While many of America's exclusive private clubs have rigid guest play policies, Mr Palmer (A.K.A. The King) makes it simple and easy to play the highly rated Bay Hill Golf Club, home to the PGA TOUR's Arnold Palmer Invitational Presented by MasterCard.
All you must do to tee up at Bay Hill is stay at Palmer's 70-room lodge. Better still, as a resort guest you essentially become a member during your stay.
"We're different from a standard golf resort in that every guest at the lodge has member privileges during their stay with access to all the various services and amenities our members enjoy every day," says Roy Schindele, director of sales and marketing at Arnold Palmer's Bay Hill Club & Lodge. "You get a distinct feeling of exclusivity you won't find at a golf resort."
The prices aren't bad either. Schindele says Mr. Palmer insists on giving guests the same prices that members pay. For instance, I had a terrific breakfast of French Toast with prime choice bacon for $10 and paid only $4.5o for a glass of Cabernet (Luna, Arnold Palmer 2011). Mrs. Guru opted for Mr. Palmer's Chardonnay for the same price.
Moreover, there are no annoying resort, parking or Internet fees.
"Our amenities are things to be enjoyed by our guests and members, not profit centers," he says.
Schindele insists what makes the property special beyond the great golf course and Mr. Palmer's input is the tremendous staff.
"We're different because we have so many long-time employees on our staff who are very dedicated and take great pride in representing Mr. Palmer," Schindele says. "It's one of the main reasons we have so many repeat visitors."
If you visit the Club & Lodge from mid-October to April you might even get to meet Mr. Palmer, who is a part-time resident at Bay Hill. Several staff members told me Mr. Palmer retains a strong presence at the club and is approachable and loves to mingle with guests on the course and in the dining rooms and Members Lounge.
Just a few steps from the Lodge are 27 holes of golf comprised of three nines.
Site of the PGA TOUR's Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by MasterCard, the 7,381-yard, par 72 Championship Course (comprised of the Challenger and Champion nines) is a spectacular layout that incorporates beautiful lakes, bold bunkering, elevated tees, sometimes rolling fairways and dogleg holes.
Bay Hill reflects the personality of Palmer, one of the modern era's most daring and aggresive players. The course, which sweeps along the shores of the Butler Chain of Lakes, is long with a good number of tight fairways.
The most talked-about, and fun-to-play holes are the final two. The seventeenth is a 221-yard par-3 with a large green protected by water and treacherous pin positions. One of the best finishing holes on the PGA TOUR, the eighteenth, a 458-yard, par-4 is as picturesque as it is challenging. For birdie, you must hit an accurate mid-iron shot over water to a huge, undulating green bordered by deep bunkers on the left side.
Palmer first encountered the course in 1965 during an exhibition match with Jack Nicklaus. Smitten by Dick Wilson's design and the surrounding terrain, Palmer immediately began pursuing its purchase. He and several associates took over a lease on the property in 1970, exercising a purchase option in 1976. Since then, Palmer has tinkered with the course and made numerous nips and tucks to make it better every year.
The 3,324-yard, par 36 Charger Nine is an enjoyable layout with a great mix of holes. Less crowded than the Championship layout, it's an absolutely joyful place to play a late afternoon nine holes or a leisurely round with a spouse who's just learning the game (like Mrs. Guru).
For a video view of the Bay Hill Championship Course, click here to Golf Travel Guru T.V.
The comfortable and cozy lodge has 70 newly renovated guestrooms with private balconies and patios overlooking the golf course and gardens. Every room is situated just a few steps from the clubhouse, golf course, pool, spa and beauty salon.
--27 inch flat screen T.V. with cable channels
--Complimentary coffee and tea presented in sitting areas a few steps from guestrooms
--Great views from private balconies and patios
--Luxuriously appointed bathrooms
Major amenities and offerings:
--27 holes of golf
--Spa and Salon at Bay Hill
--9,000 square-foot Conference Center
--6 tennis courts
--Marina at Bay Hill
10 Little Things I Liked:
1. The exclusive toiletries that are made for Bay Hill and Latrobe Country Club guests.
2. The amazing, high-quality, prime choice bacon served at the Grill Room for breakfast.
3. The phenomenal vintage pictures of Mr. Palmer and other golf scenes which dot the hallways and common areas in the Lodge and clubhouse.
4. The delicious grilled chicken wrap at the Terrace Cafe overlooking the swimming pool.
5. The traditional and cozy Members Lounge (bar) where resort guests are welcome.
6. The extra large showerheads in the beautifully appointed bathrooms.
7. The large, junior Olympic size swimming pool.
8. The expansive Bay Hill Pro Shop, which has a wide selection of apparel and accessories with the Bay Hill Logo.
9. Every room is located just a few steps from the putting green, pro shop, driving range and the first tee.
10. The location in the Bay Hill Subdivision allows for great walks or jogs throughout the community.
DINING AND LOUNGES
Grill and Classic Rooms--Evoking the ambiance of a friendly and welcoming private club, these dining rooms offer a casually elegant environment with attentive service from long-time employees.
Members Lounge--A relaxing, fireside bar with comfy chairs and sitting areas and drink menu featuring a good selection of single malt whiskeys, traditional cocktails and Arnold Palmer wines.
Bay Window Lounge--The recently renovated lounge, overlooking the putting green and famed Rolex clock, features big screen televisions.
Terrace Cafe--Featuring indoor and alfresco dining, this cafe overlooking the swimming pool has a menu of lighter fare selections and Arnold Palmer wines.
THINGS TO DO
Universal Orlando--Located about a 5-minute drive from the resort (2.3 miles), the theme park complex is home to various movie-based attractions, including The Wizarding World of Harry Potter.
On-site marina with world-class bass fishing--Little known to non-residents and lodge guests is the fantastic marina near the resort. You can catch bass, speckled perch, bluegill, catfish and more. Veteran fishing guides are available, too.
Restaurant Row on Sand Road--Orlando's highest concentration of restaurants are located less than a five-minute drive from Arnold Palmer's Bay Hill Club & Lodge. Among the most popular are locally owned, upscale favorites Chatham's Place and Christini's Ristorante Italian and celebrated chains like Roy's, Seasons 52, Ocean Prime, Rocco's Tacos and Tequila Bar and Bar Louie.
Shopping at the Mall of Millenia--About a 10-minute drive from the resort, this expansive mall is Orlando's most upscale with anchor stores like Macy's and Bloomingdale's, specialty stores such as Apple, Kate Spade and Vera Bradley, restaurants like Capital Grille and The Cheesecake Factory and the Blue Martini lounge.
Play golf at a nearby course--Courses within a 15 minute drive include MetroWest, Marriott's Grande Pines, Grand Cypress Resort and Walt Disney World Resort.
Arnold Palmer's Bay Hill Club & Lodge is located in a beautifully landscaped residential community in southwest Orlando a few minutes from Universal Orlando Resort. Address: 9000 Bay Hill Boulevard, Orlando, FL 32819
GET THE SCOOP
For more information and or reservations, click to Arnold Palmer's Bay Hill Club & Lodge or call 407-876-2429.