The Palm golf course at Walt Disney World: A scenic, shot-maker's complement to the brawny Magnolia
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Just how big is golf among the many faces of Walt Disney World? Simply put, the game goes back as far as Cinderella's Castle at the Magic Kingdom.
Jack Nicklaus won the first big-time event at the resort, the Walt Disney World Open on the PGA Tour. He also won the next two.
Architect Joe Lee built Disney's Palm course and Magnolia course, coinciding with the 1971 opening of the Magic Kingdom.
The design philosophy was simple: Lee built the Magnolia as a power hitter's alley, rewarding distance. Next door, he designed the shorter Palm as a shot-maker's delight, offering plenty of picture-perfect scenery to boot.
The Magnolia serves as home to the famous Mickey Mouse bunker, but palm trees and small lakes fill the Palm, making for a more scenic golf course.
The Palm's front nine features two of its more recognizable holes, starting with the par-3 third -- the golf course's most photographed hole, especially when the azaleas bloom behind the tee box.
The sixth hole has earned the nickname "the devil made me do it," and it can play as penal as the Palm's famously tough closing hole. The sixth fairway doglegs left around water, while woods lurk on the right side. And just like the 18th, a perpendicular canal runs through the fairway, requiring a forced carry to the gently elevated and well-protected green.
The front side includes some exposure to a road, and some parts of the park remain in view. But the back is as scenic and peaceful as Disney's secluded Osprey Ridge, featuring holes that weave quietly through woods and ponds. The woods encircled some holes, while Nos. 13 through 16 share an area in the back of the golf course. The climactic 16th, a show-stopping par 3 from an elevated tee, plays entirely over water.
Disney's Palm course is a PGA Tour mainstay
Golf has fit into the experience at Disney World as long as the Magic Kingdom. The Disney Golf Classic in 1971 marked the resort's first major event. For many years, it provided the largest purse on tour. This year in the PGA Tour Fall Series, the tournament celebrates its 40th anniversary. The Disney folks prefer that it coincides with down time at the parks, and it's still in position to attract strong fields despite its spot late in the year.
"It fits well on the schedule at the end of the year, because it becomes a family vacation for many tour players," said Eddie Dickmeyer, event manager for the Classic. "My favorite part of the event is when a tour player or amateur comes up to me and says 'My family had a great time.' That's what we're all about at the Classic."
In the past year, Disney has made an effort to promote the event on a daily basis at the Palm. Each hole includes a Kodak-sponsored history marker with a tournament fact on it, sometimes pertaining to the particular hole. The first tee also features balloon-style tees, also used during the PGA Tour event.
The Palm at Walt Disney World: The verdict
The Palm course fills an interesting niche among the four golf courses at Disney World. It's a PGA Tour-caliber golf course, but perhaps a bit less so than the next-door Magnolia. The Palm is a little more secluded and picturesque than the Magnolia, but not to the extent of Tom Fazio's Osprey Ridge course. And for higher handicappers, the Palm is shorter and easier than the aforementioned pair, but not as friendly as Disney's Lake Buena Vista course.
Essentially, it rates as the second-best Disney option in a trio of categories.
The Palm and the Magnolia play