18 thoughts on day 152 at Arnold Palmer‚??s Bay Hill Club (photos to follow)
1. It is great to be rested! We had no excuses today after having a deep nights sleep at the Ramada in Orlando. $25 for both of us is cheap as well thank you priceline.
2. How good is it not to be stopped at the gate by an armed security team looking suspiciously at Dodgy and questioning what we are doing here . .¬† No, Bay Hill has a friendly and welcoming atmosphere and we just drove right on up.
3. ¬†‚??Mr Palmer‚?Ě (as everyone in town calls Arnold Palmer, from the staff to the newspaper guys) owns the entire Bay Hill facility after buying out his partners some years back. The King lives here most of the year, but at the moment it is too hot and he is based up in La Trobe (he flys his own private Jet between the two and around the country to various appointments on the busy schedule he still keeps).¬† Not a bad life.
4. Arnie is a classy guy and at Bay Hill he has created a golf club the way it ought to be.¬† It is classical, comfortable, friendly and yet understated.¬† Some parts are old worldly, like the locker rooms where members sit and play cards and have a drink or two. No food, no waiters just plenty of stories.
5. ¬†Today we lived as Mr Palmer would: we sat at his table for breakfast, we ate his specialty ceasar salad, drank his favourite Hummer cocktail and the Arnold Palmer Iced Tea and Lemonade mix, and visited the Gents locker rooms where he sits and plays cards with his friends.
6. ¬†We did not play golf in the daily Arnold Palmer shootout which is played here daily at noon.¬† Best three scores in the group count and the winning group takes the pot.¬† Every day guys come and have a hit, from PGA tour pro‚??s who love on the course to local members and on about three days a week Mr Palmer himself.
7. ¬†I have never met a group of employees who have spoken so fondly of their job and in particular their boss. ¬†It is incredible the gravitas of Arnold. That said, Mr Palmer no longer has a hands on management role, but as president still has a fairly watchful eye over what goes on.
8. ¬†Mr Palmer‚??s business interests extend far wider than Bay Hill. He has another private club at La Trobe, one at Palm Springs and is one of the partners in the Pebble Beach Golf Resort (which we visited two weeks back and owns a number of golf courses within 17 mile drive ‚?? this place is big bikkies).¬† He also has a number of hospitals in Florida, sells the aforementioned Arnold Palmer drinks, has a golf course design company (indeed Bay Hill was re-designed recently by Mr Palmer) and has a golf course management company.¬† It was a huge shame that we didn‚??t meet the great man, but from all accounts one of the pillars of his success is his personable nature ‚?? every day during our US leg we have heard that this guy is a real gentleman and one of the best, if not the best, examples of fine humans within the golfing world.
9. ¬†Arnold Palmer‚??s personable characteristics rub off on his staff and in Brian Dorn, Arnold has employed an amazing golf operations manager. Brian made today a special one, starting from his welcome over breakfast, looking after us throughout the day and with accommodation in the lodge, and taking us out to dinner at Timpano‚??s ‚?? a local restaurant owned by a member of Bay Hill where we ate so much steak (brilliantly cooked) that I‚??m going to be full for a day. ¬†Brian is an example of one of the great people we have met that I hope to keep in touch with long after this adventure finishes.
10. To the Golf Course!!¬† The home of the Arnold Palmer Bay Hill Invitational on the PGA circuit last won by the big easy, Ernie Els, but common hunting ground for one T Woods who has won here no fewer than 5 times.
11. We were directed around the course today by the Assistant Pro, Kevin, who, god-bless-him is a lefthander. But he can play. Hits a stinging ball off the tee ‚?? and the boy can chip and putt. ¬†Gave pretty good directions as well which definitely took a few strokes off the final score (of 80M and 85J).
12. Bay Hill was remodeled in 2008 with rave reviews from the professionals. From what I gather it was a case of getting rid of the elephants in the greens and remodeling the bunkers.¬†
13. Now the greens have a subtle tilt, and when rolling quickly it would be crucial to leave your pill below the hole. Today they were a little on the slow side (11 days after being punched) but you could see they are normally pure.¬† The bunkers now sit out from the terrain and are both visually intimidating and well positioned. The stark white sand that is firmly packed into them makes the course a beautiful painting of deep green, bright white bunkers and bright blue water.¬† Picturesque in a very American way.
14. There is a lot of water here ‚?? and it is very much in play.¬† For example the 3rd hole played around a massive lake on the left to a green which is narrow, and wedged between bunkers right and water left.¬†¬† Come to think of it, a similar hole to the 11th which has a similar shape but the water cuts even more tightly into the green.
15. The postcard hole here is the 6th.¬† A par five that plays entirely around a huge lake.¬† From the tee block you could actually take aim directly at the pin which is 90 degees to your left. It is a 340 yard carry.¬† Downwind some guys have a crack and Kevin has heard of three members clearing it and being on the green, for one, on a par five!! For 99.9% of mere mortals the play is straight actually away from the hole. If you cut off enough of the lake you can reach the green in two by taking 3 wood again over water. This involves risk, and from 280 yards I just knocked down a 6 iron, wedge combo to make a par. Boring but effective.
16. My two criticisms: The shortest par three is a miniscule 199 yards and all the par threes are between 199 and 230 yards.¬† I think every great golf course should require a set of par threes which are varied and that means hitting something apart from a 3,4 or 5 iron once or twice. ¬†That said 17 (below) is a cracking par three over water and sand to a green which looks about 10 feet deep with more sand and water over the green. Tough going coming in from 220 yards u coming in with a 3 or 4 iron at least.¬†¬† The other feature was the sand in the bunkers. It was consistent and well packed, but the ball had a huge tendency to plug. This is ok most of the time (a bunker is a hazard after all) but probably not when you take a three wood in low (like Jamie did on the spectacularly good dog-leg right par four 8th with a second shot over water).¬† Fortunately Phil T had showed us how to play out of a buried lie in the bunkers earlier in the week.
17. After a sloppy start the golf improved on the back nine when Brian turned up on the 13th and chirped us about not making any birdies. I subsequently made three in four hole which will leave me with fond memories of the back nine here! ¬†¬†The course is not the easiest track off the tips, and I think a score of around 10 under normally wins the tournament here.
18. Finally, the last hole (below with Kevin who made a solid par). An awesome strong par four with water around the green which bends at right angles to the right. The water comes right up to the front edge of the green. So if the pin is back right, the carry over the water is a long way ‚?? much longer than the middle of the green. Playing the hole you can only think of how epic it would have been¬† to see Tiger make birdie here (twice) to win the Bay Hill by one.
The 19th hole: After golf we were fortunate enough to enjoy lunch in the bar (whilst being interviewed for Breakfast radio back home in NZ), a quick work out in the gym and luxury accommodation in the Lodge.¬† The day finished with a personalized touch as well when we went out for dinner with Brian and Kevin at Timpano‚??s. ¬†One of those dinners where you get chatting and then you look at the time and it‚??s late.¬† As Jamie would say we were putting the world to rest.¬† At Timpano‚??s, we also met a great couple, Dana and Martha, who to me epitomized the American attitude of enthusiasm and positivity. They loved our story and when you meet folk like that who are genuinely excited and encouraging it really motivates me on this adventure.
To Brian, Mr Palmer and the team at Bay Hill. Today was one for the memory banks ‚?? a special place which I hope to revisit one day.
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