Few in life can say they had such a profound impact on their chosen profession as to change it -- but that’s precisely what Arnold Palmer did for golf. The young, unflappable player with dashing good looks transformed the game from one for the idle rich to one for the masses. Audiences watching on television, a medium then still in its infancy, marveled at how the dashingly handsome Palmer handled the clubs and himself around the links. And, the occasional masquerade as Superman didn’t hurt, either.
Take the 1960 U.S. Open at Cherry Hills in Denver, for example. Palmer, fresh off a win in the Master’s, trailed by a whopping seven strokes heading into the final round. Before teeing up for the final day’s first drive, Arnold turned to a friend and asked what shooting a 65 might do for his chances. His friend laughed and replied that he was too far back for even a 65 to help. Palmer shot one anyway. He birdied the first four holes and six of the first seven. Down the stretch Palmer was up against Ben Hogan, a legend in his own right, who was gunning for his fifth Open title. A bogey on 17 took care of Hogan’s hopes.
Playing with Hogan that day, was a young amateur named Jack Nicklaus, who finished two strokes back to Palmer. The pair would become lifelong friends and friendly rivals. Arnold Palmer died Sunday, Sept. 25 at age 87. Along the way he charmed the common fan, presidents, CEOs and the occasional royalty. He also designed some of the sport’s most iconic courses. While it is impossible to come up with a definitive “top 10 Palmer-designed courses,” below are 10 courses he designed or redesigned that would rank at or near the top of anyone’s lists.
1. CHERRY HILLS
The world’s No. 90-ranked course was “touched up” by the Kind himself in the late 1980s. And who better to do it than the man who made his mark on the same course at the 1960 U.S. Open. The signature hole is the 491-yard, par 5 18th.
2. FOREST HILLS
Forest Hills Golf Course is an 18-hole masterpiece, originally designed by Donald Ross. In 1984, several holes were redesigned by the Arnold Palmer Company to accommodate construction of the Augusta University Athletic Complex.
Cost: $22 - $48
3. FOSSIL CREEK
Etched into the rolling hills of Fort Worth, The Golf Club Fossil Creek offers endless opportunities. Open to the public for daily play as well as golf tournaments, corporate outings, weddings, meetings, dining and special events, Fossil Creek offers the upscale amenities and unmatched service one might expect at an exclusive private club.
Cost: Annual pass is $3995
Originally opened in 1986 as a private club, Lone Tree Golf Club & Hotel was purchased by South Suburban Parks and Recreation in 1991. Since then, this unique Arnold Palmer designed golf course has been available to the public. The par 72 championship course features water on 9 holes, a well-bunkered layout and is known as one of the best maintained courses in Colorado.
Cost: $24 - $61
5. TRALEE GOLF CLUB
This course traces its roots to 1896 and was re-designed by Palmer in 1984. The tower at the back of the third green dates to the 1190s. The Course is a par 72 and measures almost 7,000 yards from the championship tees.
Phone: +353 (0)66 713-6379
Cost: $105 - $175
6. PEBBLE BEACH
Perhaps the greatest public course in America, and certainly one of the most recognizable. As one of the principal owners that purchased Pebble Beach Company in 1999, Arnold Palmer paid personal attention to enhancing Pebble Beach Golf Links in line with the new technology that was resulting in many golfers hitting tee shots in excess of 300 yards.
7. WEXFORD PLANTATION
Arnold Palmer opened his Signature Course at Wexford Plantation in 2011. The golf course is artistically blended with the natural settings of the community to provide a meticulously maintained journey through tall, majestic oaks and stately pines.
Cost: Private Membership
8. NEWPORT DUNES at PALMILLA BEACH
This 2008 Arnold Palmer design on Mustang Island affords views of both the Gulf of Mexico and Corpus Christi Bay. Carved out of untamed native dunes on the rugged coast line of the Gulf of Mexico. Palmilla Beach challenges golfers with ocean breezes, rolling fairways lined with native grasses and imposing greens.
Cost: $69 - $109
The home of Hollywood royalty, including Clark Gable, Ginger Rogers, Kathryn Hepburn, Errol Flynn, Marlene Dietrich, Greta Garbo and Rudolph Valentino. Presidents Eisenhower and Kennedy also walked the links here. As he prepared for the redesign Palmer looked over the grounds and said, “This land is something really wonderful. It bends and curves beautifully, set against the mountains, giving the golf course lots of drama.”
10. BAY HILL
Acquired in 1970. Bay Hill hosts the annual Arnold Palmer Invitational, and was Palmer’s winter retreat. The course sweeps across 270 acres along the shores of the Butler Chain of Lakes. The Champion, Challenger and Charger links feature 27 holes of tour championship golf.
Cost: Open only to Club members and registered guests staying at the Bay Hill Club & Lodge