Northern California: Pure golf with majestic views

The springtime is magical in Northern California, the brisk mornings giving way to mild afternoons, both providing perfect conditions for 18, or even 36 holes.

Much of the TV airtime goes to the iconic courses at Pebble Beach and San Francisco’s Olympic Club and TPC Harding Park — for good reason — but there are plenty of gems throughout the area that make for the perfect buddy trip.

Here are a few of the Travel Caddie’s favorite Northern California spots:


The original brainchild of the famed Alister MacKenzie makes Pasatiempo is a favorite of locals and visitors making their way through the area. MacKenzie loved it so much that he lived along the 6th hole, mixing one of the most revered golf courses in the United States with the serene environment of Santa Cruz.

His design has since been updated by Tom Doak, helping accentuate the tree-lined parkland course, with the bunkers coming into play quite often.

The course has challenged the likes of Bobby Jones, Tiger Woods and Juli Inkster, as it has played host to one of the biggest amateur tournaments in the world in the Western Intercollegiate. The 1986 U.S. Women’s Amateur and 2004 U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur have also been played on the course.

An easy drive from Oakland, San Francisco, San Jose and Monterey airports, Pasatiempo is well worth devoting a day or two, as you’ll want another crack at the course once you experience it for the first time.

Half Moon Bay Golf Links

The second you pull onto the property at Half Moon Bay Golf Links you know that you are in for something special.  With 36 holes of epic and diverse championship golf, this Northern California beauty not only offers exceptional golf but it also houses one of the most spectacular Ritz-Carlton hotels that we have ever seen.

As the name suggests, the Ocean Course provides breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean, a great backdrop for a challenging links-style course. The fairways are quite firm, so accuracy will be rewarded off the tee, although the native grasses surrounding them have a tendency to jump out and grab a ball or two. You’ll also need to quickly learn to navigate the ocean winds, as this will be a major factor throughout your round.

Meanwhile, the Old Course is a classic design put together by Arnold Palmer and Francis Duane. The name of this course’s game is dogleg, dogleg, dogleg, definitely challenging the more aggressive golfers to take more risks. Trees and water hazards are at every corner, so settling for fairways over cutting the corner might be in your best interest.  (remove last sentence). Much like the Ocean Course, the Old Course finishes up in spectacular fashion with the short par-3 17th hole that features the Pacific Ocean as its backdrop, and the 18th hole that runs alongside the ocean with a dramatic cliffside view to your right and the spectacular Ritz-Carlton Half Moon Bay behind the green on this memorable finishing hole.


CordeValle tends to be a hidden treasure that many golfers are often unaware of as its neatly tucked away in the foothills of the Santa Cruz Mountains.  This boutique resort offers golfers with a first-class luxury golf experience that is perfect for those who enjoy the finer things in life.

The facility spans nearly 1,700 acres, with the course utilizing a natural landscape with meadows, hills, creeks and waterfalls to provide slight distractions at every turn.

While the clubhouse and amenities are impressive, the centerpiece of this facility is the 7,360-yard golf course designed by Robert Trent Jones, Jr. The par-72 course has multiple tees and puts an emphasis on finding the right angles for every shot. The elevation changes by some 150 feet throughout your round, so your vantage points of the natural beauty that surrounds will vary.

With a great variety of holes, you’ll need every club in your bag to navigate a challenging, but memorable round away from the real world.

Bayonet Black Horse

Another two-course marvel located in the city of San Martin, Bayonet and Black Horse course provides golfers with arguably the best value golf experience that can be found in Northern California.  These two courses can be enjoyed for a fraction of the cost of what it takes to play some of the other courses mentioned here, but don’t think for a second that that means that they don’t deliver on impeccable golf that you won’t soon forget.

The Bayonet Course was reopened in December 2008, pushing it to 7,104 yards with the Gene Bates redesign, now featuring a 476-yard, par-4 9th hole that will leave you wanting to challenge the dogleg right — with plenty of trouble if you don’t succeed.

Meanwhile, Black Horse plays just shorter at 7,024 yards and is highlighted by the par-3 15th that gives you a great look at the surrounding bay and has quickly climbed the ladder of best holes in Northern California golf.

Playing at Bayonet and Black Horse is as traditional Northern California golf as you can get, with water in your eyeline at all times, giving you the ability to disappear a bit from the world and enjoy up to 36 holes of stellar golf.  The property has hinted at the desire to put a hotel on property at some point in time, but there are plenty of hotel options available nearby should you decide to make this a part of your stay and play getaway.

Pebble Beach

OK, we couldn’t go a full trip recommendation without including iconic Pebble Beach. It’s on everyone’s bucket list, as it should be.

In addition to all of the incredible golf that we mention in our Pebble Beach Trip Idea piece, the resort recently completed its renovation of

The Hay, a Tiger Woods designed 9-hole short course that can be played by both resort guests and the general public for only $65 and only $5 for Youth on Course members.  The Hay also features a putting course that is open for all.  It’s an incredible move by the ownership group at Pebble Beach to open its doors for people of all income levels to be able to come and experience a little piece of the Pebble Beach dream.  This fun layout features holes that range in distance from 47 yards to 106 yards, and the hole that is receiving all of the early love is the 2nd hole that is a replica (minus the cliffs of course) of the famous 7th hole at Pebble Beach Golf Links.  With the epic Monterey oceanside views as your backdrop, this little gem will leave a lasting impression and is an incredible addition to the resort.

The Travel Caddie spent some time earlier this year breaking down Pebble Beach, so make sure to take a gander, as there is a way to fit in a round or two on any buddy trip itinerary:


You truly cannot go wrong at any of the courses that we’ve outlined for you here. Many golfers who come to this wonderful destination make their way to several of these facilities all in one trip.  Each property has something special to offer, and with so much variety in terms of price point you can schedule the ultimate in luxury with these properties or create a trip that has great value and some incredible golf.