There are many aspects that go into the making of a resort. The lodging, dining, spa, recreation and, of course, the golf. All come together to form the overall experience for the guest.

Seldom do all the pieces come together in a perfect blend to create a masterpiece. But that is the case with The Resort at Pelican Hill, a golf resort on the coast of Newport Beach in Southern California.

The resort design was heavily influenced by the Italian Renaissance architect, Andrea Palladio. It takes up about one mile of coastline and is 504 acres overall–400 of which are taken up by the two golf courses. Pelican Hill is different from most resorts with world-class golf courses–the courses are just part of the equation, not the specific reason for the visit.

“We have a multi-faceted group who plays here,” said the Vice-President of Golf Steve Friedlander. “The resort guests The resort guests are not a majority of the play. We have a lot of people who come here and don’t play golf. We are a kind of property where golf is not the only the only thing to do.”

Whether it is the spa, dining, a wedding or just a relaxing visit to the Southern California beach area, Pelican Hill has everything needed to build a memorable vacation. It is a destination resort for those seeking to escape either the heat or the cold of their respective home.

GOLF: Pelican Hill features 36 incredible holes designed by Tom Fazio. In the mid-2000’s, both courses were shut down so that Fazio could come in and re-perfect the courses. Re-opened in November of 2007, the Southern California courses are known as elite tracks, earning top rankings from several publications and ranked among the best in not just all of California, but the United States, as well.

Pelican Hill South #18

South course #18. Courtesy of Pelican Hill

Friedlander has seen a number of world-class courses in his career, working at Doral and Whistling Straights before coming to Pelican Hill eight years ago in the summer of 2007. At Whistling Straights, he was the host professional for the 2004 PGA Championships.

“They are not what you call resort courses,” explained Friedlander of his two courses. “They can be very playable if you play the right set of tees. But if your ego gets in the way with all the forced carries …”

The ego can be soothed by the expert assistance from the forecaddie program. All of the forecaddies are highly skilled and have the nuances of the 36 holes down to a science. I would highly recommend Kirk Mashburn to guide you through your rounds on the two courses. He blends local knowledge with great stories of his caddying experiences.


The Ocean South Course is only 6,580 yards from the tips, but it makes for a daunting round with all the forced carries, the par of 70, the slope of 133 and the feeling you get of narrow fairways when you are standing on the tee.

“It’s an illusion how tight it looks,” said Friedlander. “But it is a tough course from the back tees.”

Some of the highlights are No. 12 and 13, back-to-back par 3’s right on the bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean. No. 13 has two greens and both are protected by a number of bunkers.

The Ocean North Course plays longer at 6,945 yards, also has a 133 slope and carries a par of 71.

“There are a lot more panoramic views from the North Course,” said Friedlander. “I love being able to tell people when we are out on the course to aim at the sailboat on the ocean. But I have to say hurry up, it’s moving. You don’t get to say that too often.”

There is no shortage of incredible vistas throughout the North Course, starting as early as the tee box on No. 3 and continuing through No. 17, the signature hole on the course. The 558-yard, par 5 features a dogleg right, with the second shot offering a huge risk-and-reward option.

The practice facility and learning center are befitting of the resort. Under the guidance of top-ranked teaching professional Glenn Deck, the Pelican Hill Golf Academy offers a number of programs, ranging from 2-day sessions to half-day, to even custom programs.

LODGING: For starters, the Main Estate (registration building) is kept separate from the lodging areas to provide more privacy and less hustle and bustle. The ranges of accommodations are plentiful and all sensational.

VILLAS: There are 128 villas on the property, ranging from 2 to 4 bedrooms at 2,193 square feet up to 3,581 square feet. They are the ultimate in luxury and offer top-flight living with breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean. There is staff at your disposal including a concierge and butler–and personal chef, upon request. Each unit also has a washer and dryer in the private garage.

Villa Upstairs Master Four-Bedroom

Villa upstairs Master Bedroom. Courtesy of Pelican Hill

The downstairs of the 4-bedroom villa has a pair of bedrooms and a gourmet kitchen, featuring granite counters, a Sub-Zero refrigerator and a refrigerated wine rack. There is also a dining area and a great room with a 60-inch flat screen TV and a limestone fireplace.

The upstairs has other the other two bedrooms, including the master suite that features a bathroom with a marble walk-in shower and a deep soaking tub. There are 42-inch flat screen televisions in every bedroom, along with a DVD player.

Finally, there is a spacious patio with both a covered table and reclining loungers that allow you to relax and see the sun set into the Pacific Ocean.

Bungalows: There are 204 on the property, ranging from 847 square feet up to 1,600 square feet for the suites. All the bungalows feature a fireplace, as well as a terrace.

While the bungalows are markedly smaller than the villas, the attention to detail is the same. Plasma televisions, high quality sound systems, spacious bathrooms and private terraces with ocean views are the highlights of the bungalows, which are located within walking distance of the main section of the resort.

DINING: There are five quality dining options, all with either golf course or ocean views.

Andrea is not fine dining, but signature dining. Casually chic, the terrace area features heated flooring and heated ceilings. Featuring Northern Italian fare, Andrea exemplify s the quality dining experience associated with one of the top resorts in the country.

Andrea Terrace

Andrea Terrace. Courtesy of Pelican Hill

The Pelican Grill and Lounge is located in the golf clubhouse, featuring California-inspired cuisine. The Coliseum Pool and Grill offers casual poolside dining, with both inside and outside tables available.

SPA: The spa facilities alone would make for a fulfilling trip for a couple.

There are 47, 5-star spas in the world and one resides at Pelican Hill in The Spa. With 22 treatment rooms and a fully-equipped fitness center that is open to all guests.

There is also a full salon on-site, offering a variety of options, including styling, hair-cutting and shampoo and conditioning treatments.

The Acqua Colonnade–with separate men’s and women’s facilities–features an herbal steam room, sauna and whirlpool.

OTHER AMENITIES: Easily one of the top selling points regarding The Resort at Pelican Hill is the multitude of other options.

Wedding Facilities: When someone chooses to get married at Pelican Hill, they literally have the day to themselves, as the property only allows one wedding at a time. Mar Vista is designed to offer total privacy, standing separate from the hotel and its guests. A separate entrance and dedicated valet staff ensure complete exclusivity. The outdoor ceremony takes place on a manicured oval lawn that spills out to the end of the ridge, where a timeless, iconic Italian rotunda is perched 300 feet above the ocean

Coliseum Pool: The pool is the largest circular pool in the world, measuring 136 feet in diameter. There are more than one million glass tiles that were cut and laid by hand to line the pool.

Coliseum Pool with Ocean View Day

Coliseum Pool. Courtesy of Pelican Hill

Camp Pelican Kids Club: The resort offers two programs, one for kids ages 4-12 and another for teens ages 13-17. There is a lounge area with bean bags, tables and chairs available. There are also two 60” plasma televisions for interactive games or movie watching. A kids’ pool with lounge chairs, umbrellas and a bubble jet fountain are on site.

Meeting/Event Space: There are 23,200 square feet of meeting space available, with indoor/outdoor space and ocean views. Meeting rooms range from 880 square feet up to the Mar Vista Ballroom at 5,421 square feet.

OVERALL: I have traveled all over North America, have stayed at some very nice properties and it is tough to find a more sensational property overall than The Resort at Pelican Hill.

From the time we arrived at the villa check-in until the time we departed, we felt pampered and spoiled. The ultimate compliment I can pay Pelican Hill is to say you never feel like you want to leave.

For more information on The Resort at Pelican Hill, visit their website.

By Dennis Miller