A new-found appreciation for Bay Hill Club & Lodge
I have to admit the first time I visited Bay Hill Club & Lodge earlier this decade I was impressed. But not that impressed.
The golf course, site of the Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by MasterCard (back then it was sponsored by Cooper Tires), regularly provides must-see TV when the PGA Tour comes to town, but playing it wasn’t the blow-me-away experience I expected from such a respected venue. The course felt like so many other Florida country club layouts I’d seen … too flat and too predictable (bunkers in front, water here or there).
After playing golf at Bay Hill a second time last week, consider me a born-again fan.
You always learn so much more playing a course a second time. There’s infinite personality and variety to be had from any of tees (from 6,220 yards to 7,287 yards for men). The pros just bomb and gouge to attack it, but the everyday members and guests have to think their way around.
There’s enough subtle movement in the land to create elevated greens and dips and hollows in the fairways and even a few semi-blind tee shots.
The greens are deceptively difficult to read. The fairway corridors are spacious, and yet, there’s better windows of opportunity for drives that find the proper angle of attack.
The par-4s are vicious, especially the famous par-4 18th over the rocks and water, where Tiger Woods has made several million-dollar putts. Even still, Bay Hill is no one-hole wonder.
The finishing run - the short, go-for-broke par-5 16th, the tough par-3 17th and tournament-wrecker 18th hole - rival the Stadium course at TPC Sawgrass as Florida’s best PGA Tour finish. Expect more fireworks at the 2009 Invitational, especially if Woods is able to defend his title March 23-29.
I’ve never had the full Bay Hill experience, staying at the cozy 70-room lodge with luxury dining and lavish spa treatments or a lesson at the golf academy. However, I have no doubt it would be a memorable time. If it’s good enough for Palmer, it certainly has to be good enough for you and me. He is The King after all.
For more, visit bayhill.com or bayhillinvitational.com. Here is what readers have to say about Bay Hill.
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