Golf is Everywhere – Arnold Palmer’s Bay Hill Club & Lodge

Like many golf fans, I’m infatuated with the life of Arnold Palmer. There is so much about his story that I find interesting, inspiring, and thought-provoking. I never had an opportunity to meet the King, but it is hard not to feel like I have a relationship with his brand – a feeling shared by millions no doubt. Palmer’s larger than life persona, outgoing disposition, and insistence on treating people with a high level of respect are all qualities I strive to emulate. As someone who has spent a career studying brands and placemaking, I’m also highly interested in how Palmer extended his personality into the businesses and experiences which bore his name. Earlier this year, I had the opportunity to see that side of his legacy up close and personal when I was invited to spend a day at Bay Hill Club & Lodge.

My invitation to Bay Hill was largely by accident. While visiting the Orlando area for the 2020 PGA Merchandise Show I had scheduled a variety of meetings and hangouts with some of my favorite golf personalities. One of which was a nine-hole walk with Tom Coyne at the fabled Winter Park Golf Course. Unfortunately, Tom never made it out to the course because he came down with the flu and had to make a quick return trip home to Philadelphia. As much as I hated to hear that Tom was under the weather, he was kind enough to suggest I take his place at another golf outing scheduled for later that day.

At Tom’s suggestion, I was invited to fill in for him at Bay Hill for a round of golf with Roy Saunders. Saunders is Vice President at the club, father to PGA Tour player Sam Saunders, and also Arnold Palmer’s son-in-law through his marriage to Palmer’s daughter Amy. Needless to say, I jumped at the opportunity to see Bay Hill and get to know Saunders over a round of golf.

One of the most noticeable qualities of the Bay Hill Club & Lodge is the hospitality extended to guests. It is obvious that the Arnold Palmer mentality is not just a talking point but a true compass for the staff at the club. From the minute I walked on the property I was treated like a lifelong member and that is undoubtedly a reason why people still visit Bay Hill even after Palmer’s passing. Many clubs could learn from the example set at Bay Hill.

Staring down the final green at Arnold Palmer’s Bay Hill Club & Lodge

During my visit, the championship golf course at Bay Hill was in spectacular condition. Being only a month and a half out from the PGA Tour’s annual Arnold Palmer Invitational, the preparations for the event were well underway. With grandstands up, scoreboards being installed, and other infrastructure being brought in there was a real sense of pride permeating over the grounds. Throughout the round, Roy Saunders provided me with an insider’s perspective on how the club hosts its most important event. It was a cold and windy day for golf, but the good company and first-hand knowledge of the course from my host made for an exceptional outing.

Beyond the wonderful hospitality and energy of an upcoming PGA Tour event, I thoroughly enjoyed seeing the golf course itself. Originally designed by Dick Wilson, the Bay Hill course has some exceptional holes that provide for both drama and charm. The holes routed among the natural lakes on the property are among some of the most interesting in the Sunshine State. The Dick Wilson routing remains largely intact but there have been many renovations overseen by the Arnold Palmer Design Company over the years. The course is both challenging and scenic with plenty of opportunities to create memorable shots by playing boldly – just like the Kind prescribed.

Sitting at Arnold Palmer’s desk in his office at Bay Hill

After our round, my host was kind enough to invite me up to Arnold Palmer’s office and sign the King’s guest book. I must admit, the fan in me was overjoyed as I had the chance to sit at Palmer’s desk and affix my signature next to many other admiring members of Arnie’s Army. Looking around the room from behind Palmer’s desk served as a reminder for just how big his global reach was and still is. It was a special way to cap off my visit to Bay Hill.

With a new appreciation for Bay Hill and the legacy of its former owner, I’m excited to watch the worlds best compete in the Arnold Palmer Invitational this year. There is no doubt that Roy Saunders, the Palmer family, and everyone involved at the club will be putting on a first-class event and the story of the King will once again be on full display. I’ve been fortunate to have some great golf experiences in my life and getting to see Bay Hill and the world of Arnold Palmer as a guest of his family was among the more memorable days I’ve had in the game. If you get the opportunity to enjoy some time at the Bay Hill Club & Lodge I highly suggest you do so.

Cheers and long live the King!

