ORLANDO, Florida – By now you probably know that this year Walt Disney World is celebrating its 50th anniversary, so as a newly minted golf writer, I made the 50-minute drive from my home in The Villages to Orlando to play the four Disney courses.
First, this road trip is shaping up as one of my favorite golf assignments since Disney Golf fondly refers to itself as the “Happiest Place on Turf.”. Someone has to be ready, willing and able to share their golf travel experiences and write about interesting golf course destinations, so it may as well be me. Now, let’s look at each of the four courses: Disney’s Magnolia Golf Course, Palm GC, Lake Buena Vista GC and Oak Trail GC.
DISNEY’S MAGNOLIA GOLF COURSE
As one of the two original Walt Disney World Resort golf courses, Disney’s Magnolia Golf Course opened in 1971. This beautifully manicured, par-72 course has all the earmarks of a golfer’s paradise featuring elevated tees and greens, rolling terrain, and a popular Mickey Mouse-shaped sand hazard on the 6th hole. This Joe Lee-designed course is aptly named for its more than 1,500 magnolia trees. With tee boxes ranging from 5,127 to 7,516 yards from the tips, it is the longest of the Disney golf courses.
Definitely Disney’s longest course but that’s what it was designed to be. You need to choose the right tee box to work from if you want to enjoy your day and keep your final score respectable. The key here is understanding that some courses will challenge the very best, and this is one of them!
DISNEY’S PALM GOLF COURSE
Built in 1971 and located near Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, this Joe Lee-designed course measures 6,870 yards from the back tees, 6,339 from the middle and 5,213 from the front tees. The par-72 course is rated 4 stars by Golf Digest and has 18-hole championship course features shimmering lakes, tropical sands, palm trees and sloping greens, providing plenty of challenges for novices and seasoned golfers alike.
This was an awesome course that will have you using every club in your bag. The layout was definitely designed for professional golfers but with the selection of the right tee box for your handicap, you will find yourself enjoying the chance to play where the Pros played.
DISNEY’S LAKE BUENA VISTA GOLF COURSE
Built in 1972, this Joe Lee designed course stretches to 6,745 yards from the championship tees. It is a tough challenge to many, offering small, well-bunkered greens that demand accurate shot-making. This classic country club-style course winds through pastel villas, pine forests, palmettos and sparkling lakes. Guests can test their skills and fortitude at the demanding 7th hole with its challenging island green. The course is located near Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa and is a par-72 course.
This course was fun to play and offers the golfer the opportunity to find a tee that fits their style of play and gives them a real chance for success. You will enjoy the scenery and beauty of a course that brings you on a journey though Disney’s best kept secrets.
DISNEY’S OAK TRAIL GOLF COURSE
Tucked away on a 40-acre parcel of land, this 9-hole, par-36 course provides beginners a place to learn the game and seasoned golfers a unique challenge. This family-friendly layout measures 2,913 yards (2,552 yards from the front tees) and features fairways lined with majestic oak trees.
Designed by Ron Garl, this walking course opened in 1980 and is located next to Disney’s Magnolia Golf Course.
This course will surprise you on how well it is designed to accommodate all levels of golfers. It is set up to give everyone what they came for which is a beautiful walk in a natural setting while enjoying a chance to play some golf together.
Golf Course Operations
At Disney World it’s always been the small things that make a difference, and Arnold Palmer Golf Management takes care of the small things with a smile.
After spending four days playing the four wonderful Disney courses, while watching the golf course employees in real time, it’s obvious that the Arnold Palmer Golf Management Company “walks its talk.” Under the watchful eye of General Manager Bruce Gerlander and his course administrators, each of the Disney Courses are managed by true professionals who understand the value of a well run course that offers each and every golfer a “Magical Day” while experiencing the characteristic beauty of the natural settings that distinguishes Disney’s Courses from all the rest.
While standing on the tee here at Walt Disney World Resort, it occurred to me that to turn back the clock and relive the dream that Walt Disney started as an idea and then blossom into reality 50 years ago is special. Golf clubs back then looked different and our clothes may have caught a few stares, but 50 years is reason to celebrate. Walt Disney World is a place to live your dreams and “When you wish upon a star” some of those dreams come true!
Happy 50th Walt Disney!
On the web: GolfWDW.com