Few people did more to grow the game of golf than Arnold Palmer.
Fewer did more to provide places to play it.
The charismatic champion who died Sunday night of complications from heart problems was every bit as successful at designing courses as he was conquering them. From Palmer’s first design in 1963, the back nine at his beloved boyhood course in Latrobe, Pennsylvania, to his recently completed project in Brazil, “The King” was instrumental in shaping the way people around the world enjoy the game.
So prolific was Palmer that computer software accompanying a video game that allowed players at home to design their own layouts was called the “Arnold Palmer Course Designer.” And for his respected design career spanning more than 300 courses, Palmer was giving the Donald Ross Award for lifetime achievement from the American Society of Golf Course Architects.
Here are some of his memorable designs, courses that will no doubt carry on his legacy.
KAPALUA RESORT (BAY COURSE) , Lahaina, Hawaii
Teaming with Francis Duane, Palmer helped kick off a golf boom on the Hawaiian islands when he opened the first course at Kapalua in 1974. The meandering track with seaside vistas was host to the Kapalua LPGA Classic, and is beloved by amateurs for such holes as the cliff-side par-3 fifth.
BAY HILL CLUB AND LODGE , Orlando, Florida
The first 18 holes were designed by Dick Wilson in 1961, but the course has been tweaked so much by Palmer over the years that he might as well have laid it out. Palmer bought the course in 1974, and it has been the site of a PGA Tour event since 1979 that has become synonymous with him.
TPC BOSTON , Norton, Massachusetts
Palmer built the original course in 2003, and Gil Hanse and Brad Faxon reworked parts of it later, but regardless the layout is considered one of the best on the PGA Tour. It is the host venue for the Deutsche Bank Championship, one of the events in the season-ending FedEx Cup playoffs.
BAY CREEK RESORT (PALMER COURSE) , Cape Charles, Virginia
Palmer and Jack Nicklaus will be forever linked, so perhaps it was inevitable that they would have courses at the same resort. Palmer’s design came first in 2003, the layout hard along the Chesapeake Bay featuring idyllic views, soaring gulls and pathways made from sea shells.
RUNNING Y RANCH , Klamath Falls, Oregon
Palmer featured everything the Pacific Northwest has to offer, including meadows and wetlands. But it is the majestic views of the Cascade Mountains that keep people coming back. Palmer said his vision was “to leave the land as it lies,” and he considered Running Y Ranch to be one of his best designs.
TRALEE GOLF CLUB , County Kerry, Ireland
His first European course, which opened in 1984, Palmer sculpted a layout that teeters on the edge of a windy point high over the sea. The Academy Award-winning film “Ryan’s Daughter,” starring Robert Mitchum and Sarah Miles, even used the striking backdrop of the golf course for some of its filming.
TURTLE BAY RESORT (PALMER COURSE) , Oahu, Hawaii
The resort itself is a popular filming location or movies and TV shows, but it’s the golf courses — one designed by Palmer, the other by George Fazio — that draw players from around the world. The course is set along the famed North Shore, home to Pipeline, Sunset Beach and Waimea Bay.
CHUNG SHAN HOT SPRING GOLF CLUB , Zhongshan, China
Other designs may be more memorable, and certainly more striking, but few have been more important to growing the game. Chung Shan Hot Spring was the first course in China when it opened in 1984, and to this day it remains a popular track in the city of 3 million.
HALF MOON BAY (OLD COURSE) , Half Moon Bay, California
Pebble Beach and Cypress Point may be more revered, but the views from the 405-yard par-4 finishing hole at Half Moon Bay are every bit as striking. The rest of the course, built in 1973, has a parkland feel, but the 18th towers on a bluff high above the Pacific Ocean.
BREEZY POINT RESORT (DEACON’S LODGE) , Breezy Point, Minnesota
There are other courses that deserve to be on a list of Palmer’s best, from his courses at PGA West and Oasis Golf Club, to his layout at Kildare Hotel and Country Club in Ireland. But there is only one that is name for his father, Deacon, a tranquil layout that he always considered among his favorites.
REUNION RESORT AND CLUB (PALMER COURSE) , Kissimmee, Florida
The only resort with courses by Palmer, Nicklaus and Tom Watson, it is the rolling layout that opened in 2004 that stands out. Palmer’s course is carved of a former citrus grove and is home to heron, coyotes, wild turkey, red tail hawks, tortoises and armadillos, among other species of wildlife.