-J

P.S.

If you make it to Bay Hill, don’t miss the Bay window chili at the turn! It’s the best golf course chili I’ve ever sampled!

The Arnold Palmer statue behind the first tee at Bay Hill Club & Lodge

 

 

 

 

Seamus Golf Announces Portland Golf Park Project During PGA Show Gathering

Golf is meant to be fun and few organizations embody that belief quite like Seamus Golf Company. The Portland, Oregon based company is now pushing their golf lifestyle brand into new territory with the announcement of a daring initiative in their hometown called Seamus Golf Park at the Children’s Course. The new course is a bold investment for the company and an important step for golf in their hometown.

This needed children and family friendly golf park will serve as a place for newcomers of the sport to learn and grow in the game. The course is being designed by distinguished architect Jim Urbina and was inspired by places such as the Cradle at Pinehurst, Goat Hill Park in San Diego, and Winter Park Golf Course in Florida. The announcement of the project was made at the Winter Park course during an annual gathering hosted by Seamus Golf held the day before start of the PGA Merchandise Show.

Seamus Golf Company and the products they make are reshaping how many players approach golf accessories. The good folks at Seamus began with hand crafted tartan headcovers and today their lines have expanded to forged markers, walking bags, shoes, and other beautifully made and durable golf goods. Companies have long used the setting of the annual PGA Merchandise Show in Orlando as an opportunity to promote their wares, introduce new products, and entertain buyers, but Seamus has taken that to a new level with their annual golf gathering at the Winter Park Golf Course.

The Seamus event at Winter Park has become an important yearly reunion of golf influencers, popular brands, and other interesting personalities who, like Seamus, are changing how the masses see the game. Golf Channel talent and Winter Park resident Matt Ginella was on hand to emcee the event and share the story of how the WP9 came to be a beloved golf gathering place. Course architects Riley Johns and Keith Rhebb were also on present to discuss the course. Winter Park Mayor Steve Leary was in attendance as well.

I was fortunate enough to be invited to the event by my good friend and incredibly talented artist Dave Baysden. Dave has worked on a number of projects with Seamus, including the development of hand painted headcovers used by Matt Kuchar during the Masters. The Seamus event at Winter Park included nearly 100 players and was one of the most fun golf outings I’ve ever attended.

Billed as golf for a good cause, the Seamus event was the launching point for the new Seamus Golf Park, but it also served as a showcase for what golf can be like when having fun is the top priority. The competition that day consisted of a fabulous format. Each team was comprised of eight players arranged in four alternate shot sides. The best two scores of the four sides on each team counted as the group’s score. Playing in groupings of eight may sound like a recipe for a long day, but alternate shot made for speedy golf. Large groups and funky formats are just par for the course at Winter Park.

The kind of golf that is found at Winter Park is designed with the every-man in mind. The course is short, architecturally interesting, and affordable. Players can make their way around the course in less than two hours and children, dogs, and t shirts are all part of the formula. These are the elements that serve as the inspiration for the new Seamus Golf Park at the Children’s Course in Portland.

Seamus Golf founder Akbar Chisti was onsite with Jim Urbina to discuss the vision for the project as players were enjoying cold drinks and food after the golf scores were tallied. There will be more details to be released soon, but there were renderings and routing maps available for guests to review during the event. After hearing from the leaders for the new golf park I am confident that project will be much talked about and adored once complete.

The weather in Winter Park was perfect for an evening of golf to learn about an important new project and kick off the PGA Show. Seamus Golf was the host but they were not alone in creating this idyllic event. There were a number of partners participating in the event including Pinehurst Brewing Company, Golf Advisor, Linksoul, The Golfer’s Journal, Caddie Magazine, and more. The diverse crowd made for many smiles, laughs, and new acquaintances and introductions while celebrating the things that make golf so special.

Stay tuned for more information on Seamus Golf Park at the Children’s Course in Portland, Oregon. Also be sure that if you venture to the greater Orlando area go and check out the Winter Park Golf Course. The Winter Park 9 is truly one of the best family friendly golf experiences in America and with the help of Seamus Golf there will soon be another course like it on the West Coast.

Until next time…swing, walk, and repeat.

-J