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Why The Lodge completes the Torrey Pines experience

LA JOLLA, Calif. – Over the past decade, demand to play Torrey Pines’ two golf courses has increased to the point that non-residents not only have to pay upwards of $200, but getting a tee time can sometimes be difficult.

One way to guarantee you'll be able to tee it up at the site of the 2008 U.S.  Open is to stay at the AAA Five-Diamond Torrey Pines Lodge that opened in 2002. It won’t get you a break on green fees, but the Lodge has a block of tee times that can be reserved a year or so in advance.

Better yet, if you're not looking to do golf on the cheap, a stay at the Lodge provides an experience right on par with America's top golf resorts. That couldn't be said prior to 2002 before Evans Hotels of San Diego opened the 170-room hotel and spa that overlooks the two cliff-side golf courses.

The addition of the Lodge, as well as Rees Jones’ renovation of Torrey Pines' South Course and subsequent U.S. Open, upped the ante on the whole Torrey Pines experience. The resort hotel, where arrivals are greeted by doormen dressed in traditional Scottish kilts, offers exceptional dining, a 170,000-square-foot full-service spa and well-appointed rooms and suites. But more than that, the Lodge presents an ambience that blends right in with the Torrey Pines State Reserve, the 2,000-acre park that offers hiking trails among thousands of the park's namesake pines overlooking the coastal bluffs of the Pacific.

The Lodge, designed more as a residence than a hotel, reflects the early 1900s California Craftsman style of architecture, featuring natural-looking color palates like large wooden beams and brickwork that blend in with the surrounding. The rooms have simple, strong wooden furniture, large comfortable beds and Tiffany lamps. A rear deck to the hotel even wraps itself around a decades-old tree that towers above the resort's large heated swimming pool, cabanas and croquet lawn.

Inside guests are warmed by large wood-burning fireplaces that lead to public rooms and two restaurants. One of them is the A.R. Valentien, which serves gourmet California cuisine created by chefs Jeff Jackson and Tim Kolanko. The restaurant, overlooking the 18th green on the South Course and Pacific Ocean, is considered among the best restaurants in the San Diego area, earning top marks from Zagat Surveys with its excellent farm-to-table creations.

Besides A.R. Valentien, you'll also enjoy breakfast at the counter of the golfers' grill by the putting green. The grill serves up a pretty fair huevos rancheros. But of course, you don't have to stay at the resort to eat there; it just completes the experience.