The Florida Swing


Walk in the footsteps of golf legends at classic Sunshine State courses like Bay Hill in Orlando.

Arnold Palmer may hold the legal documents to Bay Hill Club & Lodge in Orlando, but as any golf enthusiast familiar with the annual tournament played here each spring knows, this course is owned by Tiger Woods.

If that thought hasn’t crossed your mind at least once over the first 17 exhilarating—occasionally paralyzing—holes at Bay Hill, it will at 18. It’s here, at the 458-yard par-4, that Tiger has worked his magic time and again en route to eight tournament victories in 14 years.

Like the slippery 24-foot birdie putt he buried to capture the 2008 event that prompted one of his signature celebratory outbursts—a triumphant Tiger slam of the golf hat that rivaled a touchdown spike. Or the 16-footer he drained on the final hole of regulation in 2009 to complete the largest Sunday comeback (five strokes) of his career. Of course, that’s all well and good when you wield the flat stick like Tiger Woods.

But for high-handicappers like myself, the real moment of truth is back on the fairway, standing some 185 yards from a green ruthlessly protected by a rock-lined pond that gives 18 it’s well-earned nickname—Devil’s Bathtub. The devil, in this case, is begging you to take the plunge.

The question, knowing that 18 consistently ranks as the toughest hole at Bay Hill when it hosts the Arnold Palmer Invitational, is whether you’re man enough—or fool enough—to tempt fate. Do you play it safe and bail out to the left, where a bunker is sure to snag your approach? Or do you take dead aim at a right-side pin placement with precious little green fore and aft—and risk sending your Titleist down the Bathtub drain?

For those of us who count Masters weekend as a legal holiday, this is the beauty of living in Florida. Not only do golfers have access to the links year-round, we also can test our mettle throughout the Sunshine State on renowned courses and iconic holes, many of which have brought some of the game’s greatest players to their knees.