Half Moon Bay Golf Links - The Old 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 Old 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 - read our review of the Ocean Course

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 Old Course plays through a very well done housing community with a variety of interesting and different very beautiful homes which can come into play if you really spray the ball.  Like a lot of Arnold Palmer designs the Old Course is fairly straight forward and traditional and most cases you can see the pin and what you're up against - no trick, gimmicks, or hidden gotchas.  But at 7001 yards from the tips and a slope ranging from 75.2 to 70.1 and rating of 135 to 126, the Old Course is no walk in the park and can test your game.  You'll encounter lots of out of bounds if you spray the ball, trees, plenty of bunkering, blind shots, risk reward opportunities, sharp dog legs, water hazards, contoured fairways, and challenging green complexes.

Some examples of the above include:

  • #6 is a 418 yard par 4 with uphill blind shot to a sharp dog leg left green
  • #9 is a scenic 357 yard par 4 with a green that has the blue water of the Pacific Ocean and the stately "Ritz-Carlton, Half Moon Bay as a backdrop
  • #13 is a pretty and challenging 192 yard par 3 that demands accuracy from the elevated tee box
  • #15 is a very fun and treacherous 571 par 5 with a shot from an elevated tee box to a fairway that horseshoes left around two lakes

And then you'll come to the beautiful 17th where the hole emerges from the tree and house lined fairways to a wide open par 3 with the "Ritz-Carlton, Half Moon Bay" and tennis courts off to the left and the Pacific straight in front of you.  Awe inspiring until you get on the tee box of one of the most scenic holes in the United States.  The mouth dropping dramatic 18th is a cliff-hanging 412 yard  downhill par 4 that from tee to green run along side a towering sea cliff dropping off to a sandy beach with foamy white surf crashing on the sand and rocky outcroppings in the Pacific Ocean.  You'll be tempted to sit here and enjoy the view and the crashing of the waves against the beach and rocks!  You'll most likely want to head into the "Ritz`Carlton, Half Moon Bay's" Conservatory for a drink and to continue to soak in the awesome view and heckle some of the golfers as they approach the 18th green. 

When we played in early March the fairways and rough were in very good condition.  All of the fairways are rolling and contoured with some mounding.  The tree lined fairways are ample and forgiving and the rough is playable - miss them both and you're in the back yard of homes that are well over $1 million!  

The greens are average size (some are huge) with gentle slope and some undulation.  When we played they were a little slow and bumpy thanks to a recent rain and lots of moisture.  They ran true, were easy to read, and held the ball well.  Putting was not an issue. 

The bunker range in size and all  were in perfect condition with soft fluffy sand.  Most have a reasonable lip but watch out for the some that are steep and deep.

Bottom line - the Old Course is fair and forgiving and won't beat you up - this is an 18 where you relax and enjoy the scenery and you're fellow golfers and possibly turn in a very good score.  And treat yourself and stay at the fantastic and very upscale "Ritz-Carlton, Half Moon Bay Resort and then play both courses. 

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Course Slope & Ratings

Tee Box Yardage Rating Slope
Black 7,001 135.0 75
Blue 6,323 130.0 72
White 6,021 128.0 70
Gold 6,610 131.0 73
Red 5,501 126.0 72

Course Information

Course Architect:
Arnold Palmer
Greens Type:
Poa Annua
Greens Condition
Greens Difficulty
Course Map
Beware of water on 4 holes and the 51 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.