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Simply Smart Travel
by Jeff Orenstein and Virginia Orenstein
Arnold Palmer Bay Hill Golf Club and Lodge
Orlando, the theme park capital of the world, is also famous as a premiere golf destination. Almost 150 courses, the annual PGA Equipment Show, year-round golf weather and a PGA Tour event assure Orlando’s place in golf’s pantheon.
One of the brightest stars of Orlando golf is Arnold Palmer’s Bay Hill Golf Club and Lodge, the site of the annual PGA Tour Bay Hill Invitational Tournament.
Dating back to 1960 and redeveloped by legendary Palmer himself, the Bay Hill facility is truly world-class. Until his death in 2016, Palmer was a frequent guest at his club and photos and memorabilia of his life as a golf pro are found throughout the facility.
The 280acre property on Orlando’s south side features two golf courses (9 and 18 hole courses, both challenging, neither so-called “executive” courses). The beautifully landscaped facility also boasts extensive meeting space, an excellent spa and salon as well as three restaurants and three bars (The Grill and Classic Rooms, The Bay Window, The Terrace Café and the Members Lounge).
Bay Hill was originally part of the Dr. Phillips citrus ranch, an extensive agricultural facility owned by a local physician. He sold off this part because it was not well-suited for citrus and the property was first developed as a golf course in the 1960s, along with the surrounding residential community of Bay Hill, which today features beautiful homes surrounding the golf courses and lining nearby boulevards.
In 1965, Arnold Palmer won a charity exhibition tournament at Bay Hill and he fell in love with this beautiful property and challenging golf venue. He told his wife Winnie that he wanted to own it. By 1970 he negotiated a five year lease for Bay Hill with an option to buy.
By 1979, Palmer had brought the Arnold Palmer Invitational tournament to the PGA Tour. In 2009, the golf star and mogul renovated the golf course, working with his own Arnold Palmer Design Company and his handson changes included a new course layout and increased the yardage from 7,103 to 7,196 and from par 71 to par 72.
Complementing the two challenging courses are a pro shop, the Arnold Palmer Golf Academy, a Tennis Academy, pool and fitness center, an Aquatic and Fitness Center and a Marina with great Bass Fishing on the Butler Chain of Lakes.
It is not necessary to be a lodge member to play either of the Bay Hill courses, although many are. Visiting golfers who stay at one of the 70 Lodge rooms, in a Lodge suite or at one of the adjacent guest cottages (actually one and two bedroom single family homes) have full course and facility privileges.
The Bay Hill Golf Club is not directly on any public transportation line. It can be reached by car off I4, exit 68.
By air, the nearest major airport is Orlando International (MCO) 18 miles distant. Tampa International (TPA) is 84 miles east via I4.
By train, Amtrak serves Orlando on its New York to Miami route. The Orlando station is 26 miles away and the Auto Train southern terminal at Sanford is 50 miles away. SunRail commuter trains serve the Orlando area and the nearest station is currently 10 miles away.
The nearest cruise ship ports are Port Canaveral, 58 miles distant and Tampa at 77 miles away.
Must Sees/ Dos for A Short Trip:
Play a round or two at the Bay Hill Golf Courses, the 18hole Challenger and the 9 hole Charger.
Take a golf lesson at the Arnold Palmer Golf Academy on site.
Enjoy a spa experience at Bay Hill.
Enjoying the on site golf/Palmer ambiance, food and drink.
If You Have Several Extra Days, enjoy:
A Florida Everglades Airboat Tour and Alligator Encounter (Orlando pickup available).
Outlet shopping (many choices) or upscale shopping at Millenia Mall.
Atlantic or Gulf Beaches (Clearwater, St. Pete Beach or Daytona Beach are good choices.)
At least a sampling of Orlando’s many theme parks, shows and museums. A new water park and more theme park additions are slated for this year and Disney World’s many offerings are perennially popular.
A freshwater fishing charter on inland lakes from the Bay Hill Marina. • A tour of Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral.
Ginny O’s Tips For Dressing The Simply Smart Travel Way at Bay Hill:
Dress smartly and appropriately for activities and dining. Resort casual is the order of the day. The club’s strictly enforced dress code includes “no hats in the clubhouse” and “proper golf or casual business attire…Jean shorts, T-shirts, swimwear, tank tops, midriff bearing attire and gym clothes are not permitted on the course, in the clubhouse or in the dining rooms. Regulation tennis apparel must be worn” on the courts and “no cutoffs or extreme suits are permitted at the pool”
This Destination At A Glance
Over 50 Advantage: Bay Hill caters to golfers and their families with unhurried luxury and service.
Low. If you can swing a golf club, ride in a golf cart or relax in a spa, you’re all set.
When To Go:
Year-round. Summers can be hot and sticky, with afternoon rains. November through March is usually gorgeous.
Where to Stay:
At Bay Hill Club. Required for golf access.
Special Travel Interests:
Golf, Arnold Palmer, Orlando attractions.
Jeffrey Orenstein, Ph.D. and Virginia Orenstein are travel writers from Sarasota, Florida. Their Simply Smart Travel column appears in newspapers and magazines in eight states. Reach them at jorenstein@SimplySmartTravel.com