Golf Life: Just 10, Pelican Hill already a California classic

Pelican Hill Panoramic Pelican Hill

Golf Life: Just 10, Pelican Hill already a California classic

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Golf Life: Just 10, Pelican Hill already a California classic

NEWPORT COAST, Calif. — The Resort at Pelican Hill is celebrating its 10th birthday, but looks as if it’s been perched above the Pacific for far longer – a couple of millennia, roughly speaking. Chalk that up to Renaissance architect Andrea Palladio, whose Greco-Roman style inspired the columns, domes and fountains that grace the grounds here. Caesar himself would not look out of place sipping Chianti at the Coliseum Pool.

On the other hand, he might look a little suspicious in his leather skirt and body armor over at Pelican Hill’s 36-hole, Tom Fazio-designed golf facility, where tucked-in polo shirts and belted slacks are de rigueur. A better piece of land is not to be found on the resort’s 504-acre site – if you don’t mind soul-stirring ocean views that are almost certain to distract you from the sporting task at hand. No complaints there.

It’s hard to say whether golf at Pelican Hill is the main event or a gloriously green sideshow, given that the rest of the resort is every bit as manicured as the sprawling North and South courses. But for those who love the game, Fazio has created a welcome blend between championship and resort golf. There are some daunting looks and forced carries here and there, but banked fairways often deliver errant shots back to the short grass. Thank Zeus for small favors.

Golf Ocean North 17th Hole Pelican Hill

No. 17 on Ocean North at Pelican Hill

Director of golf Robert Ford is a Pelican Hill veteran in his second stint running the show and knows better than to shear the greens too closely. They run a modest 9.5 on the Stimpmeter, meaning pace of play is generally brisk. And gifted head pro Glenn Deck runs a wide variety of instruction clinics for all manner of players. It took him five minutes with no more than an iPad and his practiced eye to diagnose what was awry with my setup (my left heel was airborne upon contact, hindering proper weight shift).

With 36 holes beckoning so near, there’s a temptation to hunker down in the sumptuous rooms at Pelican Hill, departing only for tee times and happy hour, in which case you’d miss half the show. Three miles of Crystal Cove Beach await you via a complimentary shuttle, as well as towels, chairs and umbrellas. Kids will love exploring the tide-pools (though the starfish might object), and active adults can hike, bike or walk the miles of surrounding trails.

So here’s a recipe for a well-rounded day at The Hill: Wake up early in your cozy bungalow or oversized four-bedroom villa (the latter as big as 3,581 square feet), take in the sweet sea air from your ocean-facing terrace and then hit the links. Follow that with a spa visit at the 23,000-square-foot facility, where they constantly update their offerings to promote wellness and serenity. Oh, and take a wee soak in the saltwater Roman soaking tubs for dessert.

Coliseum Pool with Ocean View Day

The Coliseum Pool at the Resort at Pelican Hill

Speaking of comestibles, if only metaphorically, Pelican Hill has an array of food and beverage options, from casual to elegant. Breakfast can be had at the Coliseum Pool & Grill or the Caffé and Market; post-golf lunch or dinner at the Pelican Grill (the prime Irvine Burger hit the spot); and dinner is mandatory at the Italian-themed Andrea, where fresh pastas and an amazing table-side mushroom risotto (tossed in the well of a giant parm-reggiano wheel) are must-haves.

Service throughout the resort – from the front desk to the golf shop to the eateries – hits that sweet spot between obligatory deference and sincere eagerness to please. Is it just me, or do you not need to be addressed solicitously by hotel employees every three steps you take? No such obsequious behavior takes place at Pelican Hill, where people genuinely seem happy to help, without fear of retribution from management for insufficient courtesy.

Bring three golf buddies or the entire clan. The Resort at Pelican Hill exists to mint memories of time well-spent – off the grid and on the green instead. Gwk

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