Pelican Hill Golf Club used to be the type of place you’d happily play again and again—provided someone else was footing the bill. Sure, the Tom Fazio–designed Ocean North and Ocean South courses each offered a collection of superb holes and gorgeous views of the Pacific Ocean. But inconsistent maintenance, a few nondescript holes and some substandard amenities kept Pelican Hill off most must-play lists, especially at $250 for a weekend round. Most galling was the fate awaiting anyone who wanted to hit a few balls to warm up: Not only did you have to drive a quarter mile to the practice tee from the clubhouse, but once you got there you’d find an attendant waiting to collect ten dollars more for a bag of striped rocks.
The club, in Newport Beach, California, reopened in November after a two-year renovation, and nearly every weakness has been corrected. Fazio recontoured the fairways to improve drainage and replaced their turf with a hybrid Bermuda that maintains its color during winter and requires no overseeding. Best of all, he cleared trees and other vegetation to reveal ocean views, transforming the look of many of the holes. The eleventh on the Ocean South, for example, formerly a forgettable par four that gave no glimpse of the sea, is now a drop-dead beauty. Also, both eighteens feature closely mown chipping areas that will have high-handicappers gratefully reaching for their putters and better players puzzling over which club to use. A new clubhouse has been built steps away from the range—which is stocked with pyramids of Nike One Platinums, included with the green fee.
The course improvements are the first step in the creation of what will be called the Resort at Pelican Hill. Scores of villas and a string of ocean-view bungalows are under construction and due to open this fall, along with an expansive spa. The resort’s centerpiece will be the perfectly round Coliseum Pool, surrounded by terraced decks that offer views of Santa Catalina Island. All of which should make Pelican Hill one of the finest golf resorts on the Pacific coast.