Ocean golf, fire pits and fine food at the Ritz-Carlton Half Moon Bay Resort

By Travel ArticlesJune 19, 2012, 4:37 pm

HALF MOON BAY, Calif. -- They say you only have one chance to make a first impression. The Ritz-Carlton Half Moon Bay makes one that's about as good as it gets.

How else can you describe a 261-room luxury hotel sitting on the edge of a cliff, perched high above the black rocks jetting out of the Pacific Ocean and a half-hour south of San Francisco? This is the scene of romance novels, of links golf more akin to Ireland or Scotland than the United States. Of course, this is also the northern California coastline, next to one of the greatest and most dramatic surfing spots in the world.

And just to stay in character, the valets who greet you upon arrival -- and there are many of them at the Ritz-Carlton -- are dressed in plus fours like you might see at St Andrews. A bagpiper also reels in the evening to complete the old world golf coastal experience.

Opened in 2001, this six-story castle-like resort is quite simply an escape to another time and another environment. And it has all the modern conveniences -- high-speed internet, flat-screen high-definition TVs in the rooms and luxurious bathrooms that offer both large soaking tubs and separate showers.

If you're looking for bargains, this isn't your resort. Luxury value, however, is another story. Ritz-Carlton employees are highly trained in guest relations. It may seem a little over the top to some, but the staff strives to please each guest.

But the real star here is outdoors. There are two golf courses -- the Old Course, an Arnold Palmer/Francis Duane parkland design that opened in 1973, and the Ocean Course, a 1997 Arthur Hills creation that plays through the elements with ocean views from virtually every tee.

The latter isn't true links, but it's close enough. You have to consider the wind on almost every tee shot, every approach, so bumping the ball down the fairway and onto the greens isn't just an option, it's smart. That certainly qualifies as links golf.

But more than that, you'll be awestruck by the views, not just from the Ocean Course but also from the last couple of holes of the Old Course. In fact, the 18th on the Old Course, which plays up to the hotel alongside the Pacific, offers the best views of any of the 36 holes. It's sort of like the Old Course at St Andrews; there's always a gallery behind the 18th green as you finish your round, except at Half Moon Bay, they're sitting in wooden Adirondack chairs, sipping a cocktail by a warm fire pit.

As one golfer said, 'You find yourself taking a deep breath around here as you look out at the scenery. It hardly seems real.'

Indeed, the views are breathtaking on both sides, though the Ocean Course certainly has more of them. With its fairways separated by coastal mounding and native grasses, the windswept Ocean Course is the side that gets the most acclaim. It also hosted the 2008 LPGA Samsung World Championship, which was won by Paula Creamer.

Half Moon Bay Golf Links has been a regular site for U.S. Open men's and women's qualifiers. The golf resort also features a clubhouse with a full-service pro shop and the popular ocean-view restaurant, Mullins Bar & Grill, serving breakfast, lunch and dinner in a casual fireside dining setting.

The spectacular scenery, of course, isn't limited to the 18th on the Old Course, or even the back nine on the Ocean Course. It continues inside this magnificent hotel as well.

The Ritz-Carlton is a AAA 'Five Diamond,' Conde Nast 'Gold List' hotel property, which means the best of everything, starting with the rooms, 71 of which have views of the coast. Forty rooms, located on the first floor looking back to the Ocean Course, have their own fire pits. There are also a dozen cottage rooms, away from the main building, which not only have fire pits but also are pet friendly (translation: you can bring your dog).

Ah, the spa at Half Moon Bay

As you might expect, the Ritz-Carlton Half Moon Bay offers a top-tier spa. One aspect that sets it apart from some other resorts is that all guests have access to it, whether they schedule a spa treatment or not. That means access to the co-ed Roman mineral bath and steam room, group exercise classes and a fitness center.

'Many of our guests are so mesmerized with our spectacular views that they forget we have a world-class spa,' said Jay Heidenreich, director of sales and marketing.

