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Every sport has its heroes. There are the current crop and there are the legends. In September 2016 golf lost one of its true greats. Arnold Palmer, the man credited for making golf what it is today, teed-off on the big course in the sky. For the first time since this sad event, the PGA Tour will go to Arnie’s house, Bay Hill, for the Arnold Palmer Invitational.
In what will be an emotionally charged week for golf fans around the world, much of the golfing world is discussing the great man. With that in mind, today on the All Square Blog we are going to look at ten of the best golf courses that The King designed.
Tralee Golf Club, Ireland
In the early stages of his career as a course designer, Arnold Palmer created what many believe is his best, Tralee Golf Club in Ireland. When Palmer visited the site he said “I have never come across a piece of land so ideally suited for the building of a golf course,” and upon completion of the project said “I may have designed the first nine but surely God put down the back nine.”
Words do not do the beauty of this course justice. It is dramatic links land at its absolute finest. There are even the ruins of a castle dating back to the 1300s thrown in for good measure. A treat for the senses and a course that Palmer was, rightly, very proud of.
Staying in Europe for the second course on the list and this time we are close to Paris. This is a true test of golf and was the only course that Palmer designed in France. Golfers must navigate around no less than 14 water hazards and 63 bunkers at Domaine de Crécy. New owners to the facility have invested heavily in the greens and a new academy to help your game.
Although the course has been designed to challenge the better golfer, it is still fun for less advanced players. This year they will host the French International Foursomes Championships too. At around 7,000 yards it is on the long side too. The course has an American-feel about it but has also has a clear European-influence.
This was one of the most sophisticated design projects that Arnie ever undertook. In fact, at the time of building it was considered the most ambitious golf project in Portugal. The Oceanico Victoria was carefully created to preserve the natural wetlands and vegetation of the land upon which it was built. Water hazards are used here to great effect, as in the previous course, to make it a strategic golfer’s track.
These lakes aren’t just there to make your golf harder though. They form a large part of the drainage and irrigation system for the course. This is course is very easy on the eye and one that, with six teeing-options, anyone can enjoy.
What you have here is a classic American parkland golf course built in Germany. Sporting Club Berlin, as the name would suggest, is located very close to the city. It provides an incredible escape from the urban setting. Like so many of Arnie’s courses, this has been designed to test the skilled golfer.
The greens here are spectacular! This course also blends with the surroundings perfectly and has some of the most beautiful holes in the country. The back-nine is regarded by many as the most beautiful inward-half in Germany.
This course has a special place in the great history of the sport. The Bay Course at Kapalua was the host of the first ever live prime-time golf event. That was in 1983 but the course has hosted 20 major professional events since it opened in 1975. This course has remained relatively unchanged since it opened and has stood the test of modern equipment. This is surely a testament to the great design of the course.
The Bay Course is a beautiful island course. It is one that you will fall for even if your golf isn’t great that day. Many of the great names in golf have won on this course. Kapalua Bay has many loyal fans who frequently visit. If you have a look at pictures of the course you will understand why.
Much like the course above, The Palmer Course at Turtle Bay blends with the natural landscape and vegetation of Hawaii to create a stunning course. It opened in 1992 and is a great risk vs reward challenge. During your round here you will navigate through the dense Hawaiian jungle and out onto the ocean coast.
The par-4 17th is the signature hole here and it sits right on the coast and is one for a few pictures! It is worth noting that Arnold Palmer loved this place so much he actually got married on the property in 2005.
This course is a classic Californian links and has drawn comparisons with some of the great courses of the world. This is not an easy course, and given its coastal position, is frequently made more difficult by wind. With wonderful ocean vistas and lush terrain, The Old Course is a real treat.
The course opened in 1973 and has hosted many US Open Qualifying tournaments. This is a course that will make you think as much as it will make your jaw-drop due to its sheer beauty. The final hole, a 405-yard par-4, is considered by many to be one of the best holes in the world!
We’re finally starting to get closer to Arnie’s home. Before we get there, we will take a quick stop at a local course, The Palmer at Renion Resort. Opened in 2004, this is a course that just keeps getting better as you make your way through the holes. It’s an exciting course with ‘rollercoaster-like’ terrain.
The interesting landscape creates a need for inventive and creative shot-making. Many believe this to be Palmer’s finest piece of course design. This intelligently crafted course has generous fairways to lull you into a false sense of security, but don’t get too comfortable, it will test you!
Palmer used to spend his winters in Orlando and he was very influential in the area, especially in golf. Recently, Shingle Creek was redesigned by the great man. The new Palmer configuration of the course is now open for play and ready to challenge golfers.
Shingle Creek is a classic lush Floridian golf courses. The bunkering on this course has been changed to make the golfer think in a more strategic way. This paired with lengthy par-4s and -5s creates a fairly tough track. Another big change brought about by Palmer and his team was around the greens. They put real attention to detail into the green complexes creating run-off areas that will mean you need to your best approach shots to succeed around the course! It’s a lot of fun, and it will test all levels of golfers!
Finally, a course so good that the great man put his name on it. Bay Hill is one of the most famous annual stops of the PGA Tour and a place that will be highly emotionally charged this week. Every year Palmer would reconfigure the course to make sure it remained a challenge to the tour players during his event.
This course shouldn’t be overshadowed by its nostalgia and rich history though. It is undoubtedly one of the best courses in Orlando and is, in fact, ranked as the 15th best course in Florida by All Square. The course is fair and is laid out in front of the golfer, there are no hidden penalties. That doesn’t make it an easy course though.
Golf here is a special experience. Arnie’s practice bay has been reserved for the great man and it has become a shrine to one of our sports truly great heroes. You know that you are on hallowed turf when you are at Bay Hill. There will be an incredible feeling of absence this year as The King won’t be at home, no doubt he’ll be watching though.