A visit to Arnold Palmer’s Bay Hill Club & Lodge

A visit to Arnold Palmer’s Bay Hill Club & Lodge

Bay Hill Club & Lodge

Just about a month or so after the last putt dropped at the 2017 Arnold Palmer Invitational, we returned to to experience what it’s like to be a guest at the Bay Hill Club & Lodge where Mr.Palmer called home every winter and spring for nearly the last half century of his life.

Bay Hill Club & Lodge

But we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention the 2017 Arnold Palmer Invitational, which was a celebration of “A Life well Played”, and it was an honor to be on hand to cover the event that won’t soon be forgotten. It was special week dedicated to remembering Arnie.

Bay Hill CLub & Lodge

On a beautiful spring morning in Orlando, the new statue of The King forges an unforgettable symbol of an American icon that is missed by all. The 13 foot effigy stands tall over the 1st tee in homage to the golf legend that continues to inspire so many.

Bay Hill Club & Lodge

Palmer fell hard for the place when he first visited the club for an exhibition match back in 1965 (photo above) and “began the quest to make it his own”. The quiet surroundings, abundant wildlife, and a golf course that fit his eye was exactly what a 35 year old Palmer was looking for. According to longtime assistant and friend Doc Giffin, “It appealed to him because of the privacy, he thought he had found a nice, quiet, lovely place (with a golf course).” In 1970, Bay Hill became his winter home, and in 1979, the PGA Tour moved it’s Central Florida stop permanently to Bay Hill (which was originally designed by Dick Wilson in 1961).

Bay Hill Club & Lodge

To this day, remarkably, Bay Hill remains the serene place that Palmer first laid eyes on over 50 years ago. Located on 270 acres along the Butler chain of lakes between the ultra affluent communities of Windermere and Dr.Phillips, the residences of Bay Hill itself are handsomely modest and unassuming in a locale where gaudy gated mansions are the norm. In fact, for many years, you could have driven through and seen the four time Masters Champion coming out of his condo in the neighborhood to take his dog for a stroll early in the a.m hours.

Despite all of the big time tourism development in the area over the last 45 years (Bay Hill is now bordered to the south by Walt Disney World and to the east by Universal Studios), the place somehow has retained it’s quaint feel, so much so that when you turn west heading into the Bay Hill neighborhoodit seems as if time has stood still and it’s 1975.

The intimate charm of the lodge is felt from the moment you arrive. The staff has a large role in that. It’s almost as if Mr.Palmer has infused a micro-chip of his own welcoming nature into every one of his personnel. While taking notes during my stay, I constantly referred to it as the “A.P Effect”.

Bay Hill Club & Lodge

As we learned, experiencing Bay Hill Club and Lodge as a guest is unique to any other golf destination that we have featured. Yes, it has all of the customary amenities that you’d expect at other well known world class golf destinations. It is a private club for its members, but it also doubles as a big time player in the golf resort industry, not in it’s size, but in it’s stature. The seventy room lodge offers 3 restaurants, 3 bars, an aquatic center, fitness center, spa, salon, Marina (bass fishing), tennis academy, 9,000 sq, ft of meeting space, and of course 27 holes of Arnold Palmer’s personal golf treasureHowever, it’s Mr.Palmer’s culture and DNA that’s branded into the fiber of Bay Hill that makes it the gem that it is today.

You can’t discuss a single element of the place without mentioning his influence and presence here (even today some 9 months since his passing, and likely for several decades to come). It’s a really powerful positive energy that exists here. It’s old school manners, proper presentation and an abundance of kindness.

Bay Hill Club & Lodge

Little cool reminders like Mr.Palmer’s “Umbrella” logo imprinted in the sand ash tray give you an idea of just how well everything down to the smallest detail is well thought out. The AP “Umbrella” logo is recognizable worldwide, and perhaps has an even a greater significance to those here and at Palmer’s club in Latrobe, Pennsylvania.

