Bay Hill was originally developed from a Floridian orange grove and the property is located close to downtown Orlando. The Bay Hill Club & Lodge was the brainchild of a group of investors from Nashville and they commissioned architect Dick Wilson to design the course. In 1961 18 holes opened for play.
Today, Bay Hill is home to the “King” himself. Arnold Palmer fell in love with the place after the Tennessean owners invited Jack Nicklaus, Don Cherry, Dave Ragan and himself to play in an exhibition match in 1965 to promote the club. In 1976, Palmer bought Bay Hill Club & Lodge and it has remained his winter home ever since.
The Florida Citrus Open dates back to 1966 and it became a PGA Tour favourite and a forerunner to the Masters. In 1979, the event moved across town to Bay Hill and the Bay Hill Invitational was born. Today the event is known as the Arnold Palmer Invitational and it attracts big sponsors and the top pros.
Bay Hill Club and Lodge is a 27-hole facility and the Champion, Challenger and Charger are the names of the three loops of nine. The Invitational is played on the Champion and Challenger loops and this long, tight track is considered one of the toughest courses on the Tour, most notably the two long par threes on the back nine (14 and 17), which have dashed the hopes of many would-be champions.
Palmer and his partner Ed Seay have altered much of Dick Wilson’s original design, so today’s Bay Hill is very much the spirit of the King. In summer 2009, the King again altered his classic course. “Bay Hill is a great golf course. We don’t want to change it – let’s tweak it", said Arnold Palmer. “Let's get the greens closer to the water and take the sand where you can see it.”
If you stay in one of Bay Hill’s lodges, you become a member of the Club, sharing in membership privileges, which include the golf. One thing's for sure, you're bound to feel the spirit of the King, which will live at Bay Hill forever.