Jul 19

The Links Look at Half Moon Bay

Links or Quasi-Links Golf Courses in the Bay Area Evoke Scottish Aesthetic

I haven’t been in the Bay Area for a while, and don’t find myself there nearly as often as I once did. Going through it reminds me of the many things the area has to offer, but there are more undiscovered treasures, not only for what they are, but for what they remind me of. I have recently driven up the California coast south of San Francisco, and found myself in Half Moon Bay. What a great name, like Dreaming on Moonlight Bay, Blue Bayou, or something like that. It’s a cute town, but has few entrances to the beach without eight dollar parking. And yet, if you take one of the nondescript roads to the sand, you might find something like the Half Moon Bay Golf Courses, housed by the Ritz-Carlton. Being on the rugged coast, a links style course was obviously the way to go, and did they ever go there.

I was not a fan of links or quasi-links golf growing up. I loved the manicured totality of the refined course. If I wanted  links environment, I’d just go camping. However, things have changed, and part of it is due to the contrast of textures, colors, and in physical terms, demands of the game. The courses at Half Moon Bay were obviously not a mere afterthought. The Ritz-Carlton resort itself evokes the spirit of St. Andrews, while the terrain, the sea, and the climate comply. At times, seeing a brilliant stretch of green among the untamed, barbarous and brown environment is a feast of contrast. Of course, the golf is different. On many “green” courses, trouble is incremental. One can inch his way into mini-disasters, quasi-catastrophes, and troublesome lies. The California coast doesn’t allow for things like that, and a good links course doesn’t try to make things any easier. You’re either on or off. You’re going to play this game right, or you’re going to play it in recovery mode for the rest of the day..
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The two courses, one a splendid ocean course, are much like the town, colorful and civilized. But, take one step off the last street, and you’re in the brush with all of the California wildlife, much of which one is likely to meet during a round of 18. California provides so many mysteries like the Half Moon Bay resorts, partly because it so big, and partly because it is so diverse. An entrepreneurial state, the imagination and the funds exist to build a Xanadu in the middle of a wasteland. One of the most hostile regions in the country in terms of natural terrain, it is also among the most transformed. Diversity of climate is an asset to courses such as Half Moon May. You may play in fog or sunshine during a round, or in both, unexpectedly. Weather comes in from the Pacific quickly at times, and the lines between California and Scotland become surprisingly blurred. The resort itself appears as though an ancient facility was suddenly rebuilt, but still looks authentic. The beach is accessible within a few hundred feet, but suddenly there is the ocean course, for rugged, well-off patrons.
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It is doubtful that I will play such a course as this in the near future, unless an event in which I participate intends to meet at the Ritz-Carlton. However, just standing at the fence and looking over the course’s expanse can tell you a lot about its aesthetic. I felt strangely drawn to this course with its ever-changing colors. You may feel that as well, and if there’s a trip in store up or down the coast below San Francisco, it’s a wonderful place to stop, look, and play.

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