Golf in Northern California and San Francisco

Northern California Public Threesome Offers Golfers a Variety of Pleasing Options

By Art Stricklin

SAN FRANCISCO - This scenic Northern California bay location has always been home to plenty of great golf with the multi-U.S. Open site Olympic Club and the super exclusive SF Club, plus Pebble Beach just about 90 minutes down the coast.

But it would be a shame to overlook three renovated public golf treasures, Half Moon Bay, just 30 minutes south of the city, along with TPC Harding Park and Presidio Golf Course, located in the heart of the City by the Bay as it's known by locals.

Golfers looking for a true San Francisco-area resort experience, without the distance and expense of Pebble and Carmel, will certainly appreciate Half Moon Bay, named for the crescent sized beach which sits below the golfside cliffs.

Take the small two-lane road off of Highway One to Miramontes Point and at the end of the short journey, you'll find the Ritz Carlton Half Moon Bay Resort waiting.

There are 262 rooms, including 22 suites, many with a direct ocean view and balconies to overlook the scenic surroundings. You can see the multiple fire pits near the main building which are handy at night as the brisk winds come off the ocean or during the day when you want a spot to watch the golfers or beach walkers, often with a drink or the wonderfully unique hot chocolate bar nearby.

Plus, the 36 holes of golf doesn't take a backseat to any of the more recognizable courses in the area. The Old Course was opened in 1973, designed by Arnold Palmer and Francis Duane. Its primary route through the large trees and homes in the area is a classic American par 72 parkland style.

Somewhat surprisingly, its final hole, the par 4 405-yard 18th sits closer to the ocean of any of the other 35 at Half Moon Bay. You get a small preview as the par 3 17th green is close enough to the churning water to hear it and feel it, but the finishing hole is all ocean all the time.

The Pacific water runs all along the right side of the layout with your nearest drop point in Hawaii. The left side is out of bounds, meaning a straight shot slightly downhill is the best, perhaps the only, safe option. The constant watery roar and the wonderful scenery is enough to distract any golfer with the hole finishing with a small, greatly undulated green right next to the hotel.

The Ocean Course was opened in 1997 by famed architect Arthur Hills and as the name suggests features beach or ocean views on almost every hole.
Hills' par 72 layout features a Scottish links style design with the fairway playing firm and fast thanks to the nearly constant wind along with the wispy native grass and the lack of trees on the entire course. While the ocean is in clear sight, it's not in play other than a pleasant visual distraction.

The par 5 18th finishes on the other side of the hotel from the Old Course, but both are only steps away from the dining and watering holes to celebrate or commiserate your round at Half Moon Bay.

Harding Park, on the shores of Lake Merced, opened in 1925 the design of architect Willie Watson and is likely the only course still in existence named for President Warren G. Harding. It's hosted the legends of golf for nearly 90 years including San Francisco native and world Golf Hall of Fame member Ken Venturi who learned to play here.

But in the 1990s, it fell into disrepair and was almost abandoned. City golfers spearheaded a $16 million renovation project and it reopened in in 2003. In 2009 it reached agreement with the PGA Tour and was officially renamed TPC Harding Park.

Since then it's hosted the President Cup and the World Match Play with the professional golfers back on the par 72 layout and amateurs still enjoying the huge stately eucalyptus trees and majestic views of the lake and the scenery most of the other weeks of the years.

The Presidio was originally opened in 1895 as a crude nine hole located on the military base next to the Golden Gate Bridge. For most of the next 80 years, it operated as a prime recreational option for officers and enlisted men at the Army base with a few limited civilian members.

But when the base officially closed in the 1990s it was transferred to the National Park system and named a National Historic Landmark. The par 72 layout is now open to all with the same hilly terrain and stunning views of the Golden Gate Bridge through the fog for those who are fortunate enough to snare an early morning tee times,

It's quite the Northern California public course threesome for visiting golfers, all located within an hour of the San Francisco Airport.

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Revised: 09/06/2016 - Article Viewed 18,718 Times

Written By: Art Stricklin

Art Stricklin Art Stricklin has covered every professional and most major amateur golf tournaments in the state of Texas. He has covered both the Byron Nelson and Colonial PGA Tour events for the last quarter century, plus the Texas and Houston Open more than a decade. He has covered every Champions Tour event in the state along with the Nationwide and LPGA Lone Star tournaments.

On the national scene, he has achieved the domestic grand slam, covering the Masters, U.S. Open and PGA Championships on multiple occasions along with the U.S. Amateur, the Tour Championship and dozens of other professional golf events.

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