Bay Hill Club & Lodge

If someone at the club bestows one of The King’s signature pins to you consider it an honor as I did when longtime lockeroom attendant Rick Roberts was kind enough to pass a few on to me after spending some time remembering his boss and friend that he still misses dearly. The card table where Arnie and his group would gather each day is just about a medium length birdie putt away from where Roberts’ would serve up the King’s favorite – Ketel One. He introduced me to Arnie’s close friend and shootout partner Dick Ferris (who brought Palmer into the fold as a co-owner of Pebble Beach along with Clint Eastwood and Peter Ueberroth back in the summer ’99).

Bay Hill Club & Lodge

Recently a $7 million renovation of the rooms was completed – resulting in spacious and comfortable lodging, nothing ostentatious. The feeling conjures up the vibe that you’re staying in Arnie’s spare room at Latrobe. Photos from a “Life Well Played” don the walls of every room. In ours was a black-n-white from the 1965 Ryder Cup Team deboarding at the airport in England. (Unlike many resorts that rotate stock photos in their rooms, every picture in every room at Bay Hill Lodge is a different moment in Arnold Palmer’s life – each selected by Mr.Palmer and his family).

Bay Hill Club & Lodge

The compulsion to pull the curtains away and observe the setting is too much for any golfer to bear. What a great spot to spend a few days, now it’s time to grab the putter and wedge.

Bay Hill Club & Lodge

Another view from just outside the room – the practice putting area, starters booth and 1st tee.

Bay Hill Club & Lodge

On your way to the Salon, Spa, Pool, Lounge, Cafe or Golf Academy you traverse through this beautiful courtyard and gardens.

Bay Hill Club & Lodge

Mr.Palmer’s personal table in the Bay Hill grill room. He would sit in the chair closest to the door so he could see everyone in the room.

Bay Hill Club & Lodge

Palmer’s Payne Stewart award is displayed in Bay Hill’s grillroom

While on property I spoke with many of the key figures at the club not only about Mr.Palmer, but also about the day to day operations at Bay Hill. One of the great people in the industry to sit down with is Roy Schindele who is the Director of Sales and Marketing.

LN: How does the loss of Mr.Palmer impact the day to day operations at the club, and how do you move forward as a staff considering how large of a presence he was on a daily basis?

R.S: “The vibe here at the club comes from the staff that are so proud to have worked with him (Mr.Palmer) directly – carrying on his legacy comes naturally. That’s indicative of the tenure of the people who have worked for him. We have people that have been here 37 years, 34 years, 28 years and right on down the line. Todd (Harris) our Tennis Pro has been here 46 years. If anything we’ve stepped up our game and tightened things up a little bit to his standards and wishes in a very unwavering way” Schindele said. He continued, “The little things of respect and honor have been carried forward. For example try walking down the hallway with your hat on, we’re going to ask you to take it off, because that is what Mr.Palmer would do. His philosophy was consistency, customer service and if you take care of those two things, the bottom line will take care of itself. It’s just a step forward, not necessarily a monetary decision but what’s right for the guest or the member.”

Bay Hill Club & Lodge

Dining in the grill room is another excellent experience. The full 180 degree window view of the the practice areas and 1st tee set the mood for the day. Sometimes the finest of details come in the pursuit of deliciousness, Schindele gave us a minute example of one that you’re sure to notice with your taste buds. While in the grill room having breakfast before departing for home, I made an observation about how spectacular the bacon was – so much so, that I felt compelled to take this photo (above).

The best way I could describe the “Bay Hill Bacon” (as I now refer to it as) is not by it’s texture or taste but by what I would do for another serving. I’d make the 150 mile trek up the Florida Turnpike from West Palm Beach just to get a another portion.

As it turns out, Schindele brought it up without me saying a word. “Our bacon is never frozen from the time it’s produced, to when it’s delivered here, cooked, and put on your plate – because we found that (freezing it) it diminishes the taste.

It costs the club nearly triple of what most resorts pay, but again it’s not a monetary decision, it’s about quality.” Right then I thought Arnie must have loved bacon as much as his guests.” Once again I jotted down “The A.P Effect”.

Bay Hill Club & Lodge

While a guest, work on your game all you want, the staff will keep you supplied with pyramids of range balls all day long.

