The Florida Swing rolls on to a trip to Orlando, FL. This week, the PGA Tour heads to Arnie’s Place for the 2023 Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill Club and Lodge. As always, here is your early deep-dive of the 2023 Arnold Palmer Invitational and a preview of how to bet.
Arnold Palmer Invitational Preview – The Field
This is another high purse elevated event on the PGA Tour. As such, all the stars in golf will make an appearance. This includes Jon Rahm, Rory McIlroy, Scottie Scheffler, Justin Thomas and more.
For the full field, click here.
Arnold Palmer Invitational Preview – The Golf Course
In 1960, the golf course at Bay Hill was built. A group of businessmen from Nashville, TN purchased the land from a man named Dr. P. Phillips, a noted citrus grower in the Orlando area. The land that now makes up the Bay Hill Lodge and Club was largely infertile due to a lack of nutrients in the soil.
Because it was unproductive, it was sold and repurposed as a golf course. Dick Wilson was the original architect of the golf course, and the course was sodded with Tiftway Bermuda grass. This was the first golf course seeded with this particular strain of Bermuda.
Arnold Palmer came to Bay Hill for the first time in 1965 and fell in love with the land and the golf course. He was so enamored with it that in 1970 he leased the golf course from the owners, and in 1975 purchased the golf course outright. In 1979, he successfully negotiated with the PGA Tour to bring an official tournament to the club. It has hosted the tournament ever since.
The golf course has undergone a few renovations and changes throughout the years. Palmer sought to increase the playability of the golf course. His goal was to make it more welcoming for amateurs, yet still challenging for the PGA Tour professionals that visit the club every March.
Despite his best efforts, Bay Hill still plays like a beast to the amateur golfer. There aren’t many safe places for amateurs to lay up off the tee and avoid trouble. Like many Florida golf courses, there are numerous water hazards to gobble up errant drives. Several holes either require a forced carry-over water or have it looming all the way down one side of the fairway. In addition, Bay Hill has a relatively thick rough.
But for PGA Tour pros, however, this golf course feels a bit outdated. This golf course probably needs another renovation to adapt to the modern game. Advancements in golf technology have taken many fairway bunkers out of play. In addition, players can feel confident about cutting dog legs or over large water hazards with ease (as Bryson did a few years ago). And angles don’t really matter with how these greens are shaped and contoured.
Besides water, the only other defense of the golf course is the wind. The prevailing north wind can make this golf course a bear. In years when it plays soft and the winds are down, the winning score can approach -20. But as the players saw the last few years, strong wind dries out Bay Hill in a hurry. The golf course can play very firm and fast and the greens turn extra crispy with significant wind.
If I can say something positive about it from a PGA Tour standpoint, is that the closing stretch of holes provides for some excitement:
15th Hole – Par 4, 467 Yards
This is a tough (and borderline unfair) tee shot. There’s almost no way for the pros to hold the fairway with a straight drive with less than driver. It’ll almost always bound into the left-hand rough. That sets up a near-impossible long iron from deep, thick rough. But for bombers, they can cut the corner down the right side of the hole and shorten it considerably. Even if their drive ends up in the rough, they’ll hold a wedge in hand into the green.
16th Hole – Par 5, 511 Yards
A very reachable par 5, especially with a helping prevailing north wind aiding to carry distance. But birdie definitely isn’t a guarantee. Anything in the fairway bunkers is an automatic lay-up. With water short, balls can find it and turn a surefire birdie into a bogey. And it’s a difficult green complex with a lot of back-to-front undulation. Anything in the back bunkers requires a very delicate shot out of them to get close to the pin for the birdie putt.
17th Hole – Par 3, 221 Yards
The first of possibly the two toughest closing hole stretches on the PGA Tour. This hole is a beast. Not only is it a long par 3, but it plays over water, over a huge greenside bunker, and into a stiff north wind. Hitting the green in regulation is a fantastic feat and players should run away with par. Bogeys or worse are very common on the 17th.
18th Hole – Par 4, 458 Yards
Another stiff test for the pros as they head to the clubhouse. Once again, the hole plays into the prevailing north wind to lengthen it significantly. Players who miss the fairway to the left will have a very difficult time gouging out of the rough and onto the green. And the approach shot into the green requires a forced carry over water and a rock wall onto a firm, severely sloping left to right green.
