2013 Golf Getaway in Northern California in 2013

Classic and modern: Three excellent courses highlight a great long-weekend destination


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Half Moon Bay

For a place to stay and play on your Northern California golf excursion, try the Ritz-Carlton, Half Moon Bay. Just 30 minutes from San Francisco International Airport and an easy one-hour drive to Pasatiempo, the resort offers accommodations at a fabulous Ritz hotel, two very entertaining golf courses, and guest pampering that won’t stop.

Golf is the heart of the resort, and two excellent and completely different golf experiences are available to both resort guests and daily-fee players. The Old Course, a traditional parkland-style track that opened in 1973, was designed by Arnold Palmer and Francis Duane. Its 18th hole along the ocean has been ranked among the 100 best in America. The Ocean Course was designed by Arthur Hills to pay homage to Scottish links-style courses. It debuted in 1997 and was remodeled in 2009 to make it play even more true to the style.

The Old Course stretches 7,003 yards from the tips. The generous fairways and gentle greens are perfect for the resort player who chooses the right tees (the whites are fine at 6,332 yards). The better player will be rewarded by well-placed tee shots and aggressive pin-seeking approaches, while the less-than-perfect golfer won’t be decimated by a miss or two. The Old Course ends with two thrilling holes on the Pacific: a 167-yard one-shotter that plays dead into the prevailing wind followed by a risk-and-reward 405-yard par 4 with the ocean on the right and a ravine crossing the fairway smack in the middle of the range of just about everybody’s tee shot. A driver should probably be your last choice off the tee on the final hole. The shot into the tiny 18th green is a simple short iron or wedge made a bit more demanding by the audience typically watching from the hotel patio and firepit adjacent to it.

Ocean CourseThe Pacific is in view from every hole on the Ocean Course, but is in play (kind of) only on the 184-yard par-3 17th hole, where an errant tee shot can easily find the beach at the bottom of the cliffs next to the green. The ocean breezes (or gales), though, shape every shot you make on the 6,854-yard track—especially on the back nine. The course plays much like pure links, with rolling, contoured fairways where odd bounces prevail and approach shots into generous greens demand careful consideration of the humps and bumps of the greenside terrain. Shot values matter more than sheer length and power. The fairways are generous, but the rough is mowed short around bunkers to bring the hazards into play on tee shots. Greenside surrounds are cut to “just above green” mowing height to foster ball movement on the ground, and native fescue between holes provides you with visual cues about how to direct your shots.

With a little planning, it’s easy to play both courses in a day. Just be sure to leave time for a generous lunch break at Mullins Bar & Grill in the clubhouse or at the Conservatory Lounge in the hotel. The braised short rib sliders, cooked for 48 sweet hours, deserve your full attention, so allow enough time between rounds to enjoy them.

Other dining options include the nautically inspired Navio, which serves fine coastal cuisine from a 1,000-square-foot display kitchen; and ENO, a wine bar that contains more than 5,000 bottles of international wines and includes sommelier-selected wine flights. Other resort amenities include a 16,000-square-foot spa and fitness center with a unique coed Roman mineral bath, an immense patio perched on the cliffs above the beach, and soul-searing views of the Pacific from nearly every room. There’s also a scenic trail that winds along the cliffs; nearby activities include horseback riding, deep-sea fishing, whale watching, sea kayaking, hiking, biking, and antiquing.

Golf Package: $755, includes unlimited golf for two. ritzcarlton.com

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