Bay Hill Club & Lodge

Mr.Palmer’s spot on the range is still set up each day in memory of where he enjoyed spending so much of his time each day before heading out to play in the daily “Shootout” match with his regulars. During the PGA Tour stop in March his golf bag was also on display here on the far right side of the practice tee. Quite often he’d be seen back out here in the evenings tinkering with a new club or swing thought. Many like Lee Trevino, Jack Nicklaus, and Gary Player have said that no one ever loved the game of golf more than Arnold Palmer.

Bay Hill Club & Lodge

My last evening at the lodge I had the entire shortgame area to myself, oh what it must be like to be a member. Being a guest is the next best thing.

Bay Hill Club & Lodge

In the photo (above), look beyond the statue towards the lodge – you can see PGA Tour Pro Dicky Pride working on his putting. He later would tell me “That is definitely my testing spot,” Pride said. “I use the windows of the dining room as a mirror to check my setup.”

Bay Hill Club & Lodge

Close friend of Arnold Palmer and golf legend himself Dow Finsterwald is a member and resident at Bay Hill. We spent a few minutes watching the 1958 PGA Champion make putt after putt from 8 feet and all he could say was “they’re not going in the center of the cup.” Still a competitor at 87 years old. On any given day, you can bump into a golf legend like Dow at Bay Hill.

Bay Hill Club & Lodge

Superintendent Chris Flynn’s Agronomy Team moves through each golf hole with remarkable precision.

Bay Hill Club & Lodge

The main attraction at Bay Hill is always the golf course and it lived up to expectations, challenging a young tour player and a middle aged grinder with every club in the bag. We had a magnificent day on Arnie’s championship layout. The 184 yd par 3 seventh (pictured above).

Bay Hill Club & Lodge

The 460 yard par 4 eighth was sporting a tucked championship Sunday pin (even though it was a Monday). It played as our seventeenth (we started on the back nine), it’s also where I missed an 10 footer for birdie to keep the match alive. The young pro (Michael Kartrude) had closed me out 2&1.

Bay Hill Club & Lodge

The 438 yard eleventh has danger written all over it. There are no shortage of right to left approach shots on Arnie’s signature course. Afterall it was the King’s natural shot shape. You can see the water level in this photo, Florida was in serious drought conditions in late April. Now, not so much.

Bay Hill Club & Lodge

A view from beside the 221 yards back tee on the gorgeous seventeenth. The blue tees where I played from were 177 yards.

Bay Hill Club & Lodge

The 458 yard par 4 eighteenth is easily one of the more memorable finishing holes on the PGA Tour. It has been the scene of so many victorious Tiger celebrations that were shared with Arnie. In 2016, it was Jason Day who celebrated here with Mr.Palmer one last time.

Bay Hill Club & Lodge

One of the really cool items inside the clubhouse is this guitar that ZZ Top gave Palmer as a gift.

Bay Hill Club & Lodge

This timeless black and white image from the Masters Par 3 contest shows Arnie and Tiger Woods playing to a magnificent throng of patrons. It might be my single favorite golf photo. It was a gift from former Pennsylvania Governor Tom Ridge to Sam Saunders. Today it hangs in the clubhouse just outside the grill room.

Bay Hill Club & Lodge

This wall of Palmer golf memories in the grill room is a reminder of what a full life he led and those he shared it with.

To be at Bay Hill is a treat in itself. It’s a Lodge, a private golf club and resort all in one. To be a Stay n Play guest taps you into that whole experience, but first and foremost it is Arnold Palmer’s (winter) home and will always remembered and honored as such. Mr.Palmer’s family has done an outstanding job of carrying it forward. The staff here are truly an extension of him and his legacy. So when you arrive and check in at the lodge, soak it all in – we did.

When I pulled out of Bay Hill and made the right hand turn onto Apopka- Vineland road heading for home, I had this hard to describe feeling, it was as if I had just exited one era in my rear view mirror, and entered into another looking forward. I thought “Wow, that’s powerful. It’s a one of kind intangible sensation you have while on the grounds. I stopped at a red light a few miles down the road, took out my note pad and one last time jotted down: “AP Effect”.

