Klein on Design: No. 15, Bay Hill Club
Bradley S. Klein, Golfweek’s architecture editor, offers his opinion on one memorable hole:
Yards: 429 yards, par 4
Architect: Dick Wilson, 1961; Arnold Palmer, 2009
Where: Orlando, Fla.
Renovations enhance Bay Hill Club
Before-and-after photos of the changes made to Bay Hill Club in Orlando, Fla.
Event: PGA Tour’s Arnold Palmer Invitational, March 25-28
It’s great because . . . Bay Hill is a big, broad-shouldered layout, with Dick Wilson’s trademark diagonal greens and compelling carries across water so that tee shots and approaches have real drama despite the relatively undistinguished natural terrain. The course also has just emerged from a dramatic renovation, especially of putting surfaces. The green expansion and regrassing creates more hole locations and more intriguing run-outs into low areas for short-game recovery. The back nine is especially strong, with the last three holes involving lakes, risk/reward and excitement.
It would be even better if . . . the dogleg-right 15th hole were more demanding. Managing the turn point on the hole used to be tough in an era when 250-plus-yard carries from the back tee were impressive. Today, from the tournament tee, it’s easy for players to blow it over the last fairway bunker (and adjoining magnolia trees) on the inside right of the dogleg and have a short iron into the green. During the renovation, Arnold Palmer and his design team installed a new back tee, allowing the hole to play 474 yards and making the carry over the last bunker and rough a far more considerable 303 yards. Tournament officials seem reluctant to use the new tee because it requires playing over Bay Hill Boulevard, the road to the clubhouse. But if Arnie handles traffic control, everyone will obey him. Or use the back tee just on Sunday to create a more demanding tee shot and increase the drama.