- The Lodge at Torrey Pines Spa branded toiletries
- a rack of dumbbells next to flat, incline and decline benches
- a small collection of 5 weight machines
- 2 elliptical machines
- 3 treadmills
- 2 upright bikes
- 2 recumbent bikes
- Bose Wave Radio/CD player
- coffee maker
- The Lodge at Torrey Pines Spa branded toiletries
There were relatively limited room options when we booked our room a month and a half in advance, so we selected the Palisade Room (budget didn’t permit us to consider suite options; please consider purchasing more products through Critical Golf so we can do so in the future). Our room was 600 square feet, quite comfortable and in very good condition. As with the rest of The Lodge, the rooms are craftsman in style, from the light at the entryway to the extensive dark wood and Tiffany lamps within. We would guess that the um, “classic” wallpaper in the bathroom may not suit everyone’s taste, but it is consistent with the building and period.
Our Palisade Room included:
There is an outdoor patio with two lounge chairs, two smaller wicker chairs and a table – certainly large enough for two people to spread out for basking in the sunshine or a room service meal. Our room and patio looked out over the croquet lawn, and past that to views of the Torrey Pines South Course and some nice sunsets over the Pacific Ocean. The additional cost of the Palisade Room gets you golf course views and the outdoor patio. The Reserve and Signature Rooms instead have views toward a central courtyard and are a bit smaller at 470 to 550 square feet.
POOL AND FITNESS CENTER
The Fitness Center at the Lodge is relatively small and unfortunately lacks any windows. There is no charge for use of the Fitness Center.
Each of the cardio machines is equipped with its own television. There is a water cooler and complimentary fruit, and towels, cold towels, and headphones are all provided for your use.
It’s a bit of a spartan experience (and the lack of natural light is a bummer), but completely functional if you need to get in a quick workout.
If the gym isn’t your thing, the resort also has a croquet lawn (available unless there are events on the terrace, as there was one night during our weekend visit), and an outdoor swimming pool with a hot tub.
The 9,500 square foot Spa Torrey Pines is a full service facility offering massage, steam rooms, saunas and aromatherapy inhalation. Use of the spa is complimentary for all guests, regardless of whether you are having a treatment or not.
The spa “lobby” welcomes you with retail goods, and not surprisingly the selection of products is primarily focused on the ladies. We checked in at the welcome desk with a receptionist who didn’t seem overly interested in our arrival, who then gave us turn-by-turn directions on how to navigate the men’s locker room and where to meet our massage therapist. There was no male attendant to provide a tour, so we were left to explore on our own.
It would’ve been nice having a guide – in addition to a smallish changing area with lockers, the men’s area of the Spa had a steam room, a sauna, and an aromatherapy inhalation room. We had no idea what the aromatherapy inhalation room was for (it’s just labeled “Inhalation Room”), nor how to even turn it on. Subsequent research reveals that it is used for aromatherapy and deep breathing or meditation, and filled with the scent of clary sage, which helps with anxiety and fear, menstrual-related problems such as PMS and cramping, and insomnia. Feel free to create your own joke about clary sage next time your buddy leaves his putt short of the hole.
Just outside of the locker room is a men-only seating area with lounge chairs, one TV and assortment of magazines – SI, Golf, Forbes, Men’s Health and the like. From this small room you exit into a two-room coed waiting area where you are met for your massage. There is a fireplace in one of the rooms, but otherwise the two are similar, providing lounge chairs, water, tea, fruit and some snacks while you wait, along with more magazines. It’s straightforward but not fancy, and feels somewhat enclosed, perhaps due to relatively low ceilings or because this review comes on the heels of our experience at massive spas and resorts with outdoor seating areas.
The 50-minute Swedish massage ($140) was performed in one of the handful of treatment rooms. The spa has not only individual massage rooms, but also a couples massage room and specialized rooms for scrub treatments, wraps, and “water therapies”. The rooms are quiet, with only the sounds of the soft music and the continuously running air vent. The quality of the massage was fine, but both members of our review staff independently noted feeling a bit rushed through the process during their massages (apparently there’s a lot of stuff to get through in 50 minutes!). Of course almost any massage is a good massage, so we’re not expecting any pity, but the Spa at Torrey Pines probably isn’t worth making a special trip.
The Pro Shop, which is situated between the Lodge and the golf courses, is one of the best we have visited, with an immense selection of different brands of clothing – shirts, shorts, pants, sweaters, vests, jackets, hats, belts, socks and shoes. Brands include Adidas, Peter Millard, Travis Mathew, Antigua, Oakley, Cutter and Buck, Greg Norman, Ashworth, Polo, Nike and more. The Pro Shop even has a healthy women’s clothing selection, and a section of kids golf clothes to boot!
There is an above average amount of golf equipment available as well. This includes putters, wedges and woods. Aside from clothing and equipment, there are golf carry bags and travel bags, gloves and balls, umbrellas, glasses, towels and Torrey Pines flags, and, because all golfers like to drink (right?), shot glasses, wine and pint glasses, and coasters. If you’re in need of some gear, they most likely have it here (sporting a Torrey Pines logo, of course).
