The Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by Mastercard is scheduled to take place March 15-18 at the Bay Hill Club and Lodge, located in the Orlando metro area. Palmer, who sadly passed away in 2016, had bought the golf resort in 1974 and first brought a PGA tournament to his course in 1979. The tournament has gone by several names, but took on the Arnold Palmer name in 2007. For golfers planning on traveling to watch the tournament, Orlando offers numerous excellent golfing facilities to keep you happy between rounds at the Invitational.
photo courtesy Reunion Resort
7593 Gathering Drive
Kissimmee, FL 34747
Reunion Resort features 3 different wonderful courses for resort guests to choose from, designed by Tom Watson, Arnold Palmer, and Jack Nicklaus respectively. The Watson course is considered the jewel of the resort, in part to its unique layout and playability. Watson has designed a course with wide fairways, moderate slope, and without water hazards that hound many other Florida courses. Instead, the Watson course challenges golfers with forced carries over roughs and literally hundreds of bunkers. The beautiful Palmer course is also worth playing with its beautiful layout. While considered second best, the Palmer course is actually the prettier of the courses. The Nicklaus course is worth a round, but most golfers will find themselves gravitating to the Watson and Palmer courses.
Walt Disney World Golf Resort
photo courtesy Walt Disney World
1950 Magnolia Palm Drive
Orlando, FL 32830
The biggest name in central Florida, Walt Disney World, is also home to a world class golf resort. The resort has 3 championship courses and a 9 hole walking course for casual golfers. The Palm course, designed in 1971 by architect Joe Lee, is designed as a parkland course with a plethora of palm trees dotting the course. This course makes use of water and deep bunkers, as well as elevated greens, so expect a frustrating day if you’re shotmaking isn’t accurate. The Magnolia course, also built by Joe Lee, is aptly named as 1,500 of the large and beautiful trees line the course in addition to crepe myrtles and seasonal flowers. As golfers navigated this longer, and many would say more difficult, course, they are likely to see some of the deer or turkey that have made the course their home. It is also home to the famous Mickey Mouse bunker seen above. The Lake Buena Vista course has less fanfare, but remains an imminently playable course that has, like the Magnolia and Palm courses, played host to numerous PGA Tour events. It is known for its island green on the 7th hole.
Waldorf Astoria Golf Club
photo courtesy Waldorf Astoria Golf Club
A relative newcomer to the Orlando golf resort scene, the luxury hotel Waldorf Astoria opened this golf course in 2009. It was designed by the well-respected architect Rees Jones, the course plays as a bit of a throwback. It features tight fairways and small greens, as well as retro bunkers, that make this course one for accurate shotmakers. Like many Florida holes, water features prominently through the course, notably on the peninsular green on the 18th hole.. This is a championship caliber course that will challenge any golfer. Many visitors also appreciate the notable lack of Disney magic, with the Waldorf Astoria instead relying on a great course and the excellent amenities expected from a luxury resort.
Grand Cypress Resort
photo courtesy Grand Cypress Resort
1 North Jacaranda
Orlando, FL 32836
Grand Cypress features 3 Jack Nicklaus designed 9 hole courses dubbed the North, South, and East course. Golfers are invited to select 18 holes from 2 of the 3 courses. The most difficult combination is the North-South. These courses feature tight fairways and plateau greens surrounded by water, sand or both. These courses demand accuracy and will punish any errant shot. The East course is less penal, notably featuring less bunkers than the North or South course. In addition to these 3 courses, Grand Cypress also contains the New Course. This is a links-style course that represents Jack Nicklaus’ tribute to the Old Course at St. Andrews. A large and open course featuring many “waste” areas as well as gorse mounds and 150 pot bunkers, this course provides one of the few links courses in the central Florida.
Bay Hill Club & Lodge
photo courtesy Bay Hill Club & Lodge
9000 Bay Hill Boulevard
Orlando, FL 32819
If traveling to the area for the Arnold Palmer Invitational, why not arrive early or stay for a few day after the tournament to play the same course as the pros? The Champion/Challenger course is available to club members and guests staying at the Bay Hill Lodge. Originally designed by Dick Wilson in 1961, these courses have been tweaked significantly by Arnold Palmer after purchasing the property, and today they play like classic Palmer design. The course plays long and is renown for placing bunkers right where you’d love to play your set-up shot. To play successfully, golfers will have to show both power and finesse to conquer this PGA Tour mainstay.