The Best Golf Course At Walt Disney World
Walt Disney world in Orlando, Florida has started to gain a reputation as not only being a happy vacation destination for children and families but as a prestige golfing location, not only for golfers who are vacationing at Disneyworld with their families but for pure golf holidays. With 5 golf courses, three of which have hosted PGA tour events, a wealth of accommodation options from camping to 5 stars and all of the food and entertainment options available at Disneyworld and the Orlando area, Disneyworld compares favourably to other golfing locales in North America.
Walt Disney World bills itself as a golfing mecca with 5 quality golf courses. This is only partly true, as one of those 5 golf courses, Disney's Oak Trail Golf Course is a 9 hole walking track which isn't of any higher quality than your local municipal 9 hole golf course. You will be horribly sorry if you travel all the way to Disney to play this course expecting a resort quality course. Of the other 4 courses, The Osprey Ridge golf course is about to be demolished to make way for another Disney hotel and Lake Buena course has never hosted a PGA tour event nor is it considered in the same class as the Palm and Magnolia courses. Therefore the best golf course at Walt Disney World is down to two excellent tracks.
Magnolia Golf Course
Blue Tees -> 7,190 yards, course rating 73.9, slope rating 133
White Tees -> 6,642 yards, course rating 71.6, slope rating 128
Golf Tees -> 6,091 yards, course rating 69.1, slope rating 123
Red Tees -> 5,232 yards, course ratings 70.5, slope 123
The longest course at Disney World and along with the Palm course, co-host of the Children's Miracle Network Classic on the PGA tour, the Magnolia course is a solid test for any golfer. Designed by Joe Lee, it has the widest fairways of the two premier courses but bares it teeth not only with its length, but with water in play on 11 holes and impenetrable Floridian jungle. I wouldn't recommend venturing into your water to fetch a ball, I have seen several alligators in and around the course's lakes and ponds. Often used in promotional photos with a bunker in the shape of Mickey Mouse ears on the par 3 6th hole the course has undoubtedly the best and most interesting greens at Disney World. They do not have massive tiers as you would expect to find in many top rated resort courses, but it is rare to get a straight putt. The best description would be a giant grabbing the greens like a sheet on a bed and giving it a shake. There are a lot of subtle and not so subtle breaks throughout each green and it is not unheard of to have a putt break 4 times in 15 feet. But the greens consistently run true at even pace and are a fantastic challenge for all levels of golfers.
The pick of the holes would be the par 4 17th, long at 427 yards with water down the left and right. An intimidating tee shot with the fairway looking smaller then it is with the amount of water and bunkering in your eye line, the green is protected with sand and water to the right, making the average golfer second guess hitting in a wood or long iron for their 2nd shot. Due to the high rainfall in Florida, the course, especially the fairways tend to be soft and spongy, with little run so make sure you maximize carry on all your shots. The rough can get quite thick and will require at least 1 additional club even from a good lie and you will need more then luck if the ball nestles down in a particularly grizzly lie.
Blue Tees -> 6,957 yards, course rating 73.9, slope rating 133
White Tees -> 6,461 yards, course rating 71.6, slope rating 128
Golf Tees -> 6,029 yards, course rating 69.1, slope rating 123
Red Tees -> 5,311 yards, course ratings 70.5, slope 123
Co-host of the Children's Miracle Network Classic on the PGA tour but not as long as its sister course, the Palm Golf Course at Disney World is a serious test of golf for players of all abilities. Carved through woodlands, there are still plenty of water hazards and jungles to swallow your ball, with water in play on 9 of the 18 holes. I have found that the greens aren't as interesting as at the Magnolia course, being a lot flatter and lacking the multiple subtle breaks.
The Palm has some seriously interesting and challenging holes. The 2nd with water down the left hand side will test your driving nerves early. The par 5 15th has at least 2 forced water carry's, one off the tee with more water to the right. The big hitters face the ultimate risk vs. reward scenario, with the opportunity to reach the green in two if they are brave enough to carry more water. Otherwise the average golfer can bail out short and right of the green for a relatively easy pitch in. The 18th is rated the 4th hardest finishing hole on the PGA tour, with length, jungle and a hidden creek making this hole a tough finish to a difficult course.
The Big Conclusion
The Palm course is definitely the harder of the two premier courses at Walt Disney World but I personally believe that it lacks the variety and subtly of the Magnolia course. If you have the time and chance I highly recommend playing both courses, especially with so few PGA Tour courses open to the general public. If your time and budget only allow one round of golf in the Floridian sun, I think the Magnolia Golf Course is the better of the two courses. Although easier then The Palm, it is difficult enough that reaching handicap is a serious achievement but almost every round it will kick your butt but leave you feeling like that you had a fighting chance to shoot a special score.
Looking for a wonderful dining experience while staying at Walt Disney World? Read my review of the spectacular California Grill overlooking The Magic Kingdom