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Monday, June 10, 2013

Lodge at Torrey Pines

The Lodge at Torrey Pines

Elegance, comfort and fun in sunny Southern California

Story by Heidi Chackel

As Las Vegas Golf and Leisure Magazine enters its second year as a local’s favorite, we continue to expand our editorial coverage. After we conducted our first readership survey, the overwhelming request was for travel recommendations and features. In response, we’re proud to ring in a new tradition with our first Editor’s Travel Pick. This ongoing feature will highlight luxurious and often times family friendly travel recommendations, both by air and land. We start with a short drive from Las Vegas by visiting The Lodge at Torrey Pines in pleasant San Diego. Right about now you are sweating your socks off as soon as you step outside. Just a five-hour car ride away, however, the coastline of San Diego offers the perfect respite, with temperatures in the 70s and 80s all summer long. So what are you waiting for!

Once I leave the heat of Las Vegas behind, I am eager to get this vacation rolling. The Lodge at Torrey Pines is known for its attention to detail and I can’t wait to see it all firsthand. As we exit our car, the doormen, dressed in classic Scottish green tartan kilts, greet us warmly and we enter the lobby of the Lodge at Torrey Pines, which is styled elegantly in homage to the era of California Craftsman. The expansive room is finished in dark woods and green tile, appointed with tall potted palms, stately Stickley-style furniture, fireplaces, large mantelpieces, overstuffed couches and comfortable leather chairs. While it is just 11 years old, The Lodge truly boasts a century old feel thanks to the amazing décor and atmosphere.

On the far side of the lobby, the windows reveal not only the glorious and sunny skies of the Southern California coast, but also the legendary Torrey Pines Golf Course, and in the not too far distance, the Pacific Ocean.

The Lodge at Torrey Pines, located in the elegant La Jolla community of San Diego, is named for the rare pine trees protected in the world-renowned nature preserve located adjacent to the hotel and golf course. The Torrey Pines State Reserve is a beloved California State Park with miles of lovely beaches, golden cliffs, a lagoon vital to migrating seabirds, over eight miles of trails, and of course, 2000 acres of protected rare Torrey Pine trees—the rarest native pine in the U.S.—all but a short walk away from our lodging. But we needn’t leave the hotel to experience beauty. Here at the hotel are incredible views of the countryside, including the famed Torrey Pines Golf Course, and lovely surroundings in The Lodge’s interior, including a spa, pool and two restaurants each with its own full bar.

Awarded the prestigious AAA Five Diamond Award for consecutive years since 2002, the Lodge boasts 170 distinct guest rooms and suites with views of the courtyard, golf course and ocean in the distance. Our room is warm, comfortable and elegant. Custom-designed Stickley-style furniture, fabrics and carpets are attractive and cozy, and the rooms are generous in size. A granite-topped bar, a rich leather chaise lounge, Tiffany-style lamps and oil-rubbed bronze fixtures add to the luxurious feel. From our expansive patio in room 327, I see a perfectly manicured croquet lawn and the 18th green of the South Course, in addition to the inviting Lodge pool chaise lounges. I have a feeling we’re going to have a lovely weekend.

For lunch we visit A.R. Valentien, the Lodge’s top-rated signature restaurant featuring fresh regional San Diego cuisine, and enjoy an amazing meal overlooking the pool, golf course and ocean. A.R. Valentien takes its name from a beloved early-1900s California artist. The restaurant itself is elegant, with timbered ceilings and a view of the golf course.  Executive Chef Jeff Jackson prides himself on using local foods, and he changes the menu daily depending upon what's offered at local farmers' markets, as well as from other local growers, ranchers and fishermen. He prefers a simple, precise method of dish preparation using minimal handling and uncomplicated combinations. In this way, he feels, the inherent flavors of the food shine through, and we agree. My grilled asparagus with coddled egg and Parmesan is simple yet so delicious. Fresh seafood can be found throughout the menu and is highly recommended. The service is impeccable and well versed regarding the menu and philosophy, but not overbearing.

More casual dining is available at the Grill, located adjacent to the practice putting greens and course clubhouse. The food here is top quality, in a more casual setting, and includes a scrumptious burger that has earned San Diego’s best burger award for several years in a row. And the Grill also includes The Bar, a great gathering place for enjoying countless microbrews or a cocktail and conversation. For our last night we celebrate our trip with Jordan, one of The Bar’s popular bartenders, as he whips up fresh margaritas while Crystal keeps the food coming including fried asparagus and homemade chips and onion dip.

Both A.R. Valentien, located in the main lodge, and the Grill strike us as cozy yet elegant. Multiple seating options, varying from outdoor patios with fire pits, to cozy alcoves, to private dining rooms keep us coming back again and again during our three-night stay. For cool coastal nights they even offer numerous heat lamps throughout the patio at virtually every table, which for the Vegas resident, was very useful as we are used to 90-degree nights during the summer. The atmosphere never seems to get old and the staff’s friendliness is infectious.

Torrey Pines Golf Course is a well-known destination in and of itself. Sitting on cliffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean, with incredible vistas, the course is recognized as the premier municipal golf course owned and operated by a city. Two championship 18-hole golf courses are here, both picturesque and renowned, mainly because this is where the PGA Tour Farmers Insurance Open event is held each year, as is the U.S. Open on a regular basis.

It was at Torrey Pines, in fact, that, in 2008, an injured Tiger Woods defeated Rocco Mediate during their sudden death playoff, after 90 holes of highly competitive golf during the Open. But not everyone is a pro on this course, and all are welcome, as we quickly learn during our game under perfect skies. It was a joy to watch my husband play the South Course for the first time in 21 years and gaze upon all the changes the course has undergone since his last visit during the Junior World Championships when he was a teenager. He marveled throughout his round that Torrey Pines is a municipal course, and yet the course conditions were perfect. Torrey Pines has one of the largest on-course golf shops in the United States, including expert instruction, tournaments and advanced golf schools. And considering that La Jolla enjoys moderate to warm temperatures year round averaging in the 70s and 80s, every day is a great day to golf around here.

What’s better after golf than a massage? The Spa at Torrey Pines takes the concepts of the native, natural environment that surrounds the Lodge and brings them into an incredible spa experience. Fresh coastal sea, land, and air are infused into signature treatments. Even the products used in the spa’s complete menu of restorative massages, facials and body treatments include coastal botanical and marine-based extracts. Guests of the lodge can enjoy their own locker with robe and slippers, a cozy relaxation room, a sauna and much more. So plan on a full morning or afternoon to thoroughly enjoy this aspect of The Lodge, as a quick hour massage is just not enough.

Should we tire of the outstanding features onsite, greater San Diego is full of awesome discoveries. Nearby in La Jolla are the Del Mar Racetrack, the Stephen Birch Aquarium and Museum and the La Jolla Museum of Contemporary Art. In San Diego we could explore world-renowned Sea World, the San Diego Zoo and Balboa Park, as well as unlimited shopping, dining and recreation.

But for us, we pretty much stay on site, enjoying the spa, golf course, amazing dining options, several games of croquet and the fantastic pool. A quick side note here: make sure to dunk your head underwater at the Lodge pool and enjoy the sound of classical music as you hold your breath. Truly unique. And the lovely hot tub overlooking the 18th green is how we end our day with the sun setting over the ocean; one of the best Jacuzzi views we have ever experienced.

For more information on The Lodge at Torrey Pines and the Torrey Pines Golf Course, see www.lodgetorreypines.com and www.torreypinesgolfcourse.com.

The Lodge at Torrey Pines is a 20-minute drive from downtown San Diego and the San Diego International Airport.

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