Pelican Hill Golf Club - Ocean North Course Review

Texas Outside Rating: 9.3

Golf - Resort Public Course · 18 Holes · Par 71
Newport Coast, CA
· Stay & Play

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Pelican Hill Golf Club - Ocean North Course Review

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.  Read our review of Pelican Hill's Ocean South to learn more.
  • Ocean North - this challenging layout has a links style feel to it and is about 300 yards longer with dramatic elevation changes and beautiful views of the Pacific Ocean from every hole. 

Common to both of the Pelican Hill golf courses are excellent conditions, 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 and 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 to 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.

Pelican Hill Ocean North has a links feel to it with very open and forgiving fairways and majestic views of Newport Beach and the sparkling blue Pacific Ocean from every hole - at times it's difficult to keep you head down and focus on golf.  Even though Ocean North is a tad short at 6945 yards, this is a challenging 18 with a rating of 73 and slope of 135 and Fazio will throw a lot at you, some of which includes: several exciting risk reward opportunities, forced carries, dramatic elevation changes, treacherous and strategically placed bunkers, sloping and contoured fairways, and challenging green complexes. 

Ocean North is a course you need to think your way around and on the tee box make sure you check with the forecaddy for the best way to play each hole because what you think might be the best way to play the tee, layup, or approach shot may not be the ideal strategy.   But don't let all of that scare you, there are five sets of tee boxes and the forecaddies will help with course management, club selection, and reading the breaks - which in my case probably saved at least 2 strokes per hole!  Also, like most tough Fazio designs, he always seems to leave you a bail out area but it may cost you a stroke.

A round on Ocean North is as visually stunning as it is fun to play.  Bring a camera, every hole has majestic panoramic vistas of the Pacific Ocean with huge yachts and sailboats, the Pelican Hill Resort stoically perched on a terrace, and the surrounding hillside dotted with large stunning multi-million dollar homes.  At times its hard to remember that you're here to try and get that golf ball in the cup. 

In addition to stunning views, Pelican Hill North will test your game and in addition to remembering the unbelievable views there area some equally impressive and memorable holes: 

  • #1 sets the stage for this 18 - a beautiful 542 yard par 5 opening hole with a forced carry to wide landing zone followed by a blind shot downhill to a dog leg right along a rolling and contoured fairway to a double tiered green
  •  #4 is a par 4 433 yard with a carry to a fairway that turns left than right to the green - accuracy and positioning are critical to avoid the huge fairway bunkers, the deep ravine, and stuff it on the two tier well guarded two green
  • four par 3's that are fun, challenging (uphill and downhill well guarded greens with tiers, slope, and undulation), and scenic
  •  #17 is an outstanding par 5 than dogs right along a huge bunker plus 7 more bunkers on the way to the green - with a good drive you may be able to risk carrying a deep canyon and the green side bunkers for a potential birdie
  • you won't forget the terrific and challenging #18 and you'll want to come back and play it again - a 430 yard par 4 with a carry over  the coastal sage scrub to a landing zone with 3 huge treacherous bunkers - consider leaving the big dog in the bag and go for accuracy not distance - then a downhill approach over a canyon that requires precision to avoid three more good sized bunkers and native areas to an undulating green

Like the Pelican Hill South Course, the conditions on the North Course are near perfect with lush fairways with limited divots, perfect white sand bunkers that range in size from pot to huge and treacherous, and excellent greens.  The fairways are ample but don't miss them, the bunkers are steep and deep, and the greens have everything from slope to tiers and significant undulation.  It just doesn't get much better than a round at Pelican Hill North.  

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 North 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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Course Slope & Ratings

Tee Box Yardage Rating Slope
Black 6,945 73.0 135
Blue 6,270 69.9 127
White 5,810 67.5 122
Gold 6,563 71.3 130
Red 4,951 69.4 124

Course Information

Course Architect:
Tom Fazio
Greens Type:
Poa Annua
Greens Condition
Greens Difficulty
Not allowed
Course Map
Beware of water on 2 holes and the 71 sand traps.

Texas Outside Rating

Overall Rating:
9.3 out of 10
Fun to Play:
Front Nine Rating:
Back Nine Rating:


Approximate Weekend
$85.00 to $250.00

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 very helpful.



Here's How Texas Outside Determines the Scorecard Rating

The Texas Outside rating scale ranges from 1 to 10 – a perfect 10 course would be something like this:  links along a cliff overlooking the Pacific ocean and bordered by tall trees; lush fairways on rolling hills with lots of natural hazards; water (which is crystal clear) on most of the holes; immaculate greens (but they are undulating and tough); lots of variety and character (each hole is completely different and includes blind shots, elevation changes, doglegs, and significant challenges); perfectly manicured traps with the whitest and prettiest sand you’ve ever seen; a nice club house with great food and a 19th hole; a GPS; plenty of beverage carts or your own cooler and ice; and it only costs $40 bucks! What this means is that you probably won’t find any 10s in Texas – try Cabo San Lucas, Pebble Beach, or some of the Hawaii courses! 
Texas Outside rates courses on the following:

  • Beauty – tall trees, rolling hills, beautiful houses, waterfalls, and similar stuff would score high; a 1 would be flat, bushes or cactus instead of trees, and some grass but mostly weeds
  • Difficulty – a straight, 300 yard par 4 with no traps or hazards, no out of bounds or water would probably get a 1; if it is a 460 yard par 4 over two ravines, with water along one side, natural hazards on the other, strategically placed traps or that dreaded tree right in the middle of the fairway, we are talking a 10. 
  • Variety – what would you give a course where all the holes looked and played exactly the same (“I thought we just played that hole!”); were side-by-side, which is good for finding or dodging other people’s balls, but not much fun; and you can see the flag from every tee box?  That’s right, it gets a 1.
  • Fun Scale – a 10 is where you walk off the course and say “now that was fun” and you can’t wait to get back, or you immediately turn around and play another 18 holes
  • Value – a 5 is $50 to $60, a 10 is $20 to $30, and 1 is $200 or so – of course all of this is dependent upon how you liked the course.  For example, if a run down, boring municipal course, with six players on each hole was only $10; it would still get a value rating of 1.
  • Condition – this one’s pretty easy – what condition are the fairways. A 10 commands very lush perfectly manicured fairways, compared to a 1, which has fire ants, weeds, and more dirt than grass!
  • Condition of Greens and Difficulty – very hard to read greens with lots of undulation and tough pin placement, rate very high on the difficulty scale.  Condition is self-explanatory.  

All of the above determines the overall score for the golf course.  In other words, we like courses that are pretty, fun, very challenging with a lot of variety, and fairways and greens in excellent condition – all for $40.  We also tend to play the courses that are affordable for the masses, which means in the $30 to $80 range. We rate hard and we haven’t found a 10 in Texas yet – don’t worry we haven’t given up and we’re still looking.