Step up to the tee on the par-3 13th hole at Pelican Hill’s Ocean South course and instantly you realize something’s different. Glancing ahead at your target, instead of the typical single green, you see two, full-sized, permanent greens. They are lined up side-by-side, separated only by a large bunker.
“Of all the golf holes I’ve had the opportunity to design, this particular hole is one of the most unique you can play,” says renowned course architect Tom Fazio, who crafted both of Pelican Hill’s award-winning courses.
Odds are you’ve never seen anything else like it in America—holes with double greens are more common overseas—although Fazio has incorporated double-green holes into a handful of his 200-plus course designs.
This seaside hole is listed at 131 yards from the tips for either green, each of which has its own nuances, terrain, breaks and bunkering. Of course, only one of No. 13’s green is open on any given day. Course operators simply alternate the open green daily to spread out traffic—a major benefit to golfers.
“We had a limited amount of space directly on the ocean,” recalls Fazio. “When you create a green, one of the factors to consider is the number of players you have. In Newport Beach, you have a 12-month golf season and the potential for a lot of golf rounds. So pin placement is a big factor, as are ball marks. On a medium-short par-3 like this, you get a lot of ball marks. So you need a big footprint for a green surface. From a playability factor, large greens are easier to hit.”
Fazio and his team decided that instead of creating one large green, they would add some variety by making two distinct greens. “We now have alternatives that allow us to make the spaces smaller, relative to shots coming into the green,” says Fazio. “And we can use alternating greens. We can switch pin placements and targets, plus it’s something special and distinctive. All those pieces factored in. The whole program at Pelican Hill® was always for great, spectacular, distinctive, unique golf.”
Of course, this set-up makes for a more challenging hole that requires pinpoint tee shots. Plus, the greens play differently from one another. “The right green’s elevation changes are different than the beach-flanked left green, and it has a lot of interesting character that measures up with the left green,” says Fazio. “The shape, contour, features and complexity of the edges and the framing give us variety.”
Golfers have expressed enthusiasm for the unique challenges of the two greens, according to Steve Friedlander, Pelican Hill’s Vice President of Golf. “They love that they can play two different holes on two different days,” he says. “And they comment that the small, postage-stamp-like left green looks like they’re hitting to an island, which makes it ‘scary fun’.”