On the way back from our epic Bandon Dunes experience, Brad and I stopped off at Half Moon Bay to play a round. I’d been wanting to play Half Moon Bay for years, and this was perfect way to end the trip.
Originally, we had only planned on playing the Old Course. However, after completing our round in a tidy 3 hours, I twisted Brad’s arm and convinced him to play the Ocean Course. It was a treat since I wasn’t sure when I would get a chance to return to Half Moon Bay.
Below are my thoughts on the two courses, including which I liked best.
The Old Course
The Old Course, which opened for play in 1973, is the original course at Half Moon Bay. It’s an Arnold Palmer and Francis Duane design that starts at the Ritz Carlton resort, winds it’s way through the houses before returning to the ocean for the final two holes. Numbers 17 and 18 are reminiscent of the finish at Pebble Beach, with the only difference being the direction of the layout and that 18 is a par 4 instead of a par 5.
The Old Course does not overwhelm you with length. The challenge is the precision and placement required off the tee to set up your approach shots. It’s a golfer’s golf cource where a premium is placed on shot making.
The views on the course are not nearly as impressive as the houses. There are some exquisite properties lining the fairways, and it’s not uncommon for a wayward shot to end up in someone’s yard. However, the finish is amazing. The pictures of the 18th hole with the ocean lining the right side and the hotel looming in the background don’t adequately capture the beauty of the hole. It’s not the same as being there to experience it.
The Ocean Course
The Ocean Course, which is 25 years younger than the Old Course, is a traditional links-style layout designed by Arthur Hills. Avoiding the tall fescue grass, plants, bushes, and other natural areas are the primary challenges you will face as you make your way around the course.
Dealing with the elements also comes into play on the Ocean Course. Houses and trees provide protection from the elements on the Old Course, while on the Ocean Course there is little to no protection from the wind. The ocean breezes play a major factor in club selection. It wasn’t uncommon to adjust up or down as much as three clubs depending on whether you were playing into or with the wind.
What the Ocean Course lacks in layout challenges when compared to the Old Course it makes up for with the views. The hotel is visible from nearly every hole on the property along with stunning vistas of the coastline and ocean.
Decision time: Old Course or Ocean Course
Both courses at Half Moon Bay are worth playing. I wasn’t disappointed in either tract. The courses were totally different from one another, offering their own set of unique challenges.
If I had to choose one to play again, I would choose the Old Course. I enjoyed the layout and prefer the primary challenge to be the course itself rather than the elements. The Ocean Course leans heavily on the elements to provide the challenge, and we all know how fickle Mother Nature can be.
On the other hand, if you’re more into a leisurely round where the views are more important than the golf, then the Ocean Course is the better choice. On the Old Course, you’re going to be focused on the golf. On the Ocean Course, you’re going to be enamored with the views with the golf serving as a distraction.
In either case, if Half Moon Bay has been on your list of courses to play, I suggest you carve out time to play there. It’s worth the trip.