The Ocean Course at Half Moon Bay Golf Links

By F. Richard Allen, Contributor

HALF MOON BAY, Calif. - The Ocean Course at Half Moon Bay Golf Links was designed by Arthur Hills. An 18-hole, 6,700 yard bent grass course "in the tradition of Scotland's finest seaside courses," it is rated 71.8 with a 125 slope and a par 72.

Jim Wagner is the head pro. Weekday green fees are $95 and weekend $115. These prices include an electric cart. Hand carts are not allowed. Compared to other public courses, this may seem a bit pricey, but this course is exceedingly beautiful and overlooks the Pacific Ocean.

Half Moon Bay Golf Links is undergoing a major building project which makes the approach to the club house a little clumsy, with parking at a distance and then you hop on a shuttle bus. The project is for The Ritz- Carlton Hotel at Ocean Colony, which is scheduled to open in December of 2000.

The new Ritz- Carlton restaurant will be located on the third floor of the hotel with dramatic views of the ocean and the signature 18th hole. As an adjunct, the member's Colony Club will be closed until September of 2000 with a variety of projects anticipated to improve that facility.

With the exception of a few noisy trucks and a jackhammer or two when you're close to the club house, the overall effect of these building projects on the golfing experience is minor.

The 1st hole is a 405 yard, par 4 dogleg right. At the tee you can smell the ocean over the small hill on your right. And as you make the slight climb to the green, the view is finally yours. It's a nice place to begin.

The 2nd hole begins the serious trickery. A par 4, it's 323 yards from the blues over a rough gully. This is the same gully we'll be crossing coming back on the signature 18th hole.

The drive is 173 yards to the far bank. The fairway is cut close for an excellent role. But the grass is as long as 2-3 inches on the edges which will stop your ball very quickly. Sand bunkers line both sides of the fairway. The green, like most of them on this course, is distinctly undulating.

The 3rd hole is a 143 par 3 downhill over the rough to a postage stamp green which falls away on both sides requiring a perfect shot... or else.

The Ocean Course at Half Moon Bay is a splendid example of Arthur Hills' work.

The 4th hole is a par 5, 487 yards. Like most of the holes, the long fairway grass is surrounded by American beach grass, (as compared with European beach grass which is inappropriately encroaching in some places).

If you hit your ball into this "native grass" treat it as a lateral hazard, take a drop and a one stroke penalty. This is the best stuff in the world for hiding golf balls. I know. The green, in this case, is guarded by hollows and humps.

The 5th hole is a par 4, 473 yards directly into whatever wind is off the ocean. There are numerous sandtraps to the right, a small bunker to the left in front of the green, and a large bunker to the right. What with the wind and the glare off the water this is a tough hole.

The 6th hole is a par 4, 393 yards. With the wind now from the rear and a wide fairway in front, topped by a large, relatively flat green... this should be an easy one. But a bunch of bunkers on the right could make trouble.

The 8th hole, a 434 yard par 5 needs a "straight shot down the left side of the fairway" according to the advice book in the golf cart. But from either the whites or the blues the flag is invisible because of two tall pine trees. After the trees there are three sand bunkers in the deep grass guarding the approach to the green.

The 9th hole is a par 3, 182 yards. The green is nestled within a natural amphitheater, but if you try to bounce it off the back to avoid the bunkers in front, you may end up in that American beach grass which makes up the rough on the hillside.

At the beginning of the back nine, the 10th through the 15th holes are very much like the front nine as you work your way back to the ocean cliffs.

Near the 16th tee I spotted a pigeon hawk circling over a small stand of trees, floating on the ocean breeze. The same breeze which can affect a shot from the 16th hole...a par 4, 387 yard dogleg right.

From the blues and whites you tee off over a small gulch with the ocean cliffs and the entire Pacific on your left. If you play into the breeze incorrectly your ball may go in the drink. The approach to the green is guarded by thick beach grass and a sand bunker on the right.

The 17th hole is a 186 yard par 3 with the cliffs coming into play from the blues. There are six especially created tee pads on this hole which look like lily pads as they mince their way down through the rough to a large gully. On the ocean side of the fourth pad there sat an unperturable cormorant looking out to sea.

As each of us stepped up to tee off I kept a close eye on this bird. And although the balls passed within a few feet... not one feather ruffled. The cormorant is teaching me something about focus. The postage stamp green is well guarded on the right by sand bunkers and on the left by the cliffs. You've got to be accurate.

As promised, the 18th hole, a 532 par 5 dogleg left up to a green on the point is spectacular. You tee off over that original gulch up a steep hill to a striped pole at about 150 yards from the tee. As you walk up that hill you can hear the waves crashing at the base of the cliff.

Once you get to the top of the hill, your view of the coast is disconcerting. On the left all the way to the green there is a row of sand bunkers. The path to the green is very narrow, not even ten yards wide. The pin is at the back of a very long green, almost lost among the undulations.

Arthur Hills, who designed this course, is noted for his propensity to use existing natural spaces to create an "organic" course which is playable and not "penal" in nature. The Ocean Course at Half Moon Bay is a splendid example of his work.

Ocean Course at Half Moon Bay Golf Links
2000 Fairway Drive
Half Moon Bay, CA 94019
Call up to 7 days in advance: 650-726-4438

F. Richard Allen, Contributor

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