HALF MOON BAY, Calif. -- In an area of the country where great golf and luxurious digs are abundant, the Ritz-Carlton Half Moon Bay and Half Moon Bay Golf Links most certainly holds its own.
Located about 25 miles south of San Francisco, Half Moon Bay has a longstanding history as a golf club (the Old Course) before the luxury hotel was added in 2001, and the second course, the Ocean Course, which was added in 1997.
Half Moon Bay's Old Course was designed originally by Arnold Palmer and his associate Francis Duane in 1973, and served as a well known club up until the resort came along. The Old winds through the residential development at most points until arriving up by the Pacific Ocean bluffs at the 17th green. From here, the 18th tee heads down along the coastline to the green, which sits right in front of outdoor fire pits of the Ritz, always a bustling scene of activity. This is also where a bagpiper often plays at sundown, attracting an even greater audience. (Read Tucker's Golf Advisor review of the Old Course at Half Moon Bay.)
Half Moon Bay's Ocean Course complements the Old with an entirely different type of layout. Sweeping and wide open, you can see the ocean from just about everywhere when there isn't a big wispy dune in your way. The layout, designed by Arthur Hills, is certainly links-inspired in appearance, though in playability it's a little more manicured -- as one might expect from a Ritz-affiliated course. The course's back nine crescendos up to the 16th tee, where from one of the highest points of the property, the elevated tee shot heads straight downhill towards the ocean. The par-3 17th plays beside the bluffs and the par-5 18th dangles beside the cliffs as well. (Read Tucker's Review of the Ocean Course at Half Moon Bay.)
The golf club and hotel, despite their coexistence, are separate entities. The Ritz offers stay-and-play packages, but there are a la carte tee times as well. Green fees, dynamically priced between about $125-$175, when compared to some of the other high-end resorts in this area like Cordevalle and Pebble Beach Golf Links, are actually on the affordable end, considering this part of the world certainly isn't cheap. The only real shortcoming of the golf facility is no driving range, which might be a big deal to some golfers, but there is a chipping and putting green.
The golf club, while separately managed, certainly doesn't take a back seat in the food-and-beverage department. Mullins, the restaurant named after longtime pro Moon Mullins, is extremely popular and has a bar, lounge and outdoor lawn games to go with exceptional dining all day and into the night.