Ernie Els at Bay Hill Palmer Invitational 2010

Orlando golf enthusiasts have an exciting week in store for them. Arnold Palmer’s Invitational at Bay Hill will be going on all week with Youth Day on Monday, practice for the pros on Tuesday, Wednesday’s Pro-Am Tournament; then the rest of the week the competition rounds commence. If you’ve never attended the Bay Hill tournament, or any other PGA event, you should. This one is as magical as the Kingdom just down the road, and the course is nothing short of spectacular!

It would be hard to write an article about golf and not mention Tiger Woods, and with his recent commitment to play this year’s Bay Hill tournament, the competition is sure to be stellar. Of course last year’s winner, Ernie Els, will return, as well as fan favorites – Phil Mickelson, Vijay Singh, Sergio Garcia, Bubba Watson, Matt Bettencourt, Jim Furyk and a host of other greats. This tournament is considered an honor to play in, and professional golfers all agree there are few greater players than Arnold Palmer.

In the Orlando area, Arnold Palmer and his wife have proven not only their love of golf, but their love to ‘give back’ to some awesome causes as well. The Arnold Palmer Invitational supports the Arnold Palmer Medical Center, which includes the Hospital for Children and Hospital for Women and Babies. Mastercard has teamed up with the charities and you can help by clicking “like” on their Facebook page. For every click, MC will donate $1 to the Medical Center. You may also donate directly to the Arnold Palmer charities by going to their web site.

Spectators will merge to Bay Hill this week to cheer the competition on. There are one-day tickets, various badges and special event tickets being sold all week. Want to go, but don’t have tickets? No problem. Orlando Tourist Tip: You can park at Universal Studios, purchase your one day ticket (must use a credit card – not cash), then take the shuttle bus over to the tournament. Make sure you purchase your ticket BEFORE getting on the bus! For those of you that already have tickets, there is on-site parking (Charger Course – lot #10), but this is limited to certain badge holders only and only on certain days. Be sure to check out the parking rules before heading to the course the day(s) you decide to spectate.

If you want to enjoy the clubhouse or the hospitality area during the tournament, purchase the “Bay Hill Badge” for $300 or “Palmer Pavilion Badge” for $200. If you only care about watching the action, purchase the “Weekly Grounds Badge.” This will get you close to every drive and putt all week and includes parking – a great deal at only $100. It also allows access to the public concessions, so you can still enjoy refreshments throughout the day.

Special events at the tournament include Publix Youth Day in which kids (under 17) get in free with a paid adult (under 12 get in free all week with an adult) and can hit the driving range at the Coca-Cola Junior Clinic. College students get in free Friday with their student ID. Active military receive a free one-day ticket with their ID any day of the week. The most festive special event is the Wine & Dine on 9 which features unlimited food and wine on Friday. The VIP tickets for this event are all sold out, as well as the upgrade tickets, but the basic ticket is still available (at this time) for $85.

Remember to keep your cell phones at home (or in the car), as well as your cameras, video cameras, radios and TVs. There are also no coolers, chair bags or backpacks allowed (larger than 6”). No alcoholic beverages may enter or leave the course and please leave your signs and banners at home. Players will not sign autographs until after their round, so please don’t ask them to! Respect Arnold and the game of golf and enjoy the competition with respect.

It’s going to be a beautiful week for golf here in Central Florida. If you have a day to use during your vacation, or can take a ‘sick day’ from work, there is no better tournament or way to experience the PGA than this week at Bay Hill. Hit the links and enjoy the fierce competition!