Walt Disney World Resort: A Magical Golf Experience

Mickey and Goofy Disney Golf
Mickey and Goofy play a round of golf before work. (Courtesy Disney Golf)

While not a golfer, Walt Disney was the architect of the world’s foremost family entertainment destination. Mr. Disney was a true visionary, and it didn’t take him long to realize that the sky was the limit for golf in Central Florida.

While developing the overall concept for what would become the 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 — just to the west of the property’s then-proposed central hub, and below spaces devoted to the eventual Magic Kingdom Park, resort hotels, convention facilities, and man-made lakes – Disney identified and labeled a large area designated for “golf.”

In 1971, Disney’s Magic Kingdom first opened its gates, and ever since then, golf has played an integral role in creating the diverse atmosphere that comprises the Walt Disney World Resort guest experience.

A half century later, four unique courses, now operated by Arnold Palmer Golf Management (APGM), provide a golfer’s paradise. The layouts are challenging enough for the PGA Tour’s greatest players, but also friendly enough to accommodate all skill levels at what has come to be known as “The Happiest Place on TURF!”

Jack Nicklaus wins the inaugural Walt Disney World Open Invitational in 1971.
Jack Nicklaus won the inaugural Walt Disney World Open in 1971. (Courtesy Disney)

As Walt Disney World Golf ushers in the next 50 years, there’s tremendous excitement in store with the grand re-opening of Disney’s Magnolia Golf Course in the spring of 2023 while next December will mark the 50th anniversary of the Jack Nicklaus legacy here – his third consecutive victory in what was then known as the Walt Disney World Golf Classic.

Walt Disney World Resort, meanwhile, will conclude its ongoing 50th anniversary festivities in March of 2023 when “The World’s Most Magical Celebration” draws to a close while, at the same time, the Walt Disney Company will begin to commemorate its centennial, so there is an abundance of reasons to celebrate Disney’s past, present, and future over the next 12 months and beyond!

While each of the championship-caliber courses receives accolades for design and playability, it is the year-round accessibility to all of the world-class amenities, service, and convenience that helps differentiate the Walt Disney World Resort from any other golfing destination.

Magical Experience

After more than four decades of hosting annual tournaments televised by ABC, ESPN, NBC and the Golf Channel, Walt Disney World Golf’s focus has shifted to expanding golf’s reach and is now offering a superlative experience in stunningly beautiful surroundings for family vacations, industry gatherings and business seminars.

Given the diversity of the golf challenges and exceptional Walt Disney World Resort dining and entertainment options, it’s no wonder Golf Digest has ranked Walt Disney World Golf among its top five destinations for a family golf trip.

Goofy Golf at Walt Disney World Resort
Goofy finds time to tee off. (Courtesy Disney Golf)

As part of Disney’s overarching mission to create the most magical experience possible, Walt Disney World Golf has overseen an extensive redesign of Disney’s Magnolia Golf Course, which will be fully re-opened to the public in early 2023. These changes involve a significant reimagination of all 18 greens and much of Magnolia’s closing stretch – holes 14 through 17.

While work continues on Disney’s Magnolia Golf Course, visitors at the Walt Disney World Resort have multiple world-class options to consider if they wish to play golf. Disney’s Palm and Lake Buena Vista Golf Courses remain open for play, along with Disney’s Oak Trail Golf Course, a nine-hole walking layout. Additionally, driving ranges are open to the public and there is the added attraction of FootGolf, a hybrid sport between soccer and golf, which has grown in popularity in recent years.

Disney goes out of its way to make vacations as convenient as possible with complimentary transportation to courses from select Walt Disney World Resort hotels and free parking for golfers on their way to courses. The resort experience is literally tailor-made for travelers. Golfers on the go can rent TaylorMade golf equipment and Adidas golf shoes. Junior rental equipment is also available.

Disney Resort’s 4 Golf Courses

1. Disney’s Palm Golf Course

Palm Course at Walt Disney World Resort
Palm Course at Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, FL. (Credit Arnold Palmer Golf Mgt)

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). The par-4 18th hole – which features a well-protected, elevated green – was always one of the most difficult on the PGA TOUR.

