Join Arnie's Army: Play the public golf courses where Arnold Palmer won on the PGA Tour



The PGA Tour schedule looked a whole lot different during Arnold Palmer's heyday in the 1950s and '60s.

Most of the public golf courses that host tournaments in this modern era -- such as the Copperhead Course at Innisbrook, the Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass and the Stadium Course at TPC Scottsdale -- weren't even built by the time Palmer captured his 62nd and last official PGA Tour title, the 1973 Bob Hope Desert Classic.

Palmer wasn't done on foreign soil, winning twice more on the European Tour in 1975 and at the 1980 PGA Championship of Canada. After 10 more trophies on the Senior PGA (now Champions) Tour in the 1980s, he topped off his career earnings with three "silly season" victories in the Senior Skins Game at Royal Kaanapali in Maui in 1990, 1992 and 1993.

Most of us never got to experience the euphoria of joining Arnie's Army, the movement that breathed life back into golf again. Why not march in Palmer's footsteps for a trip down memory lane?

Of course, the best place to meet Palmer these days is a stay-and-play at his Bay Hill Club & Lodge in Orlando, Fla., but die-hard fans will enjoy playing the 10 public courses where the King ruled court back in the day, winning tour events and the hearts of fans everywhere.

Mount Pleasant Golf Course

The Eastern Invitational Open spent its first nine years at this Mount Pleasant Golf Course, a par-71 municipal course in Baltimore. Palmer started the tournament in 1956 by hooking his first tee shot onto Hillen Road, prompting him to say the unthinkable: "That's it. I quit." His playing partner, Doug Ford, calmed him down by reassuring him, "Arnold, you can spot this field a couple shots and still win." Palmer re-teed with an iron and went on to win the tournament by two strokes over Dow Finsterwald, his third win as a professional.

Video: Tour Latrobe Country Club with Arnold Palmer

Royal Birkdale Golf Club

Palmer's special victory in 1961 remains the turning point when the Open Championship began attracting the globe's best players again, specifically Americans. His one-shot victory along England's "Golf Coast" north of Liverpool cemented Royal Birkdale Golf Club's lofty status among Open venues.

Old Course at Royal Troon Golf Club

Palmer's six-shot romp in 1962 to defend the Claret Jug attracted surging crowds, overwhelming course stewards and ultimately changing the dynamics for all future Opens, which required more personnel and fencing to better control spectators. The first six holes on the Old Course at Royal Troon Golf Club gently hug the Firth of Clyde along Scotland's Ayrshire Coast before diving into the dunes and gorse. Palmer overwhelmed the famous "railway hole" at no. 11, making two birdies and an eagle. The scrutiny surrounding Royal Troon, an all-male club, will probably take center stage again at the 2016 Open Championship.

Harbour Town Golf Links

Once again, Palmer's influence on the modern game is evident at one of golf's most iconic courses. Palmer won the inaugural Heritage Golf Classic in 1969, introducing the world to Harbour Town Golf Links, a unique collaboration between Jack Nicklaus and a young Pete Dye. A tradition was born that day on Hilton Head Island, S.C., a laid-back golf party the week after the Masters that PGA Tour pros savor to this day.

Memorial Park Golf Course

A renovation in the mid-1990s restored some of this municipal course's original grandeur, back when Memorial Park Golf Course was a regular host of the Houston Open in Texas. Palmer won the event in 1957. A historic course, Becks Prime Restaurant in the clubhouse and a lighted driving range all draw golfers into downtown, or keep them there after work.

Azalea City Golf Course

Back when Palmer won the 1960 Mobile Sertoma Open Invitational, Azalea City Golf Course was known as the Mobile Municipal Golf Course near Alabama's Gulf Coast. This tree-lined classic offers lake views and old-school golf.

Pasadena Yacht and Country Club

Palmer won the 1958 St. Petersburg Open at what was then called the Pasadena Country Club in Gulfport, Fla. He would later redesign the original Pasadena Yacht and C.C. layout. Walter Hagen served as the club's first golf professional from its opening in 1924 to 1925. The 6,588-yard course, which allows limited outside play on Mondays, is laced with water.

West Palm Beach Golf Course

The King returned to southeast Florida in 2009 to celebrate his victory in the 1959 West Palm Beach Open Invitational by hitting the ceremonial first tee shot after a successful course renovation by Mark McCumber. Think you've got the game to tame the West Palm Beach Golf Course, a venerable track that dates to 1947? The renowned "Friday Pro Am" still attracts professionals and amateurs to compete in a weekly points game.

Catalina Course at Omni Tucson National Golf Resort

Palmer secured his milestone 50th win at the 1967 Tucson Open Invitational at what was then called the Tucson National Golf Club. The Catalina Course features eight lakes, tree-lined fairways and traditional bunkers, giving it a more parkland feel than a desert track.

Riverwalk Golf Club

Palmer won the San Diego Open Invitational twice, in 1957 and 1961, at the old Mission Valley Country Club, which changed its name to Stardust Country Club in the 1960s and was later completely transformed into the 27-hole Riverwalk Golf Club. Maybe it's a stretch to say this SoCal course belongs on our tour, although it's still worth checking out a slice of PGA Tour history before the tournament moved north to Torrey Pines.

Jul 28, 2014



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Jason Scott Deegan

Senior Staff Writer

Jason Scott Deegan has reviewed more than 600 courses and golf destinations for some of the industry's biggest publications. His work has been honored by the Golf Writer's Association of America and the Michigan Press Association. Follow him on Twitter at @WorldGolfer.