Services include treatment like the Ocean Mist Stone Massage, Lomi Lomi Massage and the Sugar, Spice and Everything Nice Body Treatment.

There's also a world-class tennis center, where you can get rackets, balls and lessons. There are hiking trails along the bluffs, Segway Tours, horseback riding and, if you're really adventurous, surfing. As alluded to earlier, Half Moon Bay is one of the world's premier surfing spots. The resort can provide all the gear you need, including wetsuits, boards and even instruction.

Ritz-Carlton dining

Dining is also a special experience at the resort, from the Conservatory Lounge, which provides ocean-view dining, to the high-end Navio Restaurant, which provides one of the best dining experiences in northern California. With a menu that changes with the seasons, Navio serves up true farm-to-table entrees and vegetables, including fresh salad beets that won't remind you of the canned atrocities your mom forced you to eat growing up.

The menu ranges from freshly caught halibut and California King Salmon to the staple braised 48-hour short-rib, which remains a customer favorite. The menu is also complemented by a wine collection directed by one of California's best sommeliers. That wine collection can also be appreciated at the resort's wine-tasting room, called ENO.

And in case you can't get enough at dinner or in the wine-tasting room, the Ritz-Carlton Half Moon Bay also has something called The Fire & Wine Butler, which roves the resort with a specially provisioned golf cart and provides on-the-spot fire and wine service to guests enjoying the outdoors.

Head into town

Although the resort is certainly all-inclusive, guests should certainly venture into the town of Half Moon Bay for a coffee, a meal or a little shopping.

Once known as Spanishtown, Half Moon Bay is the oldest settlement in San Mateo County, dating back to the 1840s. It's home to one of the largest pumpkin festivals in the world every October, has plenty of local fruit stands, wine tasting, farms and interesting crafts shops.

The restaurant scene is also terrific, offering everything from outstanding sushi and lobster rolls to Huevos Rancheros so good that it's offered for lunch and dinner.

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Fleetwood flawless en route to Abu Dhabi lead

By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 2:06 pm

New year, same results for Tommy Fleetwood.

The reigning Race to Dubai champ picked up right where he left off in the opening round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, carding a bogey-free 66 during which the Englishman found all 18 greens in regulation. At 6 under, he shares the lead with Japan's Hideto Tanihara and sits one shot clear of five other players.

"Very stress-free. Played really well from start to finish," Fleetwood said. "Felt like I did what you need to do around this golf course, which is drive it well, hit your irons solid. You can't really be too greedy a lot of the time, and then sort of my pace putting was really good. So basically just did what you need to do to get a good score around this golf course, and I got one."

Fleetwood shined in a marquee grouping that included world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlroy, as he birdied three holes on each nine. This is his first worldwide start since a T-3 finish at the Hero World Challenge.

It was at this event a year ago that Fleetwood sparked a career campaign, edging Johnson and Pablo Larrazabal for the win. He added another win at the French Open in the summer to go along with a pair of runner-up results and a T-4 finish at the U.S. Open, all of which helped him capture the European Tour's season-long title.

Fleetwood's sudden success in Abu Dhabi serves as a microcosm for his career resurgence. Prior to last year's victory, he had missed the cut in four of his five other trips to this event.

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Sergio starts season with 66 in Singapore

By Associated PressJanuary 18, 2018, 12:56 pm

SINGAPORE – Sergio Garcia opened his season with a 5-under 66 and a share of the clubhouse lead on Thursday in the first round of the weather-interrupted Singapore Open.

Playing his first tournament of the year, the Masters champion rebounded after making an early bogey to collect four birdies and an eagle at the Sentosa Golf Club.

He was later joined by American qualifier Kurt Kitayama in the clubhouse lead. Still on the course, Tirawat Kaewsiribandit was at 6 under through 16 holes when play was suspended for the day because of the threat of lightning.

Louis Oosthuizen, the 2010 Open champion, was at 5 under through 16 holes when he also had to stop his round because of the weather.