The Skinny

Name: Palm Golf Course
Where: Lake Buena Vista, FL
Par/Holes: 72/18
Number of Tees: 4
Yards: 6870, 6339, 5995, 5213
Slope: 131, 125, 118, 126
Architect: Joe Lee (1971)
Redesign: Arnold Palmer Co. (2013)

2. Magnolia Golf Course

Magnolia Course at Walt Disney World Resort
The popular Magnolia Course at Walt Disney World Resort. (Credit Arnold Palmer Golf Mgt)

Designed as a classic Tour style layout by Joe Lee, Disney’s Magnolia Golf Course is the longest of the Walt Disney World Resort courses, playing at 7,560 yards from the Classic tees during tournaments, 7,141 yards from green tees and 6,684 from the white tees for daily play.

The course, which features magnolia trees along the fairways and elevated tees, is undergoing its most extensive redesign ever prior to reopening to the public in 2023. Holes 14 through 17 are being reconfigured and all 18 greens are being substantially enhanced.

The Skinny

Name: Magnolia Golf Course
Where: Lake Buena Vista, FL
Par/Holes: 72/18
Number of Tees: 5
Yards: 7560, 7141, 6684, 6145, 5252
Slope: 141, 137, 130, 121, 126
Architect: Joe Lee (1971)
Redesign: Arnold Palmer Co. (2022)

3. Lake Buena Vista Golf Course

Lake Buena Vista Golf Course at Walt Disney World Resort
Lake Buena Vista Golf Course at Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, FL. (Credit Arnold Palmer Golf Mgt)

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. 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.

The Skinny

Name: Magnolia Golf Course
Where: Lake Buena Vista, FL
Par/Holes: 72/18
Number of Tees: 4
Yards: 6745, 6281, 5910, 5177
Slope: 133, 130, 125, 119
Architect: Joe Lee (1971)

4. Oak Trail Golf Course

Oak Trail Golf Course at Walt Disney World Resort
Oak Trail Golf Course at Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, FL. (Credit Arnold Palmer Golf Mgt)

A nine-hole walking course, Disney’s Oak Trail Golf Course is well-suited for families and casual golfers. 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 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.

The Skinny

Name: Oak Trail Golf Course
Where: Lake Buena Vista, FL
Par/Holes: 36/9
Number of Tees: 3
Yards: 2913, 2552, 1713
Slope: 123, 107
Architect: Joe Lee (1971)
Redesign: Ron Garl (1993)

Disney Golf 2.0

The Walt Disney World Resort and Arnold Palmer Golf Management, which launched a 20-year strategic alliance more than a decade ago, are not resting on their laurels. Golf Inc. Magazine recognized the redesign of Disney’s Palm Golf Course in its 2015 “Renovation of the Year” awards and millions of dollars in course upgrades have already been made by APGM – with more to come – and these extend well beyond the fairways and greens.

Robo-Caddies Disney Golf
The Robo-Caddies, designed by Club Car, are equipped with all of the amenities that golfers need: beverage cooler, cup holder, sand bottle and even a USB port. (Courtesy Walt Disney Golf)

A new fleet of premium Yamaha golf carts was recently introduced at Disney’s Palm, Magnolia and Lake Buena Vista Golf Courses. Each cart is equipped with a cutting-edge touchscreen Yamatrack GPS system to provide overviews of every hole, along with yardage from the cart to the flagstick. These carts boast plush, cushioned seats and a suspension system to provide a comfortable ride, USB ports to power mobile devices and Bluetooth speakers for the musically inclined to enjoy. Families can play and ride together as they interact with Donald Duck, Daisy Duck and Pluto in Disney character-themed four-seater golf carts.

More state-of-the-art technology is available in the form of Robo-Caddies – a small, robotic golf cart that employs GPS and Bluetooth technology to transport your clubs and all of your additional gear safely around Disney’s Oak Trail Golf Course. Golfers clip the cart’s small transmitter to their belt, load their golf bag, and focus on their next shot as the autonomous cart follows a few paces behind at a walking speed.

Walt Disney World Golf also features a fleet of SoloRider individual adaptive carts to help facilitate pace of play and keep mobility-impaired golfers in the game.

On the web: GolfWDW.com




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