Bay Hill Club & Lodge

If you ask me about a lasting vision that I take away from Bay Hill each time I’m on property – it is this photo. It requires no explanation. It simply makes me smile . . . #ArnieWould

For more info or to book your stay at Arnie’s Place: http://www.bayhill.com/

 

Picture
Jason  Bruno
LinksNation.com & GolfLife.com

 

Dave Pelz Backyard is Tribute to Golf

Dave Pelz Backyard is Tribute to Golf

Golf Life got the opportunity to visit one of the most amazing backyards ever created. We show you a golfer’s paradise or what top teacher Dave Pelz calls his backyard.  Watch the interview with the legendary short game guru and his son, who run Dave Pelz Synscapes.  Together they have built possibly the most amazing private golf properties of it’s kind.

Come on along it’s going to be a fun ride.  Dave Pelz states, “I’ve lived on golf courses all my life and my son who built this backyard said, you are no longer living on a golf course, you’re living on golf!”.

Lake of Isles Golf Club and Resort

Lake of Isles Golf Club and Resort

Lake of Isles Golf Club & Resort

Golf Life was invited to a product launch for TaylorMade Golf at Lake of Isles Golf Club & Resort in Connecticut. However, we found the course to be too amazing not to tell the world about the captivating views and the overall fun are what makes this golf course one of the best. Lake of Isles has so many beautiful sights that it’s hard to pick a favorite hole. From the amazing bridges that drift through the forests or the amazing lakes that the holes wind around. The overall scenery is stunning and brings a joy that nobody can refuse.

Lake Of Isles

The course itself has fun obstacles and if you want to play from the back, you have to put your ball in play. After your initial drive every hole has these amazing fairways that feel like you’re hitting straight off of carpet. The greens are spectacular and well kept. However, they are big so you have to get the ball near the cup. Though the challenges are tough it’s very doable to play a good game. If you want to move up a tee box to make it not so difficult you can. The course is overall a spectacular setting for golf and you will be sure to enjoy your game.

Lake Of Isles

Lake of Isles Golf Club is such a vibrant and enjoyable golf course. While we were playing we even got to see some wildlife at the course and the cart paths through the forests were breathtaking. All 18 holes at Lake of Isles Golf Course are unique and each of them are stunning. But don’t just take our word for it go out and play a round at Connecticut’s Lake of Isles Golf Club yourself and enjoy every second of the vibrant and nature full golf course.

Lake Of Isles

For even more information or to set up a tee time, visit their website at lakeofisles.com.

Elevate Your Golf Game at Revere Golf Club

Elevate Your Golf Game at Revere Golf Club

Elevate Your Golf Game at Revere Golf Club

When looking to getaway and play some golf you have several options out there for you to choose. Las Vegas has some of the best golf available across the country. Beginners to advanced golfers have different style of golf courses at their finger tips. From courses on the strip to courses a few miles away, Vegas Golf has you covered. Golf Life had the chance last year to visit the Revere Golf Club while filming the World Golf Skills Event. We knew that this was a course we had to come back and play.

Revere Golf Club

The Revere Golf Club is located in Henderson, just a few miles from the strip. 36-holes of championship golf with panoramic views offering golfers of all skill types the opportunity of a lifetime. The Revere Golf Club has two distinct courses, the Lexington and Concord. Each course offers its own unique challenges to golfers.

Revere Golf Club

Staying on the strip? No problem! The Revere Golf Club offers special Las Vegas golf vacation packages including transportation to and from your Las Vegas hotel. After your round you can stay and enjoy a meal or beverage at Buckman’s Grille located in the clubhouse. They also offer a multitude of golf instruction packages that will fit any and all of your golfing needs. The Golf Academy will provide the highest quality of instruction from PGA Professionals to juniors, men and women of all ages and skill levels.

Revere Golf Club

The Revere Golf Club also provides an all-inclusive Las Vegas wedding experience. They literally can take care of the venue to catering to florists and photography, so you can enjoy your special day. They have three outdoor and one indoor site, with space enough to host up to 350 guests.

This course is a must play while visiting Sin City. Plan your next golf-cation and make sure to plan an outing at the Revere Golf Club. For information, visit reveregolf.com or call 702-259-4653.

