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June 2018
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Senior Spectrum Publications

Simply Smart Travel
by Jeff Orenstein and Virginia Orenstein
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Arnold Palmer Bay Hill Golf Club and Lodge

Teeing off at one of the club’s 27 holes.
Teeing off at one of the club’s 27 holes.
Credit: Jeff Orenstein, Simply Smart Travel

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.

The 17th hole
The 17th hole is typical of the beautiful and difficulty layout of the Bay Hill courses. Credit: Bay Hill Golf Club and Lodge

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.

statue of Arnold Palmer
The statue of Arnold Palmer dominates the tee-off area next to the Bay Hill clubhouse. Credit: Jeff Orenstein, Simply Smart Travel

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.

Before You Go, Check out:

portico of the Lodge
The portico of the Lodge is typical of the beautiful landscaping found throughout the Bay Hill Golf Club and Lodge. Credit: Jeff Orenstein, Simply Smart Travel

Getting There:

Must Sees/ Dos for A Short Trip:

If You Have Several Extra Days, enjoy:

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”

Rolex clock and flowers
The beautiful Rolex clock and flowers are part of the Bay Hill golf ambiance. Credit: Jeff Orenstein, Simply Smart Travel

This Destination At A Glance

Over 50 Advantage: Bay Hill caters to golfers and their families with unhurried luxury and service.

Mobility Level:

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