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Weekend Away: Golfing at Half Moon Bay

June 4, 2012 - By Merle Gray

For the devotee, the golf get-away is a hallowed tradition. But how it is approached can evolve -- which is how I found myself at The Ritz-Carlton, Half Moon Bay just in time for sunset over the Pacific.

I'll admit that once jumping into a crowded van with "the boys" and driving countless hours to stay in a roadside motel was an offer I couldn’t refuse. Those days are behind me. The flight into San Francisco airport and the 23-mile drive southwest to the Ritz-Carlton is now my idea of the perfect transition from work to relaxation.

I discover that the hotel combines the beauty of the Northern California coast with the history of old Scotland. This is one of America's great oceanfront golf resorts set on dramatic cliffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Half Moon Bay Golf Links, the public course next door, features 36 holes of award-winning, championship golf with the Old Course designed by Arnold Palmer and the Ocean Course designed by Arthur Hills.

As the sun goes down, I meet up with my golf buddies for dinner in the hotel's signature restaurant, Navio. There is an open-air kitchen, floor-to-ceiling windows featuring breathtaking ocean vistas, and an Executive Chef, Xavier Salomon, who specializes in Northern California coastal cuisine. The resort's award-winning sommelier, Ian Cauble, introduces us to some interesting local wines. We laugh about how far we've come from the eating establishments we used to frequent on our trips . . . as I feast on California King Salmon and local green asparagus.

Ritz-Carlton Half Moon Bay Navio restaurantNavio

Ritz-Carlton Half Moon Bay Coastal View RoomCoastal View Room

I wake up to a view of the rugged beauty of the California coastline from my 'Coastal View Room' and order up room service. The food is fantastic. My wife would approve of the wall-to-wall window seat and the luxurious marble bathroom with separate shower and bathtub and truth be told, I'm enjoying the comfort.

Our foursome will be playing the Old Course today which is an American parkland style layout designed by Arnold Palmer. Tomorrow we'll play the Ocean Course, a Scottish links design nationally renowned for its closing holes perched above the Pacific.

The Old Course presents a series of strategically-demanding holes linked through the property's tree-lined interior. The famous, par-4 18th emerges along the Pacific Ocean, boasting one of the most stunning tee-to-green views in the U.S. It plays up to The Ritz-Carlton's oceanfront courtyard and fire pit. Originally designed by Arnold Palmer and Francis Duane in 1973, the Old Course is an American classic that weaves around lakes, through cypress and coastal pines, finishing on the ocean, on one of the country's highest ranked golf holes.

We head for lunch at Mullins Bar & Grill, a dining room overlooking the 18th hole and Pacific Ocean with doors that open out to the putting green on the first tee. A rehash the morning's successes is sprinkled with good-natured ribbing. I can hardly wait for the next nine!

Ritz-Carlton Half Moon Bay 18th GreenOld Course 18th Green

The Ocean Course, designed by Arthur Hills, is a true links layout with an authentic Scottish soul. Its three finishing holes have been lauded as among the best in the world. The Scottish Links-style layout offers views of the ocean from virtually every hole. Strategically placed bunkers, undulating greens, and the sound of waves crashing beneath you make this a golf experience to remember.

Non-golfing spouses often accuse their partners of not noticing anything but the course. At the Ritz-Carlton that would be next to impossible. The resort offers a 16,000-square-foot Spa, the Ritz-Kids program and even a Pampered Pooch program. There is a fitness center with complete Cybex gym, yoga studio, and an indoor heated swimming pool. If you still have energy to burn, you can try the coast-side jogging and biking path, the lighted tennis courts, or the basketball half-court. There is even surfing, and horseback riding nearby. There is so much to do and see that Segway Tours are offered Friday through Sunday to take you through the resort's network of paved pathways.

Ritz-Carlton Half Moon Bay fire pit roomOcean Front Terrace Fire Pit Room

I learn that Half Moon Bay, once known as Spanishtown, is the oldest settlement in California's San Mateo County. Dating back to the Spanish land grants of the 1840s, the intriguing history of this seaside town includes a prominent role in the foundation of the Ocean Shore Railroad and colorful exploits of 1930s-era rumrunners. Should I take an afternoon off from golfing to do some exploring?

The Ritz-Carlton offers a complimentary map and iPhone app to guide you through a scenic drive that encompasses 65 miles and provides access to some of northern California's most breathtaking scenery. The drive covers five distinctly different micro-regions: Historic Main Street, the Pumpkin Region, California's Redwood Forest, the Santa Cruz Mountains and the Pacific Coast. Nestled within the picturesque town of Half Moon Bay, Historic Main Street offers shops, restaurants and galleries. The Pumpkin Region is farm-to-market country where you can pick your own produce. Also close to Half Moon Bay is the awe-inspiring Redwood Forest and the Santa Cruz Mountains feature scenic, boutique wineries. The suggested return is along the spectacular coast in front of The Ritz-Carlton, Half Moon Bay, where some of the world's largest surf is recorded each winter.

I decide on the perfect compromise. I'll play an extra round of golf and save the exploration of the area for a return trip with my wife. There's so much to do here she might even suggest I bring along my clubs!

Ritz-Carlton Half Moon Bay sunsetSunset over the Pacific Ocean from The Ritz-Carlton, Half Moon Bay © Merle Gray


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