Pelican Hill Golf Club in Newport Coast: Ocean vistas, Fazio golf highlight ritzy layout
NEWPORT COAST, Calif. -- It's hard to imagine that cattle once roamed on the massive Irvine Ranch that is now part of Pelican Hill Golf Club. When you reach the ocean holes and look back up inland, you wonder how Tom Fazio sculpted this course on severely sloping land above Crystal Cove.
The views are spectacular -- vistas of the Pacific Ocean, Catalina Island and Newport Harbor with sailboats silhouetting another perfect Southern California sunset on this 36-hole layout.
It's probably the most sought-after public round of golf in the Los Angeles area.
Blooming coral, eucalyptus and pine trees frame the manicured Bermuda fairways where the Ocean South Course descends 300 feet from the clubhouse to a couple of scenic par-3 holes on the sea.
Locals call it the Orange Riviera. Golf Magazine calls them both winners -- the 2002 Top 100 Courses You Can Play List just named the South No. 53 and the North Course No. 91 best in America.
Pelican Hill's Ocean South Course, built in 1991, concludes its venture down the hill with a couple of back-to-back par 3s. No. 12 is a 212-yarder called Pelican's Nest and No. 13 is a 121-yarder named Double Trouble because it features two greens separated by a waste bunker. Both holes are surrounded by native vegetation at Pelican Point with its rugged seaside rocks, but you will be gazing upon the mighty Pacific expanse.
Many consider Pelican Hill's Ocean North Course, built in 1993, as the more difficult of the two as you negotiate from plateau to plateau with drops through the rugged landscape and over barrancas. It measures 6,856 yards at par 71.
Fazio decided on a change of style for the Ocean North course envisioning a "highland links" feel, protecting much of the land's natural vegetation. Some think it resembles seaside courses you find in Scotland.
This is country club luxury, with complimentary valet parking, in a daily-fee package. The 30,000-square foot clubhouse is first class and the area includes some of the most expensive real estate in Orange County.
"Pelican Hill is definitely luxury golf, but not to be missed for the avid golfer," said Ralph Montgomery of nearby Irvine. "It may be too pricey for many, but I try to play here at least once a year. Visitors from all over the world play here and it is easy to know why once you see the views. The golf is very challenging and the conditions are excellent."
Quick Start is the name of the opening hole on the North Course. It is a 489-yard uphill par-5 with a huge landing area and the downhill Postage Stamp is the second, a 189-yard par 3, framed by white-sand bunkers.
No. 7 on the North is the No. 1 handicap hole and brings you to the Canyon Edge, its namesake. It is a 451-yard, par-4 beauty. There is a pot bunker that divides the fairway 220 yards out and if you plunk one in there, bogey is the norm.
Pelican Hill is not gentle resort golf -- it is a stern enough test to have hosted the Diners Club Matches for the PGA, Senior Tour and LPGA players.
October 2, 2002