Disney's golf courses have been rated among the best golf courses in Florida, and regularly attract Tour players every year. Here's a closer look at one of them, The Magnolia golf course.

By Frank Fenton

As I approach the gates to Walt Disney World in Orlando, I think of all the fun our family has had here when we visited. Disney World conjures up images of castles, pirates, and rides in a clean park with cast members who are unfailingly courteous. All this is true.

But if you want to play some top-tier, world-class golf you’ll find plenty of that here as well.

Walt Disney World Resort® Golf is operated by Arnold Palmer Golf Management, which for visitors, means combining two great names that always mean quality.

Disney World has been rated one of the top golf resorts by Golf Digest and Golf Magazine and has five superb courses:

Disney's Lake Buena Vista

A wonderful resort course that’s always enjoyable to play.

Disney's Oak Trail

A short 9-hole course set up just for walking; a great track to learn the game.

Disney's Palm

A woodlands layout that has one of the PGA Tour’s toughest finishing holes.

Disney's Magnolia

Also known as “The Mag," it's beautiful, with 1,500 magnolia trees. This track has been one of my favorites for many years.

Magnolia, Palm, and Lake Buena Vista were all designed by one of the great  golf course architects, Joe Lee, starting in 1971.

At 7,488 yards (yeah, that’s right) from the Black Tournament tees, the Magnolia course is one of the top five longest tracks on the PGA TOUR. The Course Rating and Slope Rating from back there are 75.6/141, so when you watch this year’s event on television you’ll appreciate what the TOUR pros are up against.

The Black tees on some of the finishing holes were scary long. #17 is a nice little 485 yard Par 4 over water to a tight fairway. # 18, a straight, tree-lined Par 4, is a little longer at 492 yards. Unless you really enjoy being beat over the head, I’d suggest that you take on the Mag from the Blue tees if you are a skilled golfer – still a hefty 7,073 yards with ratings of 74.0/137; or maybe the White tees at 6,558 and 71.6/130. The Red tees measure 5,311and rate 70.4/124.

From any set of tees you’ll still get to enjoy the gorgeous trees, flowers and the plentiful wildlife. All types of birds – ospreys, eagles, hawks, cranes, owls (check out my photo of the wild turkeys just off the 14th fairway), and animals like otters, armadillos, and deer scampering across the course. At first you wonder if these are some Disney animatronics, but I assure you they're all real.

Some of the top holes:

  • #14 – A strong risk/reward Par 5. Cut the corner off the tee by flying the trees and bunkers on the right to get a chance to attack the hole in two, but watch out for the water guarding the green.
  • #15 – Par 3 with a slick, domed putting surface. Even with a large amount of early morning dew this green is fast and undulating. Approach with care.
  • #17 – Large lake left, fairway bunkers and a stream running up the right side of this Par 4 make things interesting.
  • #18 – Looks like a simple straightaway Par 4, but the trees make the drive a challenge. Still a long hole from the White tees at 442, you’ll have a mid to long iron into the green protected by large bunkers left and a hidden pond on the right that will gather in any pushed shots.

The best time of the year to play the Magnolia golf course is in the fall. The weather is cooling off and it’s getting close to the time for The Children's Miracle Network Hospital Classic, so the course is being groomed into peak condition.

Some of the best things about golf at Disney are the amenities. As with all the Disney personnel, these folks are pleasant and helpful during your stay. From the guard at the gate, and the guys at the bag drop to the golf shop staff, everyone is in high spirits.

The clubhouse includes the Champions Room, just off the golf shop. It has some wonderful pictures from the PGA TOUR events held there since 1971 with winners such as Jack Nicklaus and Stephen Ames. Be sure to check out the locker room. You can actually use the same lockers that the PGA TOUR pros use during the event. You’ll see name plates on various lockers with the winners’ names engraved. There is a tribute locker for Payne Stewart with a clear door so that you can see what a real pro’s locker might contain.

I stayed at the nearby Disney's Polynesian Resort, just a couple of minutes from the course, with Disney's Grand Floridian Resort just down the road. Both of these provide fantastic accommodations for your golf vacation.

Whether you are going to Disney World to visit the parks, resorts, or to have a great meal at one of the restaurants, you're always welcome to set up a round of golf at one of their fine courses.




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