How Can I Play Bay Hill?

We explore the options for playing the iconic course that hosts the Arnold Palmer Invitational

The green on the sixth hole at Bay Hill
(Image credit: Getty Images)

The Arnold Palmer Invitational is one of the most popular tournaments on the PGA Tour, attracting many of the world’s best players. There are several reasons, including its substantial prize money and association with one of the game’s greats. However, another is the iconic course that hosts it, Bay Hill in Orlando, Florida.

Bay Hill is considered one of the most enjoyable layouts in the sport, but it also has a reputation as one of the most difficult on the PGA Tour. There are several holes to thank for that, not least the devilish sixth, a 555-yard par 5 bending left around a lake. If you avoid the water from your tee shot (attempting to clear the lake is only recommended for the game’s biggest hitters), you’ll need to ensure you don’t overcompensate and end up in one of the bunkers on the other side of the fairway. 

Then there’s the famous par 4 18th with its narrow fairway, pond to the right of the green and bunkers beyond it – a hole with the potential to spoil any card right at the last. Add the course’s firm fairways and greens, thick rough and the windy conditions that frequently whip in during the afternoon, and this is a course that can challenge even the world’s best on any given day.

If you fancy your chances at Bay Hill, the good news is it’s open to members and registered guests staying at the Bay Hill Club & Lodge. Prices range from $200 per room (for up to two adults) to $1,274 per room (for up to four adults) per night. Access to the Champion/Challenger course, which hosts the Arnold Palmer Invitational, and the nine-hole Charger courses are included in the fee.  

Another option is to become a member. The initiation fee is reportedly $30,000 (and double if you take out a corporate membership). Meanwhile, annual dues are reportedly upwards of $7,000. Membership gives access to the club’s amenities, including its golf courses. Finally, you can play Bay Hill as a guest of a member. Overall, these prices are relatively low compared to some of the other courses on the PGA Tour. For the price, you get to experience a course that regularly posts some of the highest average scores on the PGA Tour. Don’t be too hard on yourself, then, if it trips you up, too.

Can Anyone Play Bay Hill?

Bay Hill Club & Lodge is a private club. However, if you book a stay at the lodge, you will be granted access to the club’s two courses – the Champion/Challenger course, which hosts the Arnold Palmer Invitational, and the nine-hole Charger course. You can also become a member.

How Much Does It Cost To Play Bay Hill?

Depending on the time of year, you can play Bay Hill for as little as $200, which is the cheapest room rate to stay a night at the lodge. For this, guests can also use the club’s courses. Another option is to become a member, with  an initiation fee reportedly of around $30,000 and approximately $7,000 annual dues.

When Did Bay Hill Golf Course Open?

Bay Hill opened in 1961 and Dick Wilson originally designed the first 18 holes (the Champion/Challenger course). However, Arnold Palmer, who owned Bay Hill Club & Lodge between 1979 and 2016, redesigned the course in 1989.

Mike Hall
Mike Hall

Mike has 25 years of experience in journalism, including writing on sports such as golf, football and cricket. Now a freelance writer for Golf Monthly, he is dedicated to covering the sport’s most newsworthy stories. Originally from East Yorkshire, Mike now resides in Canada, where the nearest course is less than a mile from his home. It’s there where he remains confident that, one of these days, he’ll play the 17th without finding the water. Kevin Cook’s acclaimed 2007 biography, Tommy’s Honour, about golf’s founding father and son, remains one of his all-time favourite sports books.