1997, Arthur Hills
Half Moon Bay, a cute coastal town about 25 miles south of San Francisco, boasts two golf courses, the long and classic-style Old Course (1973, Arnold Palmer) and our favorite -- the spectacular, cliff-hugging Ocean Course.
Thank you, Arthur Hills, for this links-style gem. With the exception of weather that is generally anti-skort and pro-turtleneck, it is a consummate destination course for women players. The greats like it -- the LPGA Tour Championship played to positive reviews here in 2008, even though the tour’s top 20 money winners noticed that the Ocean Course’s vulnerability to coastal whims brought on British Open conditions in a hurry.
When properly layered, the short hitters have to love it. At 4,872 yards from the forward tees, the Ocean Course presents lots of birdie opportunities. And a second set of the five tee options weighs in at 5,461 yards, a reasonable test for better-than-bogey golfers because the seaside setting comes with fast-draining soil that makes for fast-running golf.
All that’s left between a round here and golf heaven: A room at the spectacular Ritz-Carlton that’s in view of most holes. And yes, it offers golf packages.
Course: Except on the blind dogleg first hole, what you see is mostly what you get -- and that frees the player to inhale the views of the wild, rugged coast to the west and green hills to the east. It is definitely not a course one wants to play with her head in a yardage book. Highlights are the fun par-3 7th over a lake and the coast-hugging grand finale, the par-four 16th (probably the best hole on the course with the photogenic elevated tee shot and a challenging approach shot over a hazard just in front of the green), the little par-3 17th (where wind dictates club selection) and the grand par-5 18th, turning left for one final view back at the course and the ocean. No matter how cold the weather might have turned in the end, these are holes to savor.
Ambiance: The luxurious hotel dominates the site, yet Half Moon Bay Golf Links maintains a clubby, neighborly feel from the days when it had only one course and most of the players lived on its fairways. Alas, there is no range for warmups, but the well stocked shop carries plenty of chic outerwear for the tourists who thought they would be playing in sunny and warm California. Mullins Bar & Grill, named after longtime head pro Moon Mullins, has a wonderful 19th hole menu with highlights including the clam chowder, fish tacos and sweet potato fries. There’s no GPS on carts, and though walking is welcome on the appropriately laid out Ocean Course (not the Old Course), trekkers will have to bring their own push carts. Former general manager Lyn Nelson, now executive director of the Northern California Golf Association, holds the women’s records (67 Ocean, 68 Old), and, no, she did not even play in the LPGA Tour Championship.
Value: With steep though all-inclusive prime-time rates of $185 on weekends, $160 on weekdays, take the time to search the Internet for discounts (GolfNow.com recently had prime time weekday rates as low as $90) or consider booking the unlimited golf package at the Ritz (starting at around $439 for two) so that you can play both courses and maximize the value. Twilight rates drop into double figures -- but be warned, while most parts of the country heat up on summer afternoons, that’s when the Half Moon Bay wind kicks up or the fog comes in. Best value here might be the clam chowder at Mullins.
Woman appeal: With friendly and attentive service accompanying pristine course conditions and breathtaking natural views that might be matched but could not possibly be surpassed, the Half Moon Bay Golf Links’ Ocean Course warrants a Fab for Women rating. Travelers bound for the famed Monterey Peninsula ought to consider adding it to the itinerary, and GottaGoGolf guesses that many women will prefer it to Pebble Beach.
This review first appeared in the May 2011 edition of GottaGoGolf Magazine.