After many years of attending the Arnold Palmer Invitational, playing the course after the tournament and a couple of one on ones with Mr. Palmer, I finally had the opportunity to spend a few days at the Lodge. Little did I know there was so much more to the Bay Hill Club than golf and dining. It really is the perfect resort to enjoy the King’s winter home and the warm and friendly atmosphere. The quiet residential community that surrounds Bay Hill Club & Lodge makes one feel like you’re at home away from home.
Arnold Palmer was always the gentleman and respectful of his fans, and the staff at the Bay Hill Club give the same attention to their guests as Mr. Palmer would. Upon checking in, we were met by John Anderson, the Bell Captain, who has been at the Club for over 20 years and provided me with some fun anecdotes about working for Arnold. John was kind enough to take me on a tour of the Marina which had recently been redone, the tennis courts, spa and pool.
If you are a fisherman, you can bring your own boat and enjoy the Butler Chain of Lakes with beautiful vistas and great fishing. You can put your boat in right at the Marina, which is behind the Lodge. Arrangements can be made for a guide, Captain Paul, with a fully stocked Ranger Cayman to help find that ‘catch of the day.’ If fishing is not your thing, a ride on the water viewing the natural beauty, Florida wildlife and magnificent homes dotting the shoreline is a great way to relax after a challenging round of golf. There are fishing packages available at BayHill.com or 1-888-422-9445.
If tennis is your game, there are 4 Har-Tru and 2 Deco-Turf courts for your enjoyment, plus professional instruction, a separate Pro Shop stocked with the latest styles of tennis apparel and gear. Complete racquet repair, regripping and restringing are available. Call the tennis shop to book your court time and instruction at 407-876-8027.
When you walk out the entrance to the Lodge, directly to your right is the Spa, Fitness and Salon facility complete with a junior Olympic pool. I had the opportunity to enjoy a morning water aerobics class with some of the members. The salon and spa have a complete menu of services available to pamper oneself with a dedicated staff of professionals, and the fitness center is well equipped with the latest workout machines and certified instructors to insure your safety and best use.
The Lodge is two stories with 70 rooms and 7 cottages for rent. Our well appointed second floor room overlooked the practice putting area with a little patio area to enjoy a beverage. The hallways and rooms are adorned with photographs, paintings and memorabilia on Mr. Palmer’s life. Our room had a photo of him as a young boy hitting golf balls while three school girls watched. In the morning, we enjoyed the complimentary gourmet coffee and teas up the stairs from the lobby.
There are numerous meeting rooms throughout the Lodge that can serve different size groups with over 9,000 square feet of space. The intimacy of the of the Lodge is a perfect place to have a corporate outing, a working weekend, or that memorable wedding or bar mitzvah. The service is impeccable and the staff is experienced and attentive.
Dining at the Lodge covers a full gammit of choices. For breakfast and lunch one can choose between the Grill and the Classics rooms where excellent service and hearty breakfasts are the norm. You are in Florida, so most of the time the Terrace Cafe is open for lunch with alfresco light fare or indoor dining poolside. The Bay Window, which overlooks the practice putting area and the famed Rolex timepiece, is our favorite for fine dining. If you want the warm and fuzzy treatment, then the Members Lounge, complete with fireplace, should be your choice for an evening libation.
Arnold and Jack played an exhibition round at Bay Hill many years ago. Arnold liked what he saw and got a group together in 1974 to buy Bay Hill. It became his winter home with many of his friends from western Pennsylvania spending their winters here, building homes around the course and supporting the club with memberships. In 1979, the tournament started at Bay Hill, taking over from the Citrus Open. The original Dick Wilson design was reimagined by Ed Seay and Palmer, and tweaked by Mr. Palmer numerous times to keep it viable with the continuous growing length of the players with the new ball and equipment.
Bay Hill has 27 holes of championship holes, with 3 distinct nines, the Champion, Challenger and Charger, covering 270 acres of breathtaking landscape. The Champion and Challenger are the two nines used for the Arnold Palmer Invitational, which Tiger Woods has remarkably conquered 8 times. If you want to walk on the hollowed grounds of the greats, including the King, Bay Hill Club & Lodge should be on your bucket list. To reserve your stay and play visit BayHill.com. For information on the Arnold Palmer Invitational, go to Arnold-Palmer-Invitational.tickets-center.com.