The Lodge at Torrey Pines offers two dining options – A.R. Valentien (named after an early 1900s California artist), which is their signature restaurant, and The Grill & Bar (named after its grill and bar). We found the food to be very good at both restaurants and service to be a strength.
serves “contemporary California cuisine” with a focus on seasonal local ingredients. A.R. Valentien is located just off the main lobby of the hotel, and has a cozy bar and lounge with leather chairs, fireplace and bar. The main dining area itself has two small rooms, as well as an outdoor patio overlooking the pool. The ambience is the more formal of the two restaurants, with white tablecloths and a number of customers in jackets and ties.
Our first meal at A.R. Valentien was for breakfast, and even though there are white tablecloths, it’s still California casual. Our Bed and Breakfast Package included a $40 credit each day, but with two people each ordering juice, a breakfast entree, and a side added on top, we went over our limit ($48). The dried fruit brioche french toast was nicely done, none too heavy, and the scrambled eggs and potatoes with a side of ham received a thumbs up. The Mulberry coffee cake (hey, it was in season) was a standout – but it’s hard to go wrong with cinnamon and sugar. We also enjoyed the strawberry-orange juice at A.R. Valentien – a nice combination of flavors with the texture of traditional orange juice.
Since you can’t judge a book by its cover, or a restaurant by its breakfast, we returned to A.R. Valentien for dinner as well. The menu was a bit heavy on restaurant jargon, forcing us to resort to the faux pas of pulling out iPhones at the dinner table just to understand our options – mizuna, tuile, feuillete, galette…anyone?
We were treated to an amuse-bouche of lobster salad on crostini, which was spectacular – the sweetness of the lobster really came out and was complemented by the crunch of the crostini. If it had been on the menu, we might have ordered another 8-10 of these. The Alaskan halibut on a bed of peas and risotto ($38) was splendid, as was the oak-fired roasted Niman Ranch pork loin ($32). Desserts were fine, but not memorable (we had the mulberry galette and the strawberry rhubarb bread pudding), but they made up for it with complimentary bite-sized morsels of mini-donuts and other pastries. At $128 for two (with no alcohol) the pricing is not inexpensive, but about on par for a hotel of this caliber.
The Grill & Bar offers a more casual environment. It’s located a few steps outside of the hotel, adjacent to the practice putting greens, and is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The Grill room is informal and contemporary in look, with an open kitchen and counter and a selection of booths and tables. One nice bit of local flavor is that each table has a little Torrey Pines bonsai tree on it, which is the rarest pine species in the United States (at one time there were only around 100 trees surviving!), growing only in San Diego County and on one of the Channel Islands. Hey, we are here to educate as well. Live music was provided by an acoustic guitarist – when’s the last time you heard an unplugged version of “Here Comes the Sun”? Attached to the Grill room is the Bar, which has a handful of tables, a full bar, and three televisions. Both rooms serve the same fare.
Once we were seated we were served complimentary homemade potato chips…with sour cream and onion dip! The dip may be old school, but it was delectable (and rapidly devoured). The fried asparagus ($9) and the smoked salmon salad on butter lettuce ($14) were just okay, but the beet salad with raspberry compote ($11) turned things around. Entrees are available in small and large sizes, and the smaller sizes are more than adequate if you’re having salads and/or appetizers. Our waitress warned that the pappardelle with slow roasted Niman Ranch brisket and mushroom cream ($18) was heavy, but we were undeterred. She was absolutely right, and although the cream sauce was too powerful for us, the brisket was still delicious. The strozzapreti with sun-dried tomato, garlic and cream was also rich, but extremely tasty. There was a split decision on dessert, as the fruit crisp pleased and the angel food cake with carmelized pineapple and whipped crème fraiche disappointed. Dinner for two, with one glass of wine and dessert was $125.
Reservations aren’t always necessary at the Grill, but are advisable for dinners on weekend nights. On our Friday night visit, the place was hopping – there was a fair amount of ambient noise, and it was clear that some diners were having trouble getting the attention of their servers. Our server was responsive, so perhaps we just missed the rush.
Breakfast at the Grill & Bar was a similarly casual experience, but the restaurant was much quieter than during our prior visit for dinner – we would have thought more players would stop in for pre-round breakfast. While the breakfast menus for the Grill & Bar and A.R. Valentien were extremely similar (with prices at the Grill & Bar lower by a few dollars on entrees), they are clearly run by different chefs, as our order of strawberry orange juice was completely different, coming out with the thickness of a smoothie. The food was just as good, however, and the blueberry muffin, pancakes with bananas, and eggs benedict were all extremely satisfying ($40).
We also sampled lunch at the Grill & Bar, enjoying a sunny but breezy meal out on the patio next to the practice putting green, where we had the Drugstore Burger (which they describe as their signature dish, and which came highly recommended by the two locals with whom we were paired as playing partners) and the Sloppy Joe. Both sandwiches were truly exceptional – the burger was perfectly cooked, juicy and full of flavor, and the Sloppy Joe was just plain delicious. With a couple of sides and sodas, the total ran us $41.
