Disney perfect cure for golfers suffering from the winter blues

Admit it. Labor Day, the unofficial end of golf season in the area, is just hours in the rear-view mirror, and already you feel the itch.

It won’t be long until some golfers set their clubs aside in favor of little surfing — Web surfing, to be precise, in an effort to put that nagging itch to rest.

Sometime soon, diehard golfers will be searching for somewhere warm to play. For the creative types, somewhere warm where they can feed their golfing habit under the guise of the family vacation.

No better spot for that late fall or winter getaway than Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fla.

With five championship courses, another nine walking holes and something for the family to do during or after your round of golf, it’s hard to think of a better stop.

Like Disney World’s four theme parks, each golf course offers a different experience.

“We have different styles of theme parks, you have choices,” said Jennifer Gaddy, manager of golf operations at WDW. “Well, the same thing with golf courses. Even our water parks. You can pick your experience for the day. You can’t get bored here at Disney.”

Oak Trail

While Oak Trail is a short, 9-hole walking-only course that measures between 2,552 and 2,913 yards, the par-36 track offers two aspects most golfers will like.

“Golfers have a chance to hit every club in their bag,” said Disney head pro Kevin Weickel.

The course also may have the best putting surfaces of all the Disney courses.

“It’s the hidden jewel of Walt Disney World golf,” said Weickel.

Lake Buena Vista

Even though Lake Buena Vista stretches out to only 6,800 yards, it is a challenging track because the course winds through the Disney Vacation Club properties, as well as the new and ever-expanding Saratoga Springs Spa.

The course was once part of a trio of courses played for the PGA Tour’s Disney Classic, but technology made the course too short for today’s top pros.

Still, it is a terrific track with some fun and memorable holes.

Two of those come on the front nine. The par-4 sixth, has an approach shot over one of several water hazards on the course.

Then the par-3 seventh, just 157 from the tips, is played to an island green with bunkers guarding it front and rear, and one of the most severe slopes of any Disney green.

Eagle Pines

For the love-hate relationship golfers seem to have with Pete Dye designs, this may be one of his fairest tests.

“And it’s very well set up for all player types and age ranges,” Gaddy said.

Water comes into play on 16 of 18 holes at Eagle Pines, even if fairways are wide.

“It’s more generous, but you do have some nice strategic bunker locations,” Gaddy said. “Pete Dye has always done that. He’s gives you the look, but it still can get you. If you are playing strategically right, you’re going to score very well. But if you make those small errors, it will get you.”

The par-4 13th, at 458 yards with water left and fairway bunkers right, is perhaps the most difficult test on the course. But the closing six holes, including the signature par-3 15th over water, are all eye-catching.


One of two course where the Disney Funai Classic is played, it is one of two original Disney courses. While it is shorter than Magnolia, its sister course, it is also narrower, thanks to more than 1,200 palm trees.

Water comes into play on nine holes, especially the difficult par-4 sixth, which requires golfers to avoid the water all the way down the left side of the fairway, and the water that crosses in front of the green.

While No. 6 carries the top handicap rating, it is the 454-yard 18th that has frequently been atop the PGA Tour’s list of its 50 toughest holes — eight times since 1983, to be exact. The green is narrow, three large bunkers surround it and trees line both sides of the fairway. Oh, water comes into play across the fairway and down the right side, too.


It should be renamed mag-nificent.

Winding through 175 acres of wetlands, this is a typical Florida-style golf course, stretching to more than 7,500 yards with a treacherous course rating of 76.5.

So long are some of the holes, that not even the PGA Tour would dare to put its players on the tips of the black course. But don’t be scared away by four par 4s that reach over 480 yards and make this one of the five longest courses on the Tour.

“Fifty weeks a year, our courses are played by amateur golfers,” Weickel said. “They were originally designed with that in mind — to be great golf courses for all levels of players. And they are still that.”

The sixth hole hasn’t changed much, and the Mickey Mouse-shaped sand trap still draws golfers to the front of the tee box for a photo with that trap in the background.

Osprey Ridge

Closed for renovations until late September, the Tom Fazio design has rolling fairways and undulating greens — not your typical Florida course.

Where the pros play

This will mark the 36th year the pros have played at Disney, and so can you and I.

“People think they have to be a resort guest or maybe know somebody to play here,” Gaddy said. “I’ll get calls from other golf professionals in the area that think you need special permission to play on the golf courses. Disney is all about everyone. It’s open to everybody.”

That’s the one thing that makes Disney golf more special than just five great 18-hole courses.

Contact the writer: mmyers@timesshamrock.com



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