Friday, December 13, 2013

47 (Public) Bay Hill Club & Lodge

November 6, 2013

Like the majority of people that read this blog, I have a tremendous amount of respect for Arnold Palmer. So, when I found out I had a business trip to Orlando, I knew I had to try to play at Bay Hill. I took the red eye from Seattle so I could arrive in Orlando in the early afternoon and still be able to hit the course. It is listed throughout The World's 500 Greatest Golf Holes. The 18th hole is listed in the top 100 holes of the world. The 17th hole listed in the top 500 holes of the world, as well as one of the 18 most penal holes in the world.

Upon arrival, I checked in at the Bay Hill Lodge.  I had a spectacular view of the course as seen in the photo below.

I had always thought the window you see in the photos was a painting or doctored up. But, that is the actual view out on the course.  I also like the fact that you get a care package that included a cup, hat clip with ball marker, and other assorted souvenirs. My wife loves the scent of the shampoo and body wash you also receive as is standard in any top notch hotel.

After checking in and breaking my clubs out of my hard shell travel case, I took the 3 minute walk to the clubhouse where I was greeted with a very friendly crew. I purchased a logo shirt and ball and then made my way to the starter.  Unfortunately, I don't think they allow walking here, at least not for visitors, as I was saddled with a cart.  Also, my string of bad luck with playing the course by myself continued from my experience at Harbour Town. The two gentlemen I was scheduled to play with had arrived early and teed off. There was no one else on the tee sheet for the rest of the day so I apparently had the course to myself for the remainder of sunlight.  

I was initially disappointed as I was slated to play the Challenger and Champion courses, but ended up being assigned the Charger and Champion courses. The Charger 9 holes were closed for repairs and maintenance. But, it is hard to be disappointed for long at a course that hosts one of the tournaments most favored by the PGA Tour professionals.

In the grand scheme of things, I don't think there were a lot of holes that stood out on their own. Everyone knows the 18th is notable among golf's most dramatic finishing holes. The 3rd (dogleg around water), 6th (another dogleg around water), 8th, 11th (surprise -  a dogleg around water), and 13th holes had water around or near them that made them challenging. I did quite enjoy the 17th and 18th hole finish. Otherwise, the house-lined fairways on the rest of the course proved surprisingly dull. Please don't take that statement as denigrating the course by claiming it wasn't well maintained and in superb shape. The care put into it is definitely evident on every hole and shows in the few photos that I took. I think if I had the opportunity to play the Charger course, it would have been a much more memorable round.

The 8th green at Bay Hill. 
The 13th green at Bay Hill. This was probably tied for my favorite hole on the course. A good drive down the middle of the fairway at about 250, sets up for a great opportunity to hit right at the flag.
#18 is listed as one of the top 100 holes in The World's 500 Greatest Golf Holes
Number 18 at Bay Hill was the other half of the tie for my favorite hole at Bay Hill. The shot is challenging across water and then sand to hit the green. As you can see from the photo, I got lucky with the wind direction on this day and was able to place the ball 5 feet from the hole to finish the round with a birdie. Besides being rated as one of the top 100 holes in the world by The World's 500 Greatest Golf Holes, #18 received several other accolades. They include:
  1. One of the most difficult 18 holes on the planet.
  2. One of the 18 best non-ocean, water holes on the planet.
  3. One of the best 18 holes designed since 1970.
  4. One of the 18 holes that have produced great moments.

On hole 14, I finally caught up with the twosome who I was supposed to play with. They weren't interested in me joining them for the final five holes so I waited until they finished 14. While waiting, another single caught up to me. We struck up a conversation and hit it right off. Luckily, he had the same first name as me (Mike) and so was easy to remember.

After finishing up on 18, we shook hands and he mentioned he was the chef at the Lodge.  He advised that Mr. Palmer had just arrived back in town and sometimes frequented the Bay Window Room for dinner.  We thanked each other for a great one-quarter of a round and went our separate ways. I made it back to my room, showered and changed for dinner, and headed over to the Bay Window Room for dinner.

As it turns out, I was the only one in the restaurant at the time. I ordered up my steak and wine, and while just killing time waiting for dinner, in walks none other than Mr. Palmer himself! There is nothing like having dinner alone in a restaurant with one of the greatest legends golf has ever known. He was also gracious enough to take a photo with me. A short time later, another gentleman entered the restaurant and came over to introduce himself. He was the notable PGA Champion Dow Finsterwald. It was quite the evening and one I will never forget!

Mr. Palmer and I at the Bay Window Restaurant.

Mr. Finsterwald and I at the Bay Window Restaurant.

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