When a few golfing greats - Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Don Cherry and Dave Ragan - were invited to play Bay Hill in an exhibition match in 1965, Arnold Palmer easily won the match by seven strokes over his nearest competitor, Jack Nicklaus. Mr. Palmer also fell in love with the course - so much so that he eventually purchased it and assumed control in 1976. Since then, he and the club have been dedicated to the philosophy of being the "best of the best'' when it comes to golf and all aspects of club life.
Palmer envisioned a private-club environment, where the staff and members typically know each other and members receive the sort of amenities they've come to expect. As a result, the club is only open to members and guests staying at the Bay Hill Club & Lodge.
Over the years, the Club has continued to grow and be developed. It now sports 27 holes of tour-quality championship golf via three nine-hole courses: the Champion, Challenger and Charger links. The entire club resides upon 270 acres along the shores of the Butler Chain of Lakes. The Challenger-Champion combination plays to 7,204 yards from the tips, with a USGA rating of 75.1 and a 139 slope rating. The Charger is the shortest of the three nines, playing to 3,409 yards.
One of the most challenging and picturesque holes on the course is No. 6. The hole measures 450 yards tee-to-green, but plays more like 500 yards as the fairway bends dramatically around a large water hazard. A number of alligators are said to inhabit the large pond, making golfers think twice about chancing the water, either from the tee or on their second shot.
Bay Hill is regarded as one of the most popular stops for the PGA Tour each year, as the Arnold Palmer Invitational showcases the Club and course. The Invitational makes use of the Challenger-Champion combination, and the course has won numerous accolades. Golf Digest listed the course as #97 among "America's 100 Greatest Golf Courses,'' and #14 among the country's "Best Public Courses.''
As further testament to its quality and popularity, more than a dozen PGA Tour players have lived in the homes found along the club's fairways, including Scott Hoch and the late Payne Stewart.
Bay Hill also provides golf instruction, including 1/2-day, 2-day, 3-day and 5-day packages, along with a "New Player'' Academy strictly for beginning golfers. The Bay Hill Pro Shop is also top-notch, featuring a wide array of signature equipment and apparel. It has been ranked by GolfWorld Magazine as one of the Top 100 Pro Shops in the U.S.
In addition to its golf attractions, Bay Hill is an upscale resort with activities and amenities such as six tennis courts, including four Har Tru and two DecoTurf surfaces. There's also a fully stocked pro shop, racquet repair services and professional instruction available. The Club also features the Spa at Bay Hill for a private spa experience, including body massage, body therapy and personalized skin care. There's also a fitness center with the latest equipment and technology for a complete workout. A junior Olympic-size swimming pool is also open from dawn until dusk to take advantage of all the Florida sunshine, or simply lounge and enjoy the Terrace Cafy.
The resort also features a choice of three dining options, from a grill to classic dining rooms.