Playing Golf at Disney

Playing Golf at Disney

The "Mickey Mouse" bunker on Magnolia's 6th <span class="picturesource">Pete Fontaine/Sportimages</span>

The happiest place on earth, so they say, is Walt Disney World — at least that’s what Lucas Glover was saying last year when he made the FUNAI Classic at Walt Disney World Resort his first PGA Tour win. It’s hard to say what was more astonishing, Glover’s holing a dramatic sand shot at the final green to win by one, or the fact that the world’s Nos. 1 and 2 players, Tiger Woods and Vijay Singh, both missed the cut. Either way, it made for another interesting — even magical — week at Disney World.

The Magnolia Course at Disney continues to serve as the host of the tournament’s final round. Best known for its par-3 sixth, with a greenside trap in the shape of Mickey Mouse’s head (ears and all) Magnolia underwent a facelift in 2005 that featured new grasses and the addition of more than 300 yards to the back tees, stretching the layout to 7,516 yards. It fazed the PGA Tour pros not one iota. Glover’s 265 total, 23-under-par, was one lower than the year before.

For the rest of us, all of Disney’s courses are enticingly handsome and plenty challenging. If you’re looking to create a little green magic of your own, here’s where to tee it up at Walt Disney World.

Magnolia Course
This 1971 Joe Lee design embodies classic Florida resort golf virtues, with flat, roomy fairways, lakes on 11 holes and 100 yawning bunkers. Thousands of magnolia trees planted at the course’s inception provide added character. The “mousetrap” bunker on the 231-yard, par-3 sixth gets all the shutterbugs’ attention, but serious golfers will relish the shotmaking challenge at the 492-yard, par-4 5th hole that doglegs to the right, as well as the closing pair, the 485-yard, par-4 17th, which demands a tee shot over water and the 492-yard, par-4 18th, with a lake to the right of the green.

Palm Course
The other course used at the FUNAI PGA Tour event is considered by many as the tougher, more character-filled of the two, despite being more than 500 yards shorter. With nine water holes and narrower, more densely wooded fairways, it is certainly a stronger test of driving. Joe Lee crafted this one as well, in 1971. Jungle-like forest and wetlands frame numerous holes and while the transplanted palms may give the course its name, the alligator- and other critter-filled out-of-play areas, the numerous lakes and bunkers and the ambiance of solitude leave the lasting impression.

Eagle Pines
One of Pete Dye’s gentler efforts, especially for a 1992 design, Eagle Pines sports a modest rating of 72.3 and a back (Talon) tee yardage of 6,772 yards. What it means is pure fun for the resort golfer. Eagle Pines is located at Disney’s Bonnet Creek Golf Club and while it’s not exactly overflowing with memorable holes, it is an exceedingly pleasant romp through Carolina-style pines.

Osprey Ridge
Tom Fazio moved massive amounts of earth to create internal elevation changes, yet disturbed as little of the course’s surrounds as possible, a good thing, since it’s built on a natural wetland preserve. The rolling fairways and huge, undulating greens instill the layout with the most variety and drama of any of the Disney layouts. With water lining the left side of the long par-3 17th and the right side of the lengthy par-4 18th, Osprey’s finish is an equal opportunity round-wrecker.

Lake Buena Vista
A co-host to the PGA Tour from 1982 through 1997, Lake Buena Vista is easily Disney’s most overlooked course — though it’s also clearly Number 5 on the priority list. Yet another early ’70s Joe Lee design, LBV is shorter than Magnolia and Palm, with fewer hazards, smaller greens and encroaching development, but it’s absolutely testing enough to be worth a go-round. The island-green, par-3 7th, its diagonal green pinched with bunkers, is the photo-op here.

Oak Trail
Designed in 1971 to be a family-friendly walking course, this par-35 nine-holer remains just that. Large bunkers and a smattering of lakes provide just enough challenge to keep everybody interested.

Joe Passov is the Architecture and Course Ratings Editor of GOLF MAGAZINE. E-mail him your questions and thoughts at [email protected]