Overall, Bay Hill can be entertaining to watch as a fan of the PGA Tour. It’s fun seeing these guys go on tilt and struggle. But years from now, as I lay on my death bed, will I have regret should I never have played Bay Hill, lost a box of golf balls, and thrown a club into a lake? Probably not.
2023 Arnold Palmer Invitational Preview – Betting Strategies
To start the betting strategies for the 2023 Arnold Palmer Invitational, let’s preview the tournament with important information and statistics about Bay Hill.
1. Bay Hill is a Par 72 golf course that plays 7,466 yards on the scorecard. The green’s average about 7,500 square feet in area, which is bigger than PGA Tour standards. The greens will also run about 12 on the stimpmeter to begin the tournament. However, as the golf course firms up and if the wind is up, the greens will get quicker and quicker as the weekend progresses.
2. While tee-to-green the golf course is naturally bermuda, the fairways and rough will receive a rye overseed. Last year, the fairways were not overseeded. But in 2023, it’ll return to its normal overseeded state. In addition, the rough will be about 3 inches deep. And it’s very thick. The golf course annually has some of the most punishing rough on the PGA Tour.
The greens, however, will remain bermuda. They’re comprised of Tif-Eagle bermuda, which is more cold tolerant than other bermuda strains. The following golf courses on the PGA Tour also feature Tif-Eagle bermuda greens:
- Albany Golf Course
- The Plantation Course – Kapalua
- The Concession Golf Club
- Sea Island
- PGA National
Those who want to consult putting stats from these specific golf courses will get the most accurate agronomy to look out. In general, however, consulting putting on any bermuda surface will suffice.
3. The Par 3’s at Bay Hill are the longest of the non-major golf courses on the PGA Tour. They average 210 yards in length. Only the Par 3 7th plays less than 200 yards, and even that comes in at 199. For all intents and purposes, the Par 3’s are all 200+ yards long.
And because they’re all (practically) 200+ yards, the Par 3’s are very difficult. Of all golf courses on the PGA Tour with at least five tournaments since 2015, Bay Hill features the 3rd toughest Par 3’s on the schedule. Only Augusta National and PGA National (outside the one-off major venues) have played tougher.
4. While not overly long for PGA Tour standards, the positioning of water hazards, bunkers and dog legs often forces players to play positional golf and plod around the Par 4’s. And when the fairways get firm, it becomes difficult to hold them. And any balls that bound through the fairways wind up in thick, rye grass rough.
As such, the Par 4’s also play very tough. Of all golf courses on the PGA Tour with at least five tournaments since 2015, Bay Hill features the third toughest Par 4’s. Only the Par 4’s at Augusta National and Torrey Pines have played tougher.
5. Where the golf course can be had is in its Par 5’s. It’s absolutely crucial to seize the opportunity to grab a birdie on these holes. And it is doable, so long as the wind is cooperating and you’re playing from the fairway. Overall, Bay Hill’s Par 5’s rank about middle of the pack in terms of scoring. As long as you don’t find yourself out of position or playing into a significant headwind, they’re reachable in two.
6. What areas of the game are the most challenging at Bay Hill? For starters, it’s a difficult golf course off-the-tee. Of all golf courses on the PGA Tour with at least five tournaments since 2015, Bay Hill ranks as the eighth most difficult.
Why is it difficult off-the-tee? For starters, the golf course can handcuff players on the tee box. Between the positioning of hazards, bunkers and bottlenecking of fairways, golfers often club down and play positional golf. In fact, the average driving distance on all Par 4 and 5 tee shots is only about 280 yards. That’s the eighth shortest average on the PGA Tour of all courses with at least five tournaments since 2015.
And even with players opting for shorter and more accurate clubs off the tee, the fairways can be very difficult to hold when it plays firm. That’s been the case for the last three years, where the average driving accuracy was only about 62.2%. And when players miss a fairway, it can be punishing. Players score about 0.4 shots worse per hole when they miss a fairway, including 0.34 worse from the rough. That’s one of the higher missed fairway penalties on the PGA Tour.
Finally, Bay Hill features some of the highest penalty rates on the PGA Tour. Of all golf courses on the PGA Tour with at least five tournaments since 2015, Bay Hill has the eighth highest penalty strokes per round. And even more punishing is the rate in which a penalty stroke includes stroke and distance and forces a reload. Bay Hill has the highest rate of reloads of all current golf courses on the PGA Tour.