INTEGRATION WITH GOLF COURSE
The Lodge is located just steps away from the 1st Tee of both the North and South Course, so getting to the course couldn’t be any easier. Of the resorts we have reviewed to date, this is the closest our room has been to the tee box, and allows for either a few more minutes of sleep or a bit more time to digest your omelet before heading to the course.
Aside from the proximity, another draw for The Lodge is the access to tee times at Torrey Pines Golf Course. Guests at The Lodge at Torrey Pines benefit from the block of tee times allocated each day to Lodge guests, and we had a good selection of options from which to choose when we booked our room. An additional perk for Lodge guests is that there is no need to check-in for your tee time. The greens fees are added to your hotel room bill, so you can walk directly to the starter shack at the first tee. It’s curious that nobody at The Lodge mentioned this to us, as it is a nice benefit.
Which leads us to our greatest problem with the integration between the Lodge and the golf course – a lot of the employees of the Lodge don’t seem to know much about the golf course and its related services. While the bellman at the front desk said he could take our clubs for us when we arrived (just the clubs by the way – they won’t store the travel bag cover), we deferred as we had our cases packed with clothes as well. The next morning we made the short walk from our room to the course carrying our bags. We were a bit surprised at the end of our round when we couldn’t figure out where to leave our clubs to be stored overnight. We checked at the Grill & Bar, where the hostess rang the front desk for us (she was unable to find anyone when calling “Golf Services”). They informed her that The Lodge could store our clubs overnight, though to do so we would need to bring the clubs to Guest Services at the front of the hotel. With our room virtually the same distance from the 18th green as Guest Services, we made the decision to just carry our clubs back to the room after each round. The joke was on us later when we learned that the small virtually unmarked building between the Grill & Bar and pool is the “Golf Services” building. Our guess is that you need to leave your bag at that building, then later let the front desk know you have left your bags there to be stored (more on that later!).
Another misstep was when we called the front desk to ask if there was a driving range. Sorry, but no, we were told. Surprise! There actually is a full range, just a short walk from The Lodge at the end of the golf course parking lot.
Seems like they just need to hold a single 30 minute training session with the Lodge staff to get this all ironed out…
While golf packages are occasionally available, we were out of luck for our travel dates, and thus opted for the Palisade Bed & Breakfast Package instead ($600 per night), which included a Palisade room (a bit of an upgrade from the base Signature rooms, which weren’t available for our desired weekend) with 2 Queen beds and a daily $40 credit for an American breakfast. If you drive, parking will cost another $22 per night if you self-park ($27 if you valet). The $40 credit for breakfast gets used up pretty quickly (two of us ate more than $40 in total both days), but to save a bit we would recommend dining at the Grill & Bar over A.R. Valentien.
Rooms start in the mid-$300s, so our selection was at the top-end of the range. Suites are available as well if you need up to 2,500 square feet to spread out for the weekend (the thought of a Suite larger than a house is something). We booked within a month and a half of our stay, and had relatively limited room options. Always best to plan ahead!
Not directly pertaining to value, but important to note was the absolutely bizarre billing that we experienced at The Lodge. All we can say is that guests should be extremely thorough when reviewing their bill. As mentioned earlier, we found a $75 per night discrepancy between our confirmation note and what we were told upon check-in (The Lodge adjusted our rate to what was in the confirmation letter).
When you book your tee times through The Lodge, the golf fees will appear on your hotel bill. We were billed $8 per day for “golf porterage”, which is an automatic charge for storing clubs overnight and bringing them to the course the next morning. That’s pretty funny, since we were explicitly told by a staff member that this service wasn’t available. We were also charged $38 per round for a cart, although we didn’t use one either day. These charges were reversed when we found them at checkout.
In addition, we were confused to see that the charge for each round of golf on our bill differed from what we were quoted in the confirmation letter we received at the time of the reservation. The front desk clerk explained that what looked like confirmed rates in our confirmation letter actually aren’t, and golf greens fees can fluctuate based on demand. And thus while our confirmation letter stated that “[y]our tee times are confirmed…on the North Course…at the fee of $170 per player…and on…the South Course…at the fee of $240 per player”, in the end we were charged $150 and $259, respectively. While the total cost remained the same (actually we gained a buck, great!), this “A.Q.” pricing is utterly bizarre, and it would make for a much better guest experience to have The Lodge simply commit to the greens fees in advance. This plus the corrections that needed to be made to our bill made for a somewhat rotten final experience.
The $675 (tax included) nightly rate is higher than most alternatives in the area. For out-of-towners it may be worth the price of admission just to guarantee a tee time on the one of two municipal courses to host a U.S. Open. But not to worry, you won’t feel like you are getting fleeced in order to play the course – The Lodge at Torrey Pines has exceptional service, very good food, is well maintained, and situated in a beautiful and convenient location. It is not the brightest and shiniest hotel, so know what you are getting: craftsman-style, through and through. We enjoyed our stay, and if you like that early 1900s vibe, hop in your Duesenberg and come on over.
In case you would like a little marketing video: