October 22, 2017
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Bay Hill … a must stop when visiting Orlando

written by Steven Zinger @spyzinger
It’s rare in professional sports that the average everyday fan can play on or in the same venue where their favorite team plays.  When the opportunity arises to play not only a private club, but one that hosts a PGA Tour stop, it’s a pretty special day for me.  But this isn’t just any tournament, and the host isn’t just any host.  This is the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill.

This past month, I had the rare opportunity to play Arnold Palmer’s Bay Hill, in Orlando, FL.  When I pulled into the facility, I quickly realized that I was not at a country club.  This is a golf club.  The clubhouse and adjacent lodge is understated.  Where Bay Hill shines and separates itself from the Orlando pack is it’s focus on how they treat their guests.  As an average everyday hack, the staff at Bay Hill treated  me like the most important person they would encounter that day.  The quality of the actual golf doesn’t start in the parking lot, but the atmosphere and tone for the day is.  Much like Disney down the road, Bay Hill is doing things right in the way they welcome their members and guests of the lodge.

Arriving on the first tee, you can’t help but replay the history of tournaments past, and the legends that have started their round in much of the same way I started my round.  It’s a bucket list course rich in history.  You assume the mindset that today, score doesn’t really matter.  It’s more about the experience as well as the opportunity to play one of the most recognized stops on the PGA Tour.  The tee boxes, locations from the fairway, and tight pin positions you see on T.V. will become your reality for the day.  In many ways, it will be as close as anyone will ever come to playing a PGA Tour event.  The playing conditions, as expected, are next to perfect.

One of the surprises coming off the 18th at Bay Hill was how fair the course is for the average guy.  Yes, it’s long, and there is a definite emphasis on shotmaking.  However, there is a lot of green grass outside the fairways making it easy to recover from errant tee shots.  Other than landing at the bottom of a pond, it’s difficult to lose a ball at Bay Hill.

Walking into the clubhouse after the round to grab a sandwich, I stopped dead in my tracks with a moment of starstruck.  Arnold Palmer, the man himself, was sitting there having himself some lunch right among the rest of us.  But, I hear that is par for the course for Palmer.  He often drives his cart right up on the practice range to talk to his members, or watches them come in on 18.  The man loves the game, and it’s in that spirit that the Bay Hill Club and Lodge operate.  They love the game, and they have a passion for ensuring you do as well.

I am Fernando, Editor and Publisher of South Florida Golf. My goal will always be to make sure you have a great time while visiting our website or reading our digital magazine. I'm an old school guy happily married with 35+ years of serious golf under my belt. Former mini-tour player, Florida Atlantic University Grad... I follow Miami Dolphins, Miami Heat, Miami Marlins, Panthers and anything related to South Florida .. Contact me at fs@sfgmagazine.com or @SOFLAGOLF

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