Given all the adversity off-the-tee, players have to drive it very well to contend at Bay Hill.
7. The approach shots are also difficult at Bay Hill. Of all golf courses on the PGA Tour with at least five tournaments since 2015, only TPC Sawgrass and Augusta National feature tougher approach shots from less than 150 yards. And from over 150 yards, Bay Hill features the sixth toughest conditions of all current PGA Tour venues.
Approach shots are difficult due to the greens. The firm greens are very unreceptive, especially to approach shots out of the rough. Balls often land on the green and run all the way through to the back. Since 2015, the average green in regulation % for the field is only 57.6%. Of all golf courses on the PGA Tour with at least five tournaments since 2015, only Riviera, Augusta National and Innisbrook have lower green in regulation rates.
8. While overall the conditions around the green are about PGA Tour average in terms of the ability to gain strokes, scrambling from the rough is incredibly difficult. Bay Hill ranks as the second toughest to scramble from the rough of all current PGA Tour golf courses. The thick rough makes it a luck-box if one has a good lie or not. And it’s impossible to generate any spin to keep the ball close to the pin.
And while historically getting up and down from bunkers isn’t too difficult at Bay Hill, last year wasn’t the case. Players had significant trouble getting the ball close to the pin from greenside bunkers. And it seemed like players often drew horrible lies in them too. In fact, Bryson DeChambeau once was caught saying that Bay Hill features the worst bunkers on the PGA Tour. While sometimes a buffoon with his sound clips, he may have a point.
9. Bay Hill also features fairly difficult conditions on putts greater than 15 feet. Of all current PGA Tour golf courses, it’s the 9th toughest on putts greater than 15 feet. When the greens dry out and it’s windy, it’s very difficult to lag putt on these greens. The ability to make nervy comebackers for par is a huge plus at Bay Hill.
Next, here is the skillset chart from Bay Hill courtesy of DataGolf. This will preview the types of golfers who should do well at the 2023 Arnold Palmer Invitational:
Given all the attention paid to performance off-the-tee above, it’s no surprise that great drivers typically perform very well at Bay Hill. There is an above average correlation to both driving distance and accuracy to success at Bay Hill. As such, this week is a huge Strokes Gained – Off-the-Tee week for a gambler’s handicap.
What’s also notable is the higher than average correlation to good putters having success at Bay Hill. It might be because of how difficult it is to get a ball close to the pin on either the approach shot or from off the green. The ability to avoid three putts or convert on slippery 5-10 foot putts to save strokes is vital this week.
Finally, there’s a much lower than expected correlation to good scramblers faring well at Bay Hill than there is at the average PGA Tour venue. This is likely because of the success a player like Bryson DeChambeau has had at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. We also have seen a player like Viktor Hovland, who notoriously struggles around the green, nearly win at Bay Hill.
But I believe these are exceptions to the norm. Overall, good scramblers like Scheffler, Hatton, McIlroy, Day, Leishman and Molinari all call themselves recent winners at Bay Hill. While it might not take you out of it, around-the-green performance seems to be the difference between winning and losing at Bay Hill.
Lastly, here’s the 2022 and 2021 approach shot distribution chart of Bay Hill courtesy of DataGolf. This will help preview the types of approach shots players will hit at the 2023 Arnold Palmer Invitational:
Typically, only the previous year’s approach shot distribution chart is posted in this column. It’s usually consistent (or close) the distribution from prior years. However, given 2022 was an outlier to 2021 (which is a distribution chart that’s remarkably similar to those of prior years), it’s worth noting how it’s skewed a little more away from longer approach shots and more towards middle irons.
Regardless of how you slice it, however, it’s still very important to utilize a proximity and scoring range on approach shots from 150-225 yards this week. This will cover between 52-54% of approach shots overall at Bay Hill. And these will cover the most difficult ones, including the tough Par 3’s.
To get additional coverage, look at Par 5 scoring too. Players must capitalize on them should they want to do well at Bay Hill. And those shots all come from 225+ yards. By looking at proximity and scoring from 150-225 yards, along with Par 5 scoring, that should give a gambler about 70% coverage of all approach shots at Bay Hill.
Follow the tips in this preview, and you should be able to put together a solid DFS lineup or betting card for the 2023 Arnold Palmer Invitational.