ORLANDO, Florida – Walter Elias Disney was not a golfer, but he knew golf was vital to a great guest experience.
While developing the overall concept for what would become Walt Disney World Resort, and shortly after acquiring the Florida property, Disney sketched a preliminary outlook for the future of the site – including his vision for EPCOT, an Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow. On the drawing – to the right of the property’s central hub with space devoted to the Magic Kingdom Park, resort hotels, convention facilities, and man-made lakes – Disney identified a large area designated for “golf.”
In 1971, Disney’s Magic Kingdom opened its gates for the first time, and now 50 years later, four exceptional golf courses, operated by Arnold Palmer Golf Management, provide a golfer’s paradise. The layouts are challenging enough for the PGA TOUR, LPGA and PGA of America’s best players, but also friendly enough to accommodate all skill levels at what’s known as “The Happiest Place on TURF!”
“We believe we have a social obligation to grow the game, especially from the perspective of showcasing junior golf and diversity into the sport,” said General Manager Bruce Gerlander. “Our commitment to guests has never wavered. We create an all-encompassing Disney experience while providing the opportunity to play golf where champions have played.”
The four Walt Disney World Resort golf courses operated by APGM are:
DISNEY’S PALM GOLF COURSE
Picturesque natural beauty featuring shimmering lakes, majestic palm trees and tropical sands make Disney’s Palm Golf Course a pleasure to play and a challenge to conquer. Tee options vary between 5,213 yards (red tees) and 6,870 yards (blue tees) – which includes 59 bunkers and nine holes with water in play, and undulating greens that are considered the most difficult to master at Disney. The par-4 18th hole – which features a well-protected and elevated green – was always one of the most difficult on the PGA TOUR.
DISNEY’S MAGNOLIA GOLF COURSE
Designed as a classic Tour style course by Joe Lee, Disney’s Magnolia Golf Course is the longest of the Walt Disney World Resort courses, playing at 7,516 yards from the black tees during tournaments (7,073 yards from blue tees for daily play). The course features magnolia trees along the fairways, elevated tees, large greens, 97 bunkers and 11 holes with water hazards. All bunkers were renovated in 2015 when extensive tree work and cart path improvements enhanced the condition of the course. The sixth hole has long been home to a Mickey Mouse-inspired bunker in the shape of Mickey’s iconic ears.
DISNEY’S LAKE BUENA VISTA GOLF COURSE
Designed in 1972 by Joe Lee, this course near Disney Springs® winds through several of the resort properties, including Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa and Disney’s Old Key West Resort. Disney’s Lake Buena Vista Golf Course’s wide-open fairways are spacious, but its elevated and well-guarded greens place an emphasis on accurate approach shots. The course, which plays between 5,177 and 6,745 yards, includes a par-3 seventh hole with an island green and a Mickey Mouse-inspired bunker that was added to the rear of the ninth green in 2018.
DISNEY’S OAK TRAIL GOLF COURSE
A nine-hole walking course, Disney’s Oak Trail Golf Course is well-suited for families and casual golfers, especially those with time constraints. This course, originally only six holes and known as “The Wee Course”, was expanded in the 1990s by Ron Garl who designed the fifth, sixth and seventh holes to feature water hazards around a canal and pond. The course is conditioned to the level of Disney’s three championship courses with beautifully maintained fairways and rolling greens that are smooth and fast. The par-36 layout can be played from junior tees (1,713 yards) or close to 3,000 yards (including a 517-yard par-5) from the white tees.
Walt Disney World began commemorating its first 50 years with “The World’s Most Magical Celebration” this past October 1 with plans to continue festivities well into this year and beyond, where everyone can celebrate its past, present, and future!