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Summer golf at Disney World provides a haven from the theme-park crowds

Brandon TuckerBy Brandon Tucker,
Managing Editor
Disney's Bonnet Creek
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Disney's Bonnet Creek facility features designs by Tom Fazio and Pete Dye. (GolfPublisher.com)

In summer, Orlando isn't everyone's idea of the magic kingdom. Temperatures flirt with triple digits daily, and Floridians join the crowds that flock from all over the world to fill the theme parks to capacity.

But for golfers, refuge awaits. Walt Disney World's 99 holes are steeply discounted through Sept. 28, and courses are generally wide open after noon. Drop the kids off at Typhoon Lagoon or Animal Kingdom and find a welcoming haven on one of Disney's five championship courses.

While winter rates reach $119, in summertime morning fees drop to $89. If you're willing to give your sweat glands a workout, you can hit the course after 10 a.m. for just $55, and twilight rates (from 3 p.m.) range from $25 to 35 - prices that make it easier to take the brief isolated thunderstorms that hit central Florida almost daily in summer. (Your round usually won't be interrupted for more than half an hour.)

There are two generations of Disney golf: the original Joe Lee designs built in 1971 and the newer Tom Fazio and Pete Dye courses at Bonnet Creek.

As will all things Disney, the beauty of these courses is in the details. Carts come with the latest GPS system, and it doesn't matter how old you are, when you catch a glimpse of Mickey or one of his pals around the course, you'll feel like a knee-kicker all over again.

The courses

Eagle Pines: One of Pete Dye's shorter courses (6,700 yards from the championship tees), Eagle Pines still sports his deadly design traits - heavy bunkering, undulating greens, water coming into play on 16 holes. Eagle Pines utilizes most of Bonnet Creek's low-lying property while its brother Osprey Ridge plays in the highlands.

Osprey Ridge: Spot native osprey and other wildlife between shots at this Audobon-certified Fazio design that brings a Carolinas feel to central Florida.

"You feel like you're in the Sandhills of North Carolina," says Kevin Weickel, head professional at Disney. "It has rolls and ridges and elevation changes throughout the course which are unique to flat Florida. When you stand on every tee, it feels like a presentation. It's just laid out so clearly."

Magnolia: Home to the weekend rounds of the PGA Tour's FUNAI Classic, the Magnolia is designed for the pros, measuring more than 7,500 yards from the tips. It also features the often-photographed par-3 sixth, with its Mickey Mouse-shaped sand trap, but gets its name from the roughly 1,500 Magnolia trees that line the course.

Palm:: Host to the FUNAI's qualifying rounds, the Palm course plays a bit shorter than Magnolia, topping out at a little more than 7,000 yards. Palm trees come into play throughout this classic Florida parkland layout. The 18th is consistently ranked as one of the Tour's most difficult holes, playing 454 yards to a small, tilted green, often into the wind.

Lake Buena Vista and Oak Trails: Winding through the Key West Resort and Disney Institute in central Walt Disney World, Lake Buena Vista is a shorter, easier compliment to the four other championship courses. It's considered the friendly, country club-type layout (though still sporting plenty of water hazards) and is a shade cheaper.

Consider bringing the kids along to walk Oak Trail, a nine-hole course that plays about 3,000 yards but offers a 517-yard par 5 to challenge the grown-ups. Juniors can get on for as little as $5 twilight during the summer.

Brandon Tucker is the Managing Editor for Golf Advisor. To date, his golf travels have taken him to over two dozen countries and over 500 golf courses worldwide. While he's played some of the most prestigious courses in the world, Tucker's favorite way to play the game is on a great muni in under three hours. Follow Brandon on Twitter at @BrandonTucker.

 
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