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Saturday, August 25, 2012

A Perfect Golf Weekend? Try Half Moon Bay

The Ritz Carlton Half Moon Bay epitomizes the perfect golf weekend destination. Just 30 minutes from San Francisco International Airport, the resort offers accommodations at a fabulous Ritz hotel, two very entertaining golf courses, and guest pampering that won't stop.

Golf is the heart of the resort and two excellent and completely different golf experiences are available to both resort guests and daily fee players. The Old Course, a traditional parkland-style track that opened in 1973, was designed by Arnold Palmer and Francis Duane. Its18th hole along the ocean has been ranked among the 100 best in America. The Ocean Course was designed by Arthur Hills to pay homage to Scottish links-style courses. It debuted in 1997 and was remodeled in 2009 to make it play even more true to the style.

Half Moon Bay Old Course 18th Hole
18th Hole on the Old Course. Photo courtesy of the resort.
The Old Course stretches 7,001 yards from the tips. The generous fairways and gentle greens are perfect for the resort player who chooses the right tees (the whites are fine at 6,323 yards). The better player will be rewarded by well-placed tee shots and aggressive pin-seeking approaches while the less-than-perfect golfer won't be decimated by a miss or two. The Old Course ends with two thrilling holes on the Pacific, a 167-yard one-shotter that plays dead into the prevailing wind followed by a risk-and-reward 405-yard par four with the ocean on the right and a ravine crossing the fairway smack in the middle of the range of just about everybody's tee shot. A driver should probably be your last choice off the tee on the final hole. The shot into the tiny 18th green is a simple short iron or wedge made a bit more demanding by the audience typically watching from the hotel patio and fire pit adjacent to it.

The Pacific is in view from every hole on the Ocean Course, but is in play (kind of) only on the 184-yard par-three seventeenth hole, where an errant tee shot can easily find the beach at the bottom of the cliffs next to the green. The ocean breezes (or gales), though, shape every shot you make on the 6,854-yard track--especially on the back nine. The course plays much like pure links, with rolling, contoured fairways where odd bounces prevail and approach shots into generous greens demand careful consideration of the humps and bumps of the greenside terrain. Shot values matter more than sheer length and power. The fairways are generous but the rough is mowed short around bunkers to bring the hazards into play on tee shots. Greenside surrounds are cut to “just above green” mowing height to foster ball movement on the ground and native fescue between holes provides you with visual cues about how to direct your shots.

Half Moon Bay Ocean Course 18th hole
18th Hole on the Ocean Course. Photo courtesy of the resort.
With a little planning, it's easy to play both courses in a day. Just be sure to leave time for a generous lunch break in Mullins Bar & Grill in the clubhouse or in the Conservatory Lounge in the hotel. The sliders of pulled pork cooked for 48 sweet hours deserve your full attention, so allow enough time between rounds to enjoy them.

Other dining options include the nautically-inspired Navio, which serves fine coastal cuisine from a 1,000 sq. ft. display kitchen and ENO, a wine bar that contains over 5,000 bottles of international wines and includes sommelier-selected wine flights. Other resort amenities include a 16,000 sq. ft. Spa and Fitness Center with a unique co-ed Roman mineral bath, an immense patio perched on the cliffs above the beach, and soul-searing views of the Pacific from nearly every room. There also a scenic trail that winds along the cliffs and activities nearby include horseback riding, deep-sea fishing, whale watching, sea kayaking, hiking, biking and antiquing.

Among many other books, Dave Donelson is the author of Weird Golf: 18 tales of fantastic, horrific, scientifically impossible, and morally reprehensible golf

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