 

PGA Golf Club – Dye Course (restoration)

PGA Golf Club – Dye Course (restoration)

PGA Golf Club – Dye Course (restoration)

It’s during this time of year when much of the U.S is under a blanket of snow and frigid temperatures, which is always a good time to focus on those warm weather destinations that offer the finest hospitality and golf to our northern friends.

There’s a big revitalization going on at the PGA of America’s flagship golf property – PGA Village in Port St.Lucie, Florida. Jimmy Terry, the club’s General Manager is leading the effort of a five year improvement plan and it shows. During the season it’s not uncommon for PGA Golf club to host 600 rounds per day on its 72 holes of Championship Golf. When we arrived on a gorgeous sun drenched January afternoon the club was playing host to the annual PGA Senior-Junior Team Championship.

PGA Village

I have to admit it was our first time at PGA Village in many years, word had reached me from my travel scribe brethren that the recently renovated Dye Course was worthy of our attention. Since PGA Village is just an hour from our home base in West Palm, it became front and center on our radar as we learned of the Dye re-opening last fall. After an amazing lunch at the club’s Taplow Pub, it was off to our round on the Dye.

Taplow Pub at PGA Golf Club

Taplow Pub at PGA Golf Club

The Dye course was the third championship layout built at PGA Golf Club, opening in 2000 after the two Tom Fazio designs – Wanamaker and Ryder (formerly known as the North and South courses). St.Lucie Trail rounds out the stable of championship routings for the club (originally designed by Jim Fazio, it has also undergone a similar facelift back in 2014). PGA Village is obviously very involved in growing the game, and the 6-Hole Family Short course is a great example of that. If tuning up your game is the focus, the 35 acre PGA learning center is one of the finest of its kind in the world.

PGA Learning Center

PGA Learning Center features a massive sand bunker complex where you can practice virtually any type of sand shot imaginable.

After 15 years the Dye layout had lost some of its luster, so an overhaul was in order. Although Pete Dye gave his approval on the work, it was Head Agronomist Dick Gray and staff that went to work restoring the links style beauty. “All we did was restore the greens back to Pete’s original intent, and put new skin on them, Gray said.”  “Then we just re-faced the bunkers.” Gray and his staff also uncovered bunkers that had become overgrown by bermuda turf over the years. New Celebration turf in the fairways and Tif-eagle greens restored to Dye’s original dimensions have it looking and playing better than ever.

par-5 seventh hole

As you can see from the photo above, it was a picture perfect January day in South Florida for our spin around the Dye course. The par-5 seventh is very gettable, but the task becomes robust if your tee shot finds this wicked combination of sand and turf that guards the right side of the fairway. Not sure what it says about you if you fancy this bunker compound, but I do . . . maybe it’s because Pete Dye has a way of creating demonic golf landscapes that are beautiful. Whatever the reason, I find that the more I experience Pete’s designs, the more affinity I gain for his sinister work.

PGA Golf Club

The tranquil setting at the Dye is a blend of some of the best natural Florida surroundings – mature Slash and Loblolly Pines, wetlands, coquina waste areas and of course clear blue skies. There are no hardscapes to be seen (other than the halfway house snack bar between the ninth green and tenth tees). The complex around the 11th green (shown above) offers more extreme obstacles the further you get from the putting surface. Note the angled and raised pot bunker that’s circled by 6 ft of thick bermuda rough some 40 yards from the pin. Is it Picasso, mad scientist or genius? Perhaps all three, but one thing it’s not – is ordinary.

PGA Golf Club

Pete Dye gives the golfer a less intimidating visual from the tee here than on many of his more famous layouts like Kiawah Ocean, Whistling Straits and TPC Sawgrass, but just like those, hitting the correct side of the fairway is paramount to having the best angle for each approach. 

Spending the day on the updated Dye was a blast, conditions were superb and the course provided more than it’s fair share of challenges (we used every club in the bag). Coming down the finishing holes at gloaming is a sight and a day that we won’t soon forget. We look forward to our next visit to PGA Viillage, where later this spring we’ll feature the St.Lucie Trails Course.

