Arnold Palmer was many things to many people: husband, father, businessman and for most, that of golf icon. For many, his greatest accomplishment in golf was overcoming a final round 7 shot deficit to win the 1960 US Open. He’s also remembered for winning four green jackets at Augusta. His business interests are as numerous as his PGA TOUR Titles: Arnold Palmer design – a golf course design company; auto dealerships and clothing to name a few. The King even has a drink named after him!
Despite all of this, Palmer may be best known for the Bay Hill Club and Lodge in Orlando Florida. Although the early history of Bay Hill dates back to the early 1960s, the King didn’t take ownership of the property until 1975. Many golfers only know Bay Hill by what they see on TV every spring when the Arnold Palmer Invitational Golf Tournament is nationally televised. That is a pristine golf course with a lot of beauty and challenge to it. Most memorable are the last three holes; the par 5 16th hole, reachable for many players in two – amateur and pro alike – provided you elude the fairway bunkers off the tee that guard both sides of the landing area. Should you decide to go for it, you’ll need to carry the creek and pond in front.
Number 17 is a picture-perfect par 3 with sand and water in play. You’ll need to carry the water and the beach bunker off the tee; anything long or left is also likely to find sand. A back-right pin placement on this angled green makes a par (or better) that much more special.
Many of the Arnold Palmer Invitational tournaments have come down to the 18th hole, a 458-yard par 4 for the touring professionals. It’s the hole popularized by Tiger’s infamous fist-pump! For us mere mortals the hole still plays long: 437 yards from the Blue and 403 yards from the Gold Tees. Longball hitters need to be wary of the lake on the right; the rest of us need to be aware of the out of bounds down the left. Ideally, a tee shot played down the middle left of the fairway will provide the most options depending on the pin position. Should you find the rough off the tee, your best chance at par is to play your second shot to the front part of the green. Get too aggressive and the water and three bunkers behind the green can easily creep into play and trust me there is no tougher shot in golf than playing from one of these greenside bunkers, staring at the water on the other side of the green. Par is always a great way to end your round at Bay Hill.
For many golfers and those of us in the golf industry, it doesn’t get much better than a round of golf at Bay. Unless of course it’s staying on property and experiencing everything the club has to offer. Be sure to check their website for the latest Stay and Play packages.
There’s a lot more to do at Bay Hill than just a round of golf where the pros play; the 9-hole Charger Course is equally as challenging. The new world-class two-acre short game facility and enhanced driving range actually make practice fun. Be sure to try your luck in one of the sod-walled bunkers and get a taste of golf on the other side of the pond. There’s also a fitness center, six tennis courts, and a heated Jr. Olympic-size pool.
As if that’s not enough, bass fishing excursions can be arranged with noted second-generation guide Captain Paul on the nearby Butler Chain of Lakes. The average catch for a half-day excursion is typically 10 to 12 fish. Captain Paul and his crew will even supply all the gear.
After you’ve worn yourself out on the course, courts or lakes, it’s time to rejuvenate at The Spa at Bay Hill. Choose from body treatments, massage therapy, skincare, and workout programs or use one of the men’s/women’s steam rooms, whirlpool or saunas.
Bay Hill’s Bay Window Room overlooks the famed putting green and Rolex clock. Their casual menu offers a variety of appetizers, salads, sandwiches, and fresh brick oven pizza.
The rooms at the Lodge are a direct reflection of Arnold Palmer; pictures that highlight his career seem to grace every wall. Each room includes complimentary wireless and wired Internet access, free local calls and a daily newspaper. Coffee and tea are available at stations in the lodge hallways and room service is always available.
The 70 lodge rooms are comfortably furnished with Lexington furniture, custom linens and a choice of two queen beds or one king bed. There’s also a 27” flat-screen TV, DVD player, plush robes, hairdryer, clock radio and a patio.
No visit to Bay Hill is complete without a trip to the pro shop to pick up a piece of memorabilia. The pro shop has all sorts of Bay Hill logoed gear, whether it’s something traditional like a hat or polo or something more personal, like a book about the King or even a flag. One piece of apparel that caught my wife’s eye was a golf dress, with the iconic umbrella in an all-over print. The dress is made under license by Katherine Way, a women’s golf apparel designer with discerning taste. Katherine’s designs are fun and playful, something evidenced by this piece.
For more information or to book your next stay and play package, visit Bay Hill online at www.bayhill.com.