The upscale Resort at Pelican Hill is home to two fantastic Tom Fazio designed courses that you need to go out of your way to play! The Resort was named in the "Top 25 Resorts in the World" by Conde Nast and the courses have been included in Golf Digest's "The Worlds Greatest Golf."
Fazio designed both courses to fit into the beautiful rolling hills of Newport Coast and he leveraged the terrain to create elevation changes, challenging holes, and some of the most scenic vistas you'll ever find. There are beautiful views of the Pacific Ocean from all 36 holes! Each of the two courses has it's own unique personality and characteristics:
- Ocean South – this 18 plays down the hills where three holes run along the top of a sea cliff over the Pacific Ocean and then it turns and heads back up the hills. Ocean South has tighter tree lined fairways with several forced carries over canyons and it is the shorter of the two courses and regarded as a stroke or two easier.
- Ocean North – this challenging layout has a links style feel to it, dramatic elevation changes, and beautiful views of the Pacific Ocean from every hole. Read our review of the North Course to learn more about this outstanding 18.
Common to both of the Pelican Hill golf courses were in excellent condition, near perfect greens, superior service, upscale amenities, scenic vistas, contoured fairways, fun and helpful forecaddies. It's hard to find fault with anything at Pelican Hill, even the bathrooms on the course are sparkling clean, upscale, and they even smell good, the golf carts have a range finder and soft leather seats that make you feel like you're in the drivers seat of a Mercedes.
Forecaddies are required and you'll quickly learn to appreciate and respect them, particularly around the greens which are loaded with slope, tiers, undulation, and very subtle breaks. The forecaddies do everything from helping with course management and yardages to cleaning your clubs and raking the bunkers to telling jokes and parting with some local course and city knowledge. And in my case, helping me find my balls in the rough, water, and natural areas – most of the time they just said "forget about it, it's gone!" Without them my normal 3 putts would most likely have been 5 putts thanks to the subtle breaks.
The par 70 Ocean South opened in 1991 and has five sets of tee boxes with yardages of 4723 to 6580 yards. This is a challenging 18 holes with a slope of 119 to 134, so don't bite off more than you can chew – don't be macho, move up a set of tee boxes, leave the driver in the bag on some holes, and have a fun and memorable round. This is a fantastic track, so make it an enjoyable round.
The first few holes on the Ocean South course are pretty simple and straightforward and pars might come easily as the course starts to meander down toward the Pacific Ocean. But you'll still encounter elevation changes, elevated greens, bunkers, forced carries, and tight approaches. #5 starts to get a little tougher with a short but very intimidating par 4 that requires a big carry over a deep ravine to a sloping fairway that turns right along a huge long right side bunker that lines the entire right side of the fairway all the way to to the green – there is a good risk reward opportunity if you want to try and fly more of the ravine as well as carry the long bunker.
Along the way to the ocean on the Ocean South front nine you'll have a beautiful 193 yard downhill par 3 (#7) with a lake on the right plus rocks and three large bunkers guarding the green. Plus the tricky ocean breeze trying to push your ball to the water or bunker – the view is phenomenal with the Pacific Ocean forms the backdrop for the green.
You've probably heard about the fantastic ocean side holes on the Ocean South course and it's on #7 where you'll be really close to the sparkling blue Pacific Ocean and hear the barking seals and the crashing of the waves against the rocks and sand as you start to get a sense of how special this nine really is. The excitement continues to build as you cross under the highway and head straight toward the ocean on the magnificent #11 which requires an accurate approach shot to a green that is guarded by a huge deep bunker complex on the right and another all along the back of the green. But the hardest thing on this hole is to remember to keep your head down and focused on the ball not the beautiful Pacific Ocean with the sailboats and large expensive yachts cruising behind the green.
#12 and #13 are two outstanding par 3's with tiered greens surrounded by treacherous bunkers and natural areas – but its the waves crashing on the rocks that will grab your attention – walk over to the edge of the tee box and bring your camera. I didn't want to leave and must have said "awesome" a thousand times and snapped a million pictures! Savor the moment and don't forget to check out the huge stately multi-million dollar mansions on the other side of the fairways.
After that hole, take a breath, pull out the big dog and start heading back up the hill toward the clubhouse. On the way you'll need to manage some tough approaches, dramatic uphill shots, strategically placed bunkers, forced carries, undulating tiered and elevated greens, and several Kodak moments. When you take a look at #18, you'll shake your head at this challenging hole – a forced carry over a deep ravine that looks like 300 yards to get across and then another carry over a ravine to a multi-tiered guarded green with a slope where you may watch your ball roll off the green and back toward the ravine. The backdrop to this hole is the stunning Pelican Hill Resort. What a fun way to end a memorable and unique round. Par the 18th and your buddies should buy you a beer or two.
The fairways on the Pelican Hill Ocean South Course are tree lined with some beautiful homes on just three holes. Most of the landing zones are ample but you need accuracy on a majority of the approach shots. Elevation changes and sloping contoured fairways demand your attention. Several holes offer stunning views which may take your breath away.
The near perfect greens are average size and most are very well guarded. The slope and undulation and tiers coupled with the speed make putting very challenging. The breaks are subtle and Thank God for the Forecaddies – without them I most likely would have 4 putt each hole.
The bunkers are soft, fluffy, white sand except for 11, 12, and 13 which are brown, gritty, and hard and surrounded by native grass a nice contrast with the blue Pacific in the background. Most of the Ocean South bunkers are fairly steep and deep and strategically placed.
Bottom line – this 18 is not as scenic as the Ocean North but does have some stunning holes that are breathtaking, challenging, and a blast to play.
Before you head out for a round, you might consider taking a lesson or attending a clinic at the The Pelican Hill Golf Academy, which is led by Golf Magazine “Top 100 Teacher” Glenn Deck. The Academy has designed an expansive selection of clinics and programs for players of all size and skill levels.
Make sure you check out the Ocean South course flyover on the Pelican Hill website – it is very well done like everything at Pelican Hill and will give you an excellent appreciation for the course and get you excited about playing it.
In March, we spent a couple nights at the The Resort at Pelican Hill – wow, what a fantastic upscale Resort with excellent restaurants, unmatched service, a stunning pool, outstanding amenities, and some of the best lodging we have experienced. Read our review of The Resort at Pelican Hill to learn why you need to add a golf stay and play at the Resort to your bucket list.
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Service is the best, the pro shop is top of the line, the practice facilities are excellent, and the grill is outstanding. And the forecaddies we had were enjoyable and very helpful.