Without a doubt, golf has a lot of outstanding and memorable figures in its history. Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods, Ben Hogan, Gary Player, and Gene Sarazen are primarily recognized for being part of one of the most exclusive clubs: the champions of all the major tournaments. The famous Grand Slam.
Not belonging to this select group can divide golfers into mortals and immortals. But it would not be the case with Arnold Palmer. With seven majors under his belt (four Masters Tournaments, two Open Championships and one US Open), “The King” just missed winning the PGA Championship to join the club of Grand Slam winners.
Also, the crown belongs to him.
With an unprecedented level of popularity, Palmer was the architect of taking golf to another level from the first half of the last century. As Tiger Woods described back in 2004, on the occasion of Palmer’s last appearance at the Masters: “If it hadn’t been for Arnold, golf wouldn’t be as popular as it is now.”
Palmer’s most notable years as a player were between 1960 and 1963. He had 29 wins on the PGA Tours in that period, including five triumphs in major tournaments. In 1967 he was the first professional to earn a million dollars in his career. Those four seasons generated a revolution, to the point that his fans formed the “Arnie’s Army” to follow him during his travels.
So, who was Arnold Palmer, besides the golf legend we all love and admire? His prolific path undeniably depicts him as a pioneer and an icon, to the point of being the first golfer to receive the medal of freedom at the White House in 2004. He revolutionized golf on and off the golf course. He was an advertising presenter, airline pilot, cable network Golf Channel founder, and talented course designer.
Palmer’s golf legacy lives on in Bay Hill
Without question, Bay Hill was Palmer’s place in the world. To the surprise of many, he did not initially design either of the complex’s two courses. However, it was love at first sight. In 1965 he was invited to participate in an exhibition with Jack Nicklaus and instantly fell in love with the place he finally bought in 1975.
The club opened its first 18 holes in 1961 (The Champion Course), designed by Dick Wilson and built by Bob Simmons. Years later, and with the death of Wilson, Simmons expanded the project with 9 extra holes (The Charger Course). The Champion Course is considered one of Wilson’s best works, with the classic approach of raised greens that improve visibility.
The Bay Hill Club & Lodge is located in southwest Orlando, Florida. With almost 70 rooms and cabins for guests, it is an ideal retreat for resting and enjoying golf at the highest level. It houses the Arnold Palmer Golf Academy, recognized worldwide for its golf instructors.
The Bay Hill Story
Bay Hill’s started and was founded back in 1959. That year, two entrepreneurs decided to fulfill their dream of building a golf course near Orlando. That is how Minnesotan Tom Barnes and his partner, Michiganian Tom Dore, took an option to buy a property they named “Bay Hill”, an allusion to the hills that surrounded the area’s lakes and wetlands. Later, and with the contribution of a group of businessmen from Nashville, the necessary funds were obtained to develop the enterprise. At the end of 1961, the first 18 holes were ready.
Around that time, Orlando and its surroundings were experiencing an unprecedented expansion. In 1965, the purchase of more than 27 thousand acres by Walt Disney marked a before/after moment for the region. Precisely the year in which the idyll between Palmer and Bay Hill began.
Since 1975, Palmer has been fruitfully shaping the complex like an unpolished diamond. The last significant renovation was carried out in 2009. The work was of such magnitude that all 18 greens and their bunkers were redesigned and revamped, improving the general aesthetics, taking the course to almost 7,200 yards in length, and upgrading it from par 71 to par 72.
Arnold Palmer Invitational
Over time, Palmer made so many changes to Wilson’s original design that today we can say that all the holes are made to the absolute taste and like of “The King”. Along with the development and expansion of the complex, “Arnie” also devoted his energy to the tournament we now call the Arnold Palmer Invitational.
The tournament was created in 1979 to continue the Florida Citrus Open Invitational, originally dating from 1966. Since then, the competition has had many different names, retaining its current title since 2007. It is one of the most important tournaments on the PGA Tour calendar and one where all the leading stars on tour want to participate. For the winner, receiving the red cardigan sweater in memory of the late Arnold Palmer is much more than continuing a tradition. It is precisely about being part of the legacy of one of the best golfers of all time. Bryson DeChambeau, Tyrrel Hatton, Rory McIlroy, Tiger Woods, and Ernie Els are just a few celebrities who have triumphed at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.
Bay Hill today
Magic is present in every corner at Bay Hill. Stately mansions nestled in leafy groves surrounded by typical exuberant vegetation. Over the years, the residents of this place have given it a unique and welcoming imprint. As if it were a big family, their hospitality is ever-present, especially for those who come to Bay Hill for the first time.
Every guest who has ever stayed at the lodge says: “residents and staff give you the feeling of being in a private club, without you being a member.” The warmth of its suites and the comfort of all the lodge facilities and premises make it exceptional.
At least once in your lifetime, it is worth taking a few days off, packing your golf clubs and visiting Bay Hill to enjoy a unique golfing experience. Ultimately, it is about breathing and experiencing the legendary Scottish sports history like Arnold Palmer envisioned it.