Of the players who did finish their opening rounds, only three were within two strokes of Garcia and Kitayama. One of them was Casey O'Toole, who aced the par-3 second with a 7-iron.

The 38-year-old Garcia dropped his only shot of the day on the par-4 15th, his sixth hole after teeing off on the back nine, when he missed the fairway and was unable to make par. But he made amends when he birdied the par-3 17th and then eagled the par-5 18th to go out in 33.

''I was 1 over after (the) seventh but it didn't feel like I was playing badly,'' said Garcia, who made birdies on each of the two par 5s and one of the par 3s on the second nine. ''But then I hit two greats in a row for holes 17 and 18. I got a birdie-eagle there, so that settled me a little bit and I could play solid in the back nine and it was a great round.''

Garcia made the shortlist for the Laureus Sports Awards in the Breakthrough of the Year category after claiming his first major at Augusta National last year and is hoping for more success this season.

He credits the Singapore Open as having played a part in toughening him up for his Masters win because he opted to start his 2017 campaign in the stifling humidity of Southeast Asia to prepare himself for the bigger tournaments ahead.

Although he finished tied for 11th in Singapore, Garcia won the Dubai Desert Classic the next week and was in peak form when he won the Masters two months later.

Kitayama only secured his place in the $1 million event on Monday by finishing at the top of the qualifying competition, but he made a strong start with birdies on three of his first five holes. The 25-year-old Thai was 6 under through 13 holes but spoiled his otherwise flawless round with a bogey on his last.

''I started with a birdie and I just let it roll from there. I had some good tee shots, which I think, is the biggest thing for this course,'' Kitayama said. ''I'm a little tired, but I'm hanging in there. Whenever I have time off, I'll try not to think too much about golf.''

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13-year-old beats DJ in closest-to-the-pin contest

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 18, 2018, 12:26 pm

Dustin Johnson didn’t just get beat by Tommy Fleetwood and Rory McIlroy on Day 1 of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

Even a 13-year-old got the best of the world No. 1.

Oscar Murphy teed off on the 177-yard 15th hole as part of the tournament’s Beat the Pro challenge during the opening round. The Northern Irishman, one of the HSBC’s Future Falcons, carved a 3-wood toward a back-right pin, about 25 feet away, closer than both Johnson and Fleetwood.

“An unbelievable shot,” Fleetwood said afterward, “and me and Rory both said, ‘We don’t have that in our locker.’”

Johnson still made par on the hole, but he mixed four birdies with four bogeys Thursday for an even-par 72 that left him six shots back of Fleetwood and Hideto Tanihara after the opening round.

Johnson, who tied for second here a year ago, is coming off a dominant performance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions, where he won by eight shots to strengthen his lead atop the world rankings. 

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McIlroy 'really pleased' with opening 69 in Abu Dhabi

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 18, 2018, 12:10 pm

It was an auspicious 2018 debut for Rory McIlroy.

Playing alongside world No. 1 Dustin Johnson for his first round since October, McIlroy missed only one green and shot a bogey-free 69 at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. McIlroy is three shots back of reigning Race to Dubai champion Tommy Fleetwood, who played in the same group as McIlroy and Johnson, and Hideto Tanihara.

Starting on the back nine at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, McIlroy began with 11 consecutive pars before birdies on Nos. 3, 7 and 8.

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

“I was excited to get going,” he told reporters afterward. “The last couple of months have been really nice in terms of being able to concentrate on things I needed to work on in my game and health-wise. I feel like I’m the most prepared for a season that I’ve ever been, but it was nice to get back out there.”

Fleetwood, the defending champion, raced out to another lead while McIlroy and Johnson, who shot 72, just tried to keep pace.

“Tommy played very well and I was just trying to hang onto his coattails for most of the round, so really pleased – bogey-free 69, I can’t really complain,” McIlroy said.

This was his first competitive round in more than three months, since a tie for 63rd at the Dunhill Links. He is outside the top 10 in the world ranking for the first time since 2014.