Arnold Palmer has 62 PGA Tour victories, including seven major championships. His golf course design business, Arnold Palmer Design, includes more than 250 original golf courses in 24 countries. In Sept. 2009 his company completed a wall-to-wall renovation of Bay Hill Golf Club in Orlando, Fla., host of the Arnold Palmer Invitational.
How are course changes at Bay Hill coming along?
It’s coming along very, very well. We were concerned about the weather and the coolness but we’re going to have close to 80 degrees today so that wish is being taken care of and I’m thankful for that.
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I’m not sure I can really give you a total on that, but I do think that the course will be better. Now, whether that means scoring will be better, I’m not so sure. In difference to what we’ve had over the years, the golf course is right there in front of you. You’re able to really see everything, including all the sand traps and all the greens, and we’ve added to the greens a little. We’ve put a new grass in the greens, we’ve done an awful lot of work, and to have it come out as well as it has, we’re extremely pleased with that. And with the warm weather now, things will start really turning for us.
Which holes will play most differently?
We have gone back to No. 4 will be a par 5 again, and No. 16 will be a par 5, and of course that will make par for the round 72. We think that will kind of add a little more interest, with the possibility of making eagles and birdies, and particularly coming in on the last three or four holes, it should be pretty exciting.
Which holes will be the key?
I think 16,17 and 18, certainly, but you can put 15 into that as well. There’s the possibility that we take the tee back across the road, which would make 15 a little longer and the green being rebuilt as it has with the run-off on the right side, that will make that hole pretty interesting.
What does it mean to you to have Bay Hill open to the general public?
We’re really not open to the general public. We are a resort, and, of course, if you’re staying in the hotel then you can play golf, and that is kind of the way that works. We have a lot of people come to play and they stay here and enjoy themselves very much.
Are you happy with Bay Hill’s place in the Orlando golf landscape?
We love it. And, of course, I think golfers do, too. It’s obvious by the number of people that come and enjoy the golf course. It’s fun for our members. It’s fun for the hotel guests. And, of course, I’m getting a very positive reaction from the people who are coming though and staying in the hotel and playing the golf course.
How much golf do you play these days?
I play, but not very often any more. My game has really kind of gone away. I guess it comes with my age, but it’s fun. It’s fun to go out on occasion and be able to play the golf course and play with my friends, and that’s about all the golf I play anymore.
How often are you able to shoot your age?
As I get older and older that becomes a little easier. I always thought it would be very easy, but I can assure you it’s not.
How old were you when you first shot your age?
I think it was in a practice round when I was 65, but officially I shot 66 on my 66th birthday in a tournament in Washington on the Senior Tour.
I understand you’ve been working more closely with your grandson, Sam, lately as he makes the transition into the PGA Tour. What sort of Tour life advice have you given him?
I’m just trying to bring him up to speed on what to expect by playing the Tour and how to treat it, and he’s done very well. I’m very proud of Sam and his golf and, of course, we’ll look forward to increasing his role as a Tour player.
Is he going to play your event?
He is. He will be one of my sponsor’s exemptions.
I might get in trouble for mentioning this, but with Sam’s T-17 finish at the Honda Classic he earned $68,000, which is more than you earned in any single event during your career. I’m curious to know if you’re going to send him a bill for your instruction to balance that out a little bit.
Well, actually I may charge him, but I haven’t decided on that yet. (Laughs) But, if he keeps making money the way he is, instead of my sponsoring him, he’ll be sponsoring me.