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A stroke of genius

The Irvine Ranch collection of Tom Fazio golf courses is one of the best anywhere.

Few golf course designers have left a bigger mark on modern golf than Tom Fazio, architect of four courses on the Irvine Ranch.

Consider that nearly a quarter of Golf Digest’s list of America’s 200 greatest courses were designed by Fazio – more than any other designer.

Each course reflects Fazio’s driving principle: that a golf course should “appear as if nothing has been done, that the layout is completely natural.”

Such respect for the land is why Irvine Company sought Fazio’s services in designing four premier clubs on the Irvine Ranch: Pelican Hill North, Pelican Hill South, Shady Canyon and Oak Creek.

At age 74, Fazio is still designing courses. In North Carolina, where he lives, the devout family man is as renowned for his work with the local Boys & Girls Club as for the more than 200 golf courses he’s designed around the world.

We recently had the opportunity to talk with the world’s greatest golf course designer. This is what he said.

Describe a Tom Fazio golf course.

It’s a special environment. I want people to feel that they’ve had a great experience. They had fun and played in a great golf environment, as good as any place they’ve ever been.

Why did you design four courses for Irvine Company?

For me personally, I look for the right owner — with vision. Working with Irvine Company, we had a shared goal to create world-class facilities in these world-class locations. I think we achieved that.

What distinguishes Oak Creek, Shady Canyon and Pelican Hill’s two courses?

They are located in different environments that create unique experiences for each golf course. Oak Creek is set in an urban environment, yet you can’t see a single home from the course. Shady Canyon meanders through a pristine, natural valley. And then there is Pelican Hill, sitting on the bluffs above the Pacific Ocean with spectacular views.

What was your goal when designing these courses?

My goal is always to make the golf course look and feel like it has always been there, and that it fits into the natural surroundings. We always want to build holes that are strategic and playable for all levels of players.

Oak Creek Golf Club


“Oak Creek is set in an urban environment, yet it’s designed so that you can’t see a single home from the course.” – Tom Fazio

Pelican Hill Golf Club, Ocean North Course

Newport Coast

“The 11th is one of those holes — when you’re standing on the tee, it’s, ‘Wow, this may be the best hole I’ve ever seen. Until you go to the 12th hole and say, ‘No, this is the best hole I’ve ever seen. ’That’s Pelican Hill.” –Tom Fazio

Pelican Hill Golf Club, Ocean South Course

Newport Coast

“Before you even tee it up, you’re in awe. You’re looking at the ocean, the greenery and native plants. You know you’re at one of the finest golf facilities ever.” – Tom Fazio

Shady Canyon Golf Club


“You cannot ‘not’ like Shady Canyon. Everything there looks the way it was naturally. It is awesome.” – Tom Fazio

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