Half Moon Bay Golf Links is home to two outstanding 18 hole courses – the Arnold Palmer designed Old Course and the Ocean Course laid out by architect Arthur Hills. Each of the courses is unique and different from the other and each 18 has it's own personality and characteristics, for example:
- The Old Course is a traditional parkland style course with lots of out of bounds as it plays through a very upscale community and it is longer by 200 to 500 yards and more challenging
- The Ocean Course is a Scottish links course in the truest sense (wide open sweeping fairways, swaying natural grasses, and the roar of the wind and ocean as it meanderers up and down a natural California coastal setting
Common to both courses is a fantastic clubhouse and grill, excellent service, very good conditions, and the spectacular " Ritz-Carlton, Half Moon Bay" overlooking the clear blue Pacific Ocean. All of which are some of the reasons that Half Moon Golf Links was named by Business Week as "One of the 18 great Country Clubs for a day" and one of the "Best 10 New Upscale Golf Clubs" by Golf Digest.
The Ocean Course was designed by architect Arthur Hills and opened in 1997, four years after the Old Course opened. Hills did a fantastic job of leveraging the natural California coastal setting to create a Scottish links course in its truest sense – as the term was coined for courses that serve as a "link" between the land and sea. From most of the holes you can get a glimpse of the Pacific Ocean but it doesn't come into play until the last three holes.
When you come out of the valley of the Ocean Course on number 16 which is the highest point on the course, your jaw will likely drop and a few "Wows" will spew out of your mouth as you see the sparkling blue water of the Pacific Ocean, see the squawking sea gulls gliding over the cliffs, (don't look up or you may be sorry!), hear the waves crashing on the rocks and sand, see the towering sea cliffs, and view the magnificent "Ritz- Carlton, Half Moon Bay" overlooking the ocean and golf course. Ocean's three finishing holes have been praised as among the best in golf course design. These three holes are well worth the price of a round on the Ocean Course.
Prior to the last three holes are wide rolling fairways, sand bunkers, and expansive greens. The course is wide open with some side by side holes – spray the ball and you'll have a playable lie if you cleared the natural area. You'll find that the uphill and downhill shots and wind, which can be howling, make club selection critical.
The fairways are very sculptured and rolling and some are separated by coastal mounding and native fescue. Most of the fairways were wide and generous off the tee box as well as the approach and the conditions were very good. The first cut is also wide and playable, after that you're in the natural area, another fairway, or on the last three holes you'll be on the beach or in the Pacific.
The greens are all shapes and good sized , from 27 to 37 yards deep. Most have some gentle slope and run true around 10 to 11. When we played they had just been aerated and were a little bumpy and sandy.
The bunkers were all shapes and sizes with several pot sized bunkers some of which were really steep and deep and need to be avoided. You'll also encounter some grass bunkers and swales that can be challenging.
Half Moon Bay's Ocean Course has some great holes, for example:
- #7 is a short 155 yard par three that from an elevated tee box you'll need to carry a lake and stuff it on the green
- #8 is a fun 500 yard dog leg left with some swales and a couple nasty pot bunkers in the middle of the roller coaster fairway leading to an elevated green
- #16 is a real beauty and the #2 handicap hole that requires an accurate shot from an elevated tee box to a narrow fairway with a thick rough and three nasty fairway bunkers and then a challenging approach over a deep barranca to the green – don't miss left or you're in the steep 200 foot cliff to the beach and Pacific ocean.
Golf for Women magazine explains the back nine and specifically the last three holes of the Ocean Course very well – "This rugged beauty, perched on a bluff overlooking an awe-inspiring stretch of the Pacific serves up ocean views on several holes."
Bottom line – the Ocean Course is very player friendly, with some fun holes, and three of the best holes we've played.
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The service and amenities at Half Moon Bay Golf Links are first class all the way from the bag boys to the cart ladies. The pro shop is well stocked, the restaurant and bar are excellent, and the practice facilities are very good.