(Photo by Stephen Szurlej)
By Ron Whitten, Stephen Hennessey
The PGA Tour’s annual return to Bay Hill Club and Lodge, host to a PGA Tour event since 1979, allows us a chance to celebrate Arnold Palmer the course designer. Because his influences and contributions to all areas of golf are so significant, Arnie might be under-appreciated as an architect—which is a compliment to his other lines of work.
The Champion/Challenger course at Bay Hill has been updated quite a bit through the years—The King always has final say over its tweaks. Much of the attention this week will be on Tiger Woods as he returns to Bay Hill as the favourite, according to Vegas, at a site where he owns eight PGA Tour victories. Perhaps lesser known is the fact Tiger won the first of his three U.S. Junior Amateur titles here at Bay Hill.
To shine a little more light on Arnie the course designer, we present the 10 best golf courses under the Arnold Palmer design umbrella.
Tralee G.C., County Kerry, Ireland (1984)
A captivating design that starts like Pebble Beach along high cliffs and finishes in rugged dunes similar to Ballybunion. Tralee was recently ranked No. 4 on Golf Digest’s top-20 courses in Ireland, as ranked by our Golf Digest affiliate in Ireland.
Musgrove Mill G.C., Clinton, S.C. (1988)
Called “the Pine Valley of the South,” but with its low profile, small, perched greens and vast waste areas, it’s more akin to Pete Dye’s famed The Golf Club in Ohio. Currently ranked No. 11 in our Best Courses in South Carolina.
Old Tabby Links, Spring Island, S.C. (1993)
Said to have been Palmer’s favourite, Old Tabby is a gorgeous Lowcountry layout, with fairways framed by mammoth live oaks and greens edged by lagoons and tidal marsh. Currently ranked No. 20 in our Best Courses in South Carolina.
Adios G.C., Coconut Creek, Fla. (1984)
An exclusive male-only oasis in busy South Florida, Adios is the rare Florida course with no housing. The layout is testy, with narrow fairways among pines and ponds and highly contoured greens. Adios was named one of Golf Digest’s “Best Damn Clubs,” mostly for being a great hang, but also for its stout course.
Tradition G.C., La Quinta, Calif. (1998)
Hard against the Santa Rosa Mountains, it’s the prettiest course in Palm Springs. Palmer admitted he insisted on elaborate flower-bed landscaping because his late wife, Winnie, loved floral displays. Tradition Golf Club, which recently unveiled a statue to Mr. Palmer in honour of his contributions to the club, is ranked No. 21 on our ultra-competitive Best Courses in California.
Dakota Dunes (S.D.) G.C. (1991)
A most unusual course, built in sand dunes along the Missouri River with many holes cut through stands of tall cottonwood trees. It was long ranked the top course in the state. Dakota Dunes is currently ranked No. 3 on our Best Courses in South Dakota.
Lonnie Poole G. Cse. at North Carolina State University, Raleigh (2009)
For those unable to land an invitation to Musgrove Mill, the public Lonnie Poole offers a similar experience of vast waste bunkers, tight greens and shotmaking demands.
Aviara G.C., Carlsbad, Calif. (1991)
Aviara provides a public version of Tradition with elaborate bunkering, extensive water-scapes and hillsides of brilliant flowers.
ArborLinks G. Cse., Nebraska City, Neb. (2002)
Lauded for its environmental sensitivity, ArborLinks was built in open plains, but this being the hometown of Arbor Day, some trees have been selectively planted for strategic and sustainable reasons. ArborLinks is ranked No. 8 on our Best Courses in Nebraska list.
The Bluffs C.C. & Resort, St. Francisville, La. (1988)
This was the favourite of the late Ed Seay, who thought the tumbling sand hills in “sweet woods” along Thompson Creek north of Baton Rouge was the perfect land for golf. The Bluffs C.C. and Resort is the highest-ranked public course in the state, and currently No. 4 within the Best Courses in Louisiana.