For more info: https://www.pgavillage.com/

Picture
Jason  Bruno
LinksNation.com & GolfLife.com
Myrtle Beach – Mystical Golf

Myrtle Beach – Mystical Golf

Myrtle Beach: Mystical Golf

mystical-golf-green

Mystical Golf is a triple layer of Myrtle Beach golf properties within the abundant golf locale of the Grand Strand. Recently we traveled to Myrtle Beach and experienced The Wizard, Witch and Man-O-War layouts, under perfect autumn weather just 3 weeks removed from the fury of Hurricane Matthew. The storm unleashed its wrath upon the area with damaging winds that took down over 100 mature trees on the Mystical trio of routings (dumping nearly 20 inches of rain). We’re always amazed by the work of agronomy teams after such damaging weather. The excellent playing conditions we were provided just a few weeks after the storm made landfall in South Carolina was a testimony to the entire Mystical Golf staff.

mystical golf green 2

The island par 3 – 17th at the Wizard.

Mystical Golf is the brainchild of owner and course operator Claude Pardue. Pardue is an old school golf entrepreneur who operates way outside of the modern business model (he doesn’t believe in POS systems, or layers of management. He believes heavily in giving back to the community’s youth and being visible to his customers nearly every day at each of his three courses (for a more detailed look into Claude Pardue and his business model, check out Trent Bouts’ in-depth feature “On His Terms” by clicking on the link:

http://www.golfbusiness.com/article.aspx?id=3592&bq=6yfv%5Eg433$ ).

Pardue hired golf course designer Dan Maples to craft the trio of routings, and Maples came through with three completely unique experiences for the avid linkster.

mystical-golf-clubhouse

The Wizard clubhouse is a replica castle that overlooks the ninth (shown) and eighteenth greens. A wide open links style design, the Wizard will test your ability to control your golf ball on windy days (of which there are countless in the coastal community of Myrtle Beach). Bent grass greens aren’t the usual surfaces this far south, but both the Wizard and Man-O-War courses feature smooth Bent that rolls pure (the Witch has a hybrid Bermuda greens).

mystical golf green 3

Man-O-War has the flavor of parkland Carolina but water is a feature in some part on all 18 holes (14th hole shown above). Many will choose M.O.W as their favorite course in the Mystical portfolio because of the playability and variety including generous fairways and mammoth sized Bent grass putting surfaces. Lag putt proficiency is a must in order to score here.

mystical golf clubhouse 2

The Witch is anything but what the name implies. Set within 500 scenic acres, the Witch offers perhaps the best test of golf anywhere within Myrtle Beach proper. “The Broomstick” has a bit of everything, rolling fairways, magnificent par 3’s, well-undulated hybrid Bermuda greens and the demand that your ball striking be its very best. The experience starts with a magnificent cart ride through a shaded corridor of nature’s canopy en route to the 1st tee. Dan Maples’ routing traverses through magnificent foliage and undisturbed wetlands where vibrant Wildlife is intimately up close here on the 6796-yard championship layout. Maples’ arrangement of eclectic topography within such a beautiful setting has the Witch easily as my personal favorite f the Mystical tracks- a certified LinksNation gem, and a must play if you visit Myrtle Beach.

mystical golf tee box

Tee markers resembling witches hats are made from the knees of Bald Cypress trees in the swamps within the 500 acres that make up the property of The Witch course.

mystical golf resort

Where to stay: Our group stayed at the Breakers Resort on the Ocean. Outstanding amenities, service and surreal ocean views are the norm at the Breakers. Vacation lodging & golf packages are available at http://www.breakers.com/.

mystical golf sunset

What’s better than waking up to this view each morning? The scene from my balcony at the Breakers Hotel on a cool autumn morning in early November.

If you’re planning a Myrtle Beach golf getaway, Mystical Golf is worthy of your objectives – quality, value, variety, and service are all standard fare. The coastal Carolina area also boasts some of the nation’s best weather – combine all of these factors and that’s why avid golf vacationers from around the globe continue to flock to the Grand Strand.

https://www.mysticalgolf.com/

Picture
Jason  Bruno
LinksNation.com & GolfLife.com

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