Travel Mailbag: Is Bay Hill open to the public?

bay hill golf club

Bay Hill Club & Lodge in Orlando is host to the top golfers in the world for this week's Arnold Palmer Invitational.

Evan Schiller

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Watching the pros play Bay Hill this week makes me wonder: can the rest of us play there, too? – Kevin, via email

Over the course of the pro-golf season, the world’s best peg it at all kinds of courses. Some, like Augusta National, are impenetrably private. Others, like Memorial Park, a Houston muni, are proudly open to the public. Still others fall somewhere in between.

That third category is where we’d place Bay Hill.

The Orlando host site of the Arnold Palmer Invitational is a private resort course, with priority tee times reserved for members but slots set aside for resort guests, too. In short, if you stay there, you can play there. Every night you book entitles you to reserve an 18-hole round.

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Unlike many golf resorts, Bay Hill does not bundle golf and accommodations into stay-and-play packages. Tee times are sold a la carte, and rates vary throughout the year from a low of $105 per player in the summer to $475 per player during peak season, which runs from January through May. In the shoulder seasons, the rate is $230.

Caddies aren’t required, but they’re a good idea. A single bag, walking, costs $100 plus gratuity; a double-bag, walking, costs $80 per player plus gratuity. Forecaddies are also available per twosome at a rate of $40 per player, plus gratuity.

Something else you might not know from tuning in on TV is that Bay Hill is home to 27 holes, with two nines — Champion and Challenger — making up the tournament routing. When you book a round as a resort guest, that’s the routing you can expect to play. The third nine, which is slightly shorter than the other two, is called Charger, and you can play that separately, too. But you’ll want to check availability in advance, as it often gets booked for outings. The rate on the Charger ranges from $60 to $70 throughout the year.

For reservations or more information, you can visit the resort website here.

Josh Sens Editor

A golf, food and travel writer, Josh Sens has been a GOLF Magazine contributor since 2004 and now contributes across all of GOLF’s platforms. His work has been anthologized in The Best American Sportswriting. He is also the co-author, with Sammy Hagar, of Are We Having Any Fun Yet: the Cooking and Partying Handbook.