Half Moon Bay Golf Links - The Ocean Course Review

Texas Outside Rating: 8.6

Golf - Public Course · 18 Holes · Par 72
Half Moon Bay, CA
· Stay & Play

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Half Moon Bay Golf Links - The Ocean Course Review

Half Moon Bay Golf Links is home to two outstanding 18 hole courses - the Arnold Palmer designed Old Course and the Ocean Course laid out by architect Arthur Hills.  Each of the courses is unique and different from the other and each 18 has it's own personality and characteristics, for example:

  • The Old Course is a traditional parkland style course with lots of out of bounds as it plays through a very upscale community and it is longer by 200 to 500 yards and more challenging
  • The Ocean Course is a Scottish links course in the truest sense (wide open sweeping fairways, swaying natural grasses, and the roar of the wind and ocean as it meanderers up and down a natural California coastal setting

Common to both courses is a fantastic clubhouse and grill, excellent service, very good conditions, and the spectacular " Ritz-Carlton, Half Moon Bay" overlooking the clear blue Pacific Ocean.  All of which are some of the reasons that Half Moon Golf Links was named by Business Week as "One of the 18 great Country Clubs for a day" and one of the "Best 10 New Upscale Golf Clubs" by Golf Digest.

The Ocean Course was designed by architect Arthur Hills and opened in 1997, four years after the Old Course opened.  Hills did a fantastic job of leveraging the natural California coastal setting to create a Scottish links course in its truest sense - as the term was coined for courses that serve as a "link" between the land and sea.  From most of the holes you can get a glimpse of the Pacific Ocean but it doesn't come into play until the last three holes. 

When you come out of the valley of the Ocean Course on number 16 which is the highest point on the course, your jaw will likely drop and a few "Wows" will spew out of your mouth as you see the sparkling blue water of the Pacific Ocean, see the squawking sea gulls gliding over the cliffs, (don't look up or you may be sorry!), hear the waves crashing on the rocks and sand, see the towering sea cliffs, and view the magnificent "Ritz- Carlton, Half Moon Bay" overlooking the ocean and golf course.  Ocean's three finishing holes have been praised as among the best in golf course design.  These three holes are well worth the price of a round on the Ocean Course. 

Prior to the last three holes are wide rolling fairways, sand bunkers, and expansive greens.  The course is wide open with some side by side holes - spray the ball and you'll have a playable lie if you cleared the natural area.  You'll find that the uphill and downhill shots and wind, which can be howling, make club selection critical. 

The fairways are very sculptured and rolling and some are separated by coastal mounding and native fescue.  Most of the fairways were wide and generous off the tee box as well as the approach and the conditions were very good.  The first cut is also wide and playable, after that you're in the natural area, another fairway, or on the last three holes you'll be on the beach or in the Pacific. 

The greens are all shapes and good sized , from 27 to 37 yards deep.  Most have some gentle slope and run true around 10 to 11.  When we played they had just been aerated and were a little bumpy and sandy.  

The bunkers were all shapes and sizes with several pot sized bunkers some of which were really steep and deep and need to be avoided.  You'll also encounter some grass bunkers and swales that can be challenging. 

Half Moon Bay's Ocean Course has some great holes, for example:

  • #7 is a short 155 yard par three that from an elevated tee box you'll need to carry a lake and stuff it on the green
  • #8 is a fun 500 yard dog leg left with some swales and a couple nasty pot bunkers in the middle of the roller coaster fairway leading to an elevated green
  • #16 is a real beauty and the #2 handicap hole that requires an accurate shot from an elevated tee box to a narrow fairway with a thick rough and  three nasty fairway bunkers and then a challenging approach over a deep barranca to the green - don't miss left or you're in the steep 200 foot cliff to the beach and Pacific ocean.

Golf for Women magazine explains the back nine and specifically the last three holes of the Ocean Course very well - "This rugged beauty, perched on a bluff overlooking an awe-inspiring stretch of the Pacific serves up ocean views on several holes." 

Bottom line - the Ocean Course is very player friendly, with some fun holes, and three of the best holes we've played.

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Course Slope & Ratings

Tee Box Yardage Rating Slope
Black 6,839 131.0 72
Blue 6,043 126.0 69
White 5,461 120.0 66
Gold 6,303 128.0 70
Red 4,872 119.0 69

Course Information

Course Architect:
Arthur Hills
Greens Type:
Poa Annua
Greens Condition
Greens Difficulty
Course Map
Beware of water on 4 holes and the 75 sand traps.

Texas Outside Rating

Overall Rating:
8.6 out of 10
Fun to Play:
Front Nine Rating:
Back Nine Rating:


Approximate Weekend
$95.00 to $205.00

The service and amenities at Half Moon Bay Golf Links are first class all the way from the bag boys to the cart ladies. The pro shop is well stocked, the restaurant and bar are excellent, and the practice facilities are very good.



Here's How Texas Outside Determines the Scorecard Rating

The Texas Outside rating scale ranges from 1 to 10 – a perfect 10 course would be something like this:  links along a cliff overlooking the Pacific ocean and bordered by tall trees; lush fairways on rolling hills with lots of natural hazards; water (which is crystal clear) on most of the holes; immaculate greens (but they are undulating and tough); lots of variety and character (each hole is completely different and includes blind shots, elevation changes, doglegs, and significant challenges); perfectly manicured traps with the whitest and prettiest sand you’ve ever seen; a nice club house with great food and a 19th hole; a GPS; plenty of beverage carts or your own cooler and ice; and it only costs $40 bucks! What this means is that you probably won’t find any 10s in Texas – try Cabo San Lucas, Pebble Beach, or some of the Hawaii courses! 
Texas Outside rates courses on the following:

  • Beauty – tall trees, rolling hills, beautiful houses, waterfalls, and similar stuff would score high; a 1 would be flat, bushes or cactus instead of trees, and some grass but mostly weeds
  • Difficulty – a straight, 300 yard par 4 with no traps or hazards, no out of bounds or water would probably get a 1; if it is a 460 yard par 4 over two ravines, with water along one side, natural hazards on the other, strategically placed traps or that dreaded tree right in the middle of the fairway, we are talking a 10. 
  • Variety – what would you give a course where all the holes looked and played exactly the same (“I thought we just played that hole!”); were side-by-side, which is good for finding or dodging other people’s balls, but not much fun; and you can see the flag from every tee box?  That’s right, it gets a 1.
  • Fun Scale – a 10 is where you walk off the course and say “now that was fun” and you can’t wait to get back, or you immediately turn around and play another 18 holes
  • Value – a 5 is $50 to $60, a 10 is $20 to $30, and 1 is $200 or so – of course all of this is dependent upon how you liked the course.  For example, if a run down, boring municipal course, with six players on each hole was only $10; it would still get a value rating of 1.
  • Condition – this one’s pretty easy – what condition are the fairways. A 10 commands very lush perfectly manicured fairways, compared to a 1, which has fire ants, weeds, and more dirt than grass!
  • Condition of Greens and Difficulty – very hard to read greens with lots of undulation and tough pin placement, rate very high on the difficulty scale.  Condition is self-explanatory.  

All of the above determines the overall score for the golf course.  In other words, we like courses that are pretty, fun, very challenging with a lot of variety, and fairways and greens in excellent condition – all for $40.  We also tend to play the courses that are affordable for the masses, which means in the $30 to $80 range. We rate hard and we haven’t found a 10 in Texas yet – don’t worry we haven’t given up and we’re still looking.