While Pebble Beach and Bandon Dunes get most of the press dedicated to West Coast, oceanfront golf resorts, you’d be doing yourself a disservice to overlook the Ritz-Carlton resort at Half Moon Bay. Located about an hour’s drive south of San Francisco, it’s a transportive experience. Featuring two golf courses with incredible oceanside scenery, a gorgeous hotel that’s been called the “most beautiful hotel” in California by Architectural Digest, and friendly, attentive staff, the Ritz-Carlton goes the extra mile to deliver a truly luxurious and otherworldly getaway.
The Old Course, designed by legendary golfer and designer Arnold Palmer, opened in 1973. The American parkland-style golf course has a great routing that offers a wide variety of wind directions and tests every facet of your game. It culminates with one of the most gorgeous holes in the world, the 405-yard par 4 18th. A slight left-to-right dogleg tailor-made for a baby cut like Arnold himself used to hit, it’s perched atop the coastal cliffs with the ocean roaring below.
There’s a fire-pit patio above the 18th green, and resort guests often gather in the Adirondack chairs around the fire to watch golfers finish their rounds. A birdie on the last will garner a nice round of applause! When the sunset approaches, a bagpiper takes to the grounds to serenade guests and golfers alike, lending to the resort’s Old-World Scottish feel.
The Ocean Course debuted in 1997, four years before the stunning luxury hotel was added to the property. Golfers will appreciate that the resort was a golf club first and a resort second, as no concessions were made in the golf courses’ building. Many resort courses feature just one great oceanside hole, but the rest of the oceanfront property is reserved for housing. That’s not the case here, as nearly every hole features a beautiful ocean view.
The Ocean Course is consistently ranked as one of the top 15 public courses. Arthur Hills designed it to evoke an old-school links course, and it’s a masterpiece. The manicured tees, greens, and fairways give a distinctly upscale feel to the course, but beyond the green oases are beautifully browned out native grass areas and dunes.
The stretch of holes 15-18 is one of the finest crescendos you’ll find anywhere in the world. All four run alongside the ocean, so you’ll want to avoid hooking the ball into a watery grave. The par 3 seventeenth comes closest to the ocean, with the green perched atop a cliff. Faders of the ball will need to aim out over the ocean and hope they don’t double-cross – use your rangefinder to increase accuracy – though the winds blowing in usually help steer the ball to safety.
The pace of play usually slows down on these last four holes, but no one minds. It’s a time to enjoy the scenery, pose for pictures, and take in the majesty of the lovely setting. The 16th hole, probably the most popular spot for a photo op, has been used many times for commercials and engagement pics.
The course offers high-quality TaylorMade clubs for rent, and both tracks are designed for walking. Professional caddies are available to help you navigate the idiosyncrasies of the fairways and greens. The only drawback is the lack of a driving range, but there’s a chipping and putting green available for warming up.
Just say your name once on the way in, and you’ll be greeted warmly by the friendly and attentive staff the rest of your stay at the incredible resort hotel. It’s more than worth the splurge for a fire-pit room, where you can relax in Adirondack chairs on your own private terrace overlooking the breathtaking, panoramic ocean views. You’ll be able to make oceanfront smores as the sun goes down and bagpipes ring out throughout the property. It’s a lovely combination of beachfront camping and 5-star luxury, surrounded by a golf course that even junior golfers can take advantage of.
Spa services including massages, facials, waxing, and an ever-changing, seasonally based “secret spa menu” are offered on-site. There are three dining options offered at the hotel, each taking advantage of seasonal local cuisine to provide memorable experiences.
Navio is a refined seafood restaurant with elegant, ocean-inspired decor and menu. Saturday farmer’s markets and Sunday brunch highlight weekly special offerings.
The Conservatory is a more relaxed option, feeling more like an upscale beach house. High-end comfort food and clever craft cocktails highlight the menu; the Casked Negroni is a particular standout.
But as long as the weather cooperates, the real gem is the outdoor Ocean Terrace. Dotted with fire pits, cooled by oceanfront winds, and soundtracked by crashing waves, the Ocean Terrace is the perfect place to spend hours sampling from the craft beer and cocktail menu, raw bar, and grill. The sunset over the ocean and endless sky will linger in your memory long after your stay.