|For forty years, the 18-hole Magnolia layout at the Walt Disney World Resort was a highly regarded end of season venue on the PGA Tour but, sadly, that arrangement ended in 2012.|
The first round I ever played in the Sunshine State was at the Disney Magnolia Golf Course. Given my fairly positive experience at other Arnold Palmer designs, I decided this moderately priced public course would be a solid option. While Disney’s Magnolia may not be topping any architectural lists, the round was still memorable.
Having grown up in New England, my trip to the Disney Magnolia course enlightened me to golf on flat land. While the topography was not spectacular, the course was well-maintained, and the pro-shop was full of awesome Disney branded golf gear. Some of the more interesting holes were:
• #6: This par three plays over a lake and is fronted by a bunker shaped like Mickey Mouse. While the strategic value of that trap is debatable, it is certainly one-of-a-kind!
• #9: This medium/long par five is relatively benign from the tee. Visually intimidating bunkers around the green can easily make a player miss left where a pond awaits.
• #10: This par five has an interesting, rumpled fairway. The desired tee shot is left-to-right while the reverse is required on the approach.
• #13: This quirky dogleg left requires thought off the tee. Players must either play sufficiently to the right (where two well-placed bunkers lay) or far enough back to avoid a gorgeous old tree that may block shots to the guarded green.
Despite the lack of strong architectural interest, the Magnolia course surprised me in other ways:
• First, the course was unexpectedly full of wildlife. I spotted many rafters of turkey, deer, alligators, and other wild birds and reptiles. This made the course feel very rural in the suburban Orlando jungle.
• Second, being at the resort, you were bound to meet interesting guests. I was randomly paired with two Japanese doctors who were on vacation, and we had such an amazing time playing golf together. How many courses can you interact with people from all around the globe in the pro-shop, on the range, and at the turn?
• Finally, there was just a generally happy spirit at the entire property – some Disney Magic. Everyone was incredibly friendly, and I just felt so positive out on the course. It rubbed off too, as I played the second best round of my career.
Thinking about Disney’s Magnolia Golf Course always puts a smile on my face.
Formulaic golf lies at the heart of Magnolia. For those with limited time options and having to entertain children present who are there to do the theme park escapade -- the golf side of the equation is more about filling a quick desire to play. From an architectural side -- there's hardly anything that will embed itself into your collective memory banks.
Matters would be helped considerably if one did not have to make a full shoulder turn to get a putt to go more than six feet. Also, rechecking a number of the teeing areas and being sure they are level would help too.
The greater Orlando golf market has clearly evolved since the Disney courses opened. But, for many who must stay nearby for family reasons -Magnolia is about getting some type of golf in while there. Nothing more than that.
M. James Ward
Tournament level course. Everything about it is great. Love the Mickey Mouse bunker except when I went in it and took a double bogey. Greens may not always be as fast as when I played a few years ago but at the time they were THE fastest greens I have played. 3 putts could be common if not giving putts away.
Novelty bunkers? Sounds like a bit of a Mickey Mouse course to me