The big-ticket landscape of the greater Bay Area, from bustling cosmopolitan cities to quiet coastal communities, has been gifted with an exceptionally diverse collection of communal golf courses layered with a rich frosting of history, from the architects who conceived them to some of the greatest wizards of the links, including Johnny Miller and Ken Venturi, who honed their skills on the sidehill, uphill, and downhill lies around the doglegged fairways. Whether a local or visitor, there’s a golf challenge to suit any size wallet.
The following is a curated list of the best public courses in the South Bay.
Feature Photo: Half Moon Bay Golf Links by Robert Kaufman
Baylands Golf Links
Year built: 1956
Architect: William Bell / Redesign (2018) Forrest Richardson
Number of holes: 18
Practice Area: Driving range with 26 hitting bays, plus large chipping greens
Food & Beverage: Baylands Cafe
Opened in 1956, Palo Alto Municipal GC adjacent the Palo Alto Airport was re-designed by renowned architect Forrest Richardson and reopened as Baylands GL in 2018. With a fresh look, including the removal of 400 non-native trees, the 6,680-yard walkable layout features five par 3s, five par 5s and 55 acres of native Baylands vegetation and wetlands areas through which the San Fransisquito Creek, a historic waterway, runs acting as a major flood conveyance stream. baylandsgolflinks.com
Cinnabar Hills Golf Club
Year built: 1991
Architect: John Harbottle III
Number of holes: 27 (three nines)
Practice Area: Grass-tee driving range, chipping area, and three putting greens
Food & Beverage: Cinnabar Hills Restaurant
Peacefully tucked high in the hills only a short drive from the fast-paced Silicon Valley, Cinnabar Hills GC, designed by John Harbottle, includes three distinct nines: Lake, Canyon, and Mountain Courses. All 27 holes blend championship-caliber golf with spectacular views and have been crafted to maintain the natural slope of the area and protect the resident wildlife, including foxes and turkeys. To further enhance the landscape, hundreds of oaks were incorporated into the layout. cinnabarhills.com
Year built: 1999
Architect: Robert Trent Jones Jr.
Number of holes: 18
Practice Area: Driving range, putting green, chipping practice area
Food & Beverage: One Iron Bar and Lion’s Peak Grill
Situated on 260 acres of gently rolling terrain 30 minutes south of San Jose, Robert Trent Jones, Jr. took advantage of the natural elevation changes formed by peaks and canyons and enhanced by meandering creeks, plus sycamore and California oak trees. The 7,360-yard CordeValle GC offers an impressive variety of hole challenges for amateur and professional golfers (hosted PGA Tour Frys.com, 2010-13, and 2016 U.S. Women’s Open) and luxurious accommodations for a 5-star escape. cordevalle.com
Half Moon Bay Golf Links
HALF MOON BAY
Year built: Old Course (1973); Ocean Course (1997)
Architect: Old Course (Arnold Palmer); Ocean Course (Rees Jones)
Number of holes: 36
Practice Area: Putting green
Food & Beverage: Mullins Bar & Grill
Along the Pacific Coast 30 minutes from San Francisco or Silicon Valley, two 18-hole courses create bookends to The Ritz-Carlton, Half Moon Bay. The Arnold Palmer/Francis Duane-designed 7,001-yard Old Course (1973) has a parkland feel with a premium on strategy over distance and a postcard 18th hole finish along the coastal bluff. The 6,854-yard links-style Ocean Course (1997) is an Arthur Hills’ crafted layout with wide open fairways and Big Blue views from nearly every hole. A sunset finish on either is complimented by Scottish bagpipes. halfmoonbaygolf.com
Pasatiempo Golf Course
Year built: 1929
Architect: Alister Mackenzie
Number of holes: 18
Practice Area: Driving range, putting green
Food & Beverage: Hollins House & The Tap Room / Mackenzie Bar & Grill
Less than an hour’s drive north from the Monterey Peninsula, Pasatiempo GC (1929) was designed by Alister MacKenzie (Augusta National, Cypress Point). It was considered the renowned Scottish architect’s favorite 18-hole creation and where his American home still borders the sixth fairway. Consistently ranked among America’s top public golf courses, this historic 6,495-yard championship venue is a must-play on the Bay Area’s golf bucket list. pasatiempo.com
Looking for more things to do in the Bay Area?
Visit our San Francisco, North Bay, East Bay and South Bay pages!