Bay Hill Club (Championship)

Bay Hill Club (Championship) – Played January 2017

  • Rankings: Golf Magazine Public #48
  • Location: 9000 Bay Hill Boulevard, Orlando, Florida
  • Year: 1961, 2009 (Update)
  • Architect: Dick Wilson (Original), Arnold Palmer (Update)
  • Course Access: Public
  • Walking Rules: Carts & Caddies Available

Score Card Information:

  • Green: 7,381 yards, Par 72, 75.4 Rating/142 Slope
  • Blue: 6,895 yards, Par 72, 73.7 Rating/139 Slope
  • Yellow: 6,437 yards, Par 72, 71.6 Rating/134 Slope
  • Combo: 6,201 yards, Par 72, 70.5 Rating/131 Slope
  • Red: 5,851 yards, Par 72, 68.9 Rating/129 Slope (Men’s), 74.9 Rating/137 Slope (Women’s)
  • White: 5,129 yards: Par 72: 65.7 Rating/121 Slope (Men’s), 70.8 Rating/125 Slope (Women’s)

This turned out to be a phenomenal trip.  Let me explain.  My wife and I decided to make Bay Hill a stop along the way to our ultimate destination of Tampa where we would watch our Clemson Tigers play in their second national championship in as many years.  Well, I think you know how that turned out.  We won the damn natty! It was an incredible experience and one I highly recommend unless you follow that team from Columbia.

So back to Bay Hill.  We saw that we could make it work on the way down and decided to book a stay.  From what I could see you must stay on the property to get a round scheduled.  We did just that and experienced the small, but quaint lodge.

The history of the land is interesting.  According to the website, the land for the resort was one of the only places in Central Florida that couldn’t grow citrus.  After some changes in ownership of the land, it would eventually become Bay Hill.  The name comes from the bay that touches one piece of the property and the hills around it.  They ended up breaking ground in 1960 and finishing the golf course by late 1961.  Today it has the lodge, a large neighborhood, 27 holes of golf, and many other amenities.

One of the early fans of the resort was Arnold Palmer obviously.  He took over full ownership in 1975 and the place hasn’t looked back.  His death last year was certainly a blow to the golf world and Bay Hill.  I was sad I wouldn’t get to look for him on the range when I visited, but there were mementos of his life all over.

I ended up joining two guys on the third hole.  They were both from Albany, NY, one of them by way of San Diego.  I gave him some grief for ever leaving that weather, but it was all for his wife so I can’t blame him.  They were great guys and had played the course over the prior few days and gave me some good tips.

The weather was chilly and windy with the ball not going very far.  I decided to play the yellow tees and it was all I needed.  Distances are from that set of tees.  Let’s get going on this tour of Arnie’s place!

Hole 1 – 416 yards – Par 4

Here is a look at the tee markers showcasing Arnie’s iconic umbrella logo.

The first hole is a dogleg to the left.  The preferable tee shot is a draw starting at the bunkers seen below.

The green is guarded by plenty of sand, but the putting surface isn’t too complicated once you’re there.

Here is a look at the carts, which also sport the umbrella.

Hole 2 – 200 yards – Par 3

The course tests you from the start.  This long par 3 requires a well struck shot due to the bunker in front.  Anything mishit will be in the sand.  Shots hit to the left will roll away due to the slope.

Hole 3 – 371 yards – Par 4

This tee shot can induce some fear with the thought of a watery grave for your tee ball.  There is actually more room to the right than it would seem, but you still need an accurate drive.

The approach is much easier, but still has trouble lurking on the left.  You will want to favor the right side of this green.

The putting surface is pretty small, but there are plenty of makeable putts on it.  If you hit the green you won’t be too far from the hole.

Hole 4 – 461 yards – Par 5

At this length this hole is a true birdie opportunity.  A solid drive will allow many players to get home in two.  Hug the bunkers up the left side.

The green is slightly elevated and again surrounded by deep bunkers.

Hole 5 – 350 yards – Par 4

Driver is not a necessity on this shorter hole.  The bunkers are certainly in play so you will need something straight to be hitting your approach off the short stuff. Keep it between the sand.

You can see my ball found the sand below.  The green is quite small and a tough target from the bunker.  This shot was about 100 yards.

The bunkering can and will punish you here.  Check out the beast below for an example.

Hole 6 – 493 yards – Par 5

There is plenty of water to avoid on this hole.  John Daly can attest as he made one of his infamous double-digit scores here.  The hole favors a draw.  Obviously the longer player can go further left to carry more water.

A closer look.

The approach features water short and left so second or third shots must be very precise.  The small opening to the green does provide for shots running up onto the surface.

Hole 7 – 159 yards – Par 3

This hole plays only slightly uphill, but there is plenty of elevation change from tee to green as you can see below.  The front bunkers are quite deep and to be avoided.

Hole 8 – 371 yards – Par 4

This medium length hole can be difficult if your tee shot is not properly executed.  If you can muster a power fade off of the bunker you will be in great shape.  The trees on the right can definitely affect the approach shot.

The second shot plays over water to a green with a steep face of rough just in front. Any shot must be at least on the green to stay dry.

Hole 9 – 410 yards – Par 4

The front side finishes with a longer, but not overly difficult hole.  There is plenty of fairway to the right of the bunker to launch your drive.

Once in the fairway the second shot is straightforward, but must avoid the sand. The green is not overly contoured so birdie is an opportunity.

Hole 10 – 360 yards – Par 4

The hole bends to the right as you get past the trees and houses.

Here is a look at the approach.

Hole 11 – 396 yards – Par 4

This is a tough hole for the long game.  The tee shot looks innocent enough, but water is in play down the left side.

Depending on where your tee ball ends up you will have to carry quite a bit of water. The more right off the tee you go the better angle you will have.

The green is quite shallow with some mild undulation.

Hole 12 – 536 yards – Par 5

In the cold conditions we weren’t going to reach this one in two.  I probably wouldn’t have in 85 degree weather.  The fairway bends to the right with trees encroaching pretty quickly.

Here is a look at a typical third shot from the fairway.

The green is large and surrounded by bunkers.  Overall they aren’t too deep and provide opportunities to get up and down.

Hole 13 – 335 yards – Par 4

This hole is short, but you can definitely get into trouble.  The tee shot is not overly taxing so pick your shot based on what you want to hit for an approach club.

The second shot is where the trouble arises.  If you leak something out to the right you will most likely be reaching into your bag for another ball.  I like the aesthetic of the rocks abutting the green.

The green has plenty of gettable putts and is backed by a small runoff area.

Hole 14 – 161 yards – Par 3

This one-shot hole plays uphill to a green that is open in the front, but otherwise surrounded by sand.  The green is also somewhat crowned.

Hole 15 – 392 yards – Par 4

This is an awkward tee shot.  You can’t go left of the bunker with any distance or you will blocked from the green by trees.  You have to take a daring line up the right side to have a good angle.

Once you negotiate the tee shot the approach presents you with an opportunity.  The shot is not that difficult so birdie is possible.

Here is a look at the green and the runoff area to its right.

Hole 16 – 457 yards – Par 5

From our tees this hole plays short and is definitely an opportunity to get one back against Old Man Par.  Longer hitters can carry the bunker on the right.

The approach is straightforward, but beware because there is water lurking just to the left of the people you can see on the green in the photo below.

As I said!

The green slopes back to front.

Hole 17 – 166 yards – Par 3

The penultimate hole may be the most scenic.  I liked the idea of letting the front bunker mesh with the water.  There is no hard cutoff and it just looks like a beach. We played into a stiff breeze which made this hole a bear.

Here is a look at the putting surface.

Hole 18 – 403 yards – Par 4

The last hole is a doozy as we have seen from watching the tournament on TV.  The tee shot landing area is blind and you want to be confident in your line.  Water can be in play for longer hitters if the ball drifts to the right.

The iconic approach as the players see it.

The green is wide, but not very deep.  You can see why distance control is so important on this hole.  The traditional Sunday pin is on the far right side of the green where it is not much short grass to hit.

This course was a really good time.  I always enjoy playing courses I have seen the pros encounter.  It was cool to stare down some of the same shots they have.  I was sad that I didn’t have a chance to meet Mr. Palmer, but glad I got to experience the course that he loved.  If you find yourself in the area I would definitely recommend a stay.  You will love the course and be able to soak up all the history that Mr. Palmer had to offer.

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