Mark McCormack’s 1967 biography titled, Arnie The Evolution of a Legend, chronicles “The King” from Latrobe, Pennsylvania. In 1959, Palmer asked McCormack to manage his business affairs, he obliged, the two shook hands and that’s the only contract they ever had. McCormack wrote of two key Palmer traits, “he did not relish in the complexities of business, and he could not say no.”
Those three items: handshake contract, dislike for complexities of business and an inability to say no are eternal at Arnold Palmer’s Bay Hill Club & Lodge. A few days in the Lodge and the essence of Palmer emerges.
Ray Easler, Bay Hill general manager, remembers Palmer along the same lines, “I wore a suit to work when I first started working here. Mr. Palmer said my suit made him nervous and reminded him of an attorney. He did not like fufu.”
Bobby Turbeville and Steve Rowland, two longtime friends from South Carolina called their trip to Bay Hill a “bucket list golf vacation.” From the par four, dogleg left first hole to cold beers in the men’s locker-room after the round; their smiles were constant. A little local knowledge goes a long way at Bay Hill. For example, there is no reason to bring the water into play on the par four, third hole. And the same goes for the par five, sixth hole. Experience proved to be helpful for Turbeville, he shaved ten shots on his second go-around to card a sweet little 82.
Also staying in the Lodge were four gentlemen from Ireland. Two are members at Royal Portrush Golf Club, they know what good golf is. We asked them their thoughts of Bay Hill, Andy Morris, Owner of Andrew Morris Golf near Belfast spoke for the group, “Oh, absolute class here. We’ve stayed here five years in-a-row and love it.”
The crew from Ireland was on a first name basis with most of the Bay Hill staff and retold stories of times they’ve received red carpet treatment. They laughed about the time the bartender drove them to a gas station for a late night emergency pack of cigarettes.
Bay Hill is a private club, however guests of the 70-room Lodge share membership privileges such as golf, dining, spa, pool, gym and meeting facilities. The chipping and putting greens are literally on the back doorsteps of the Lodge—ideal for sunset chipping and putting contests. The range, first tee, its three bars and two restaurants are a knockdown wedge away, it’s a cozy and convenient guest experience.
The major hallway from the Lodge to the pro shop is like a museum with special memorabilia and photos that are sure to lure a smile. Photos of Mr. P, Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player and the eight-time winner of the Arnold Palmer Invitational, Tiger Woods, cover the walls.
For years, a chance to see Mr. Palmer was part of the reason to make the trip to Bay Hill. Now that he’s gone, many come to pay their respects and take a photo near the large statue next to the first tee. Understandably so, the chance to remember The King is a key reason to visit Bay Hill—additionally, it’s one of the best stay and play experiences anywhere. Like Bobby Turbeville and Steve Rowland from South Carolina or the crew from Ireland, Bay Hill should be on the agenda; it’s all class—no fufu. It’s rare that a resort is able to reach the guest on an emotional level, but a few days at Bay Hill will do just that. Arnie, you are missed.
Stay and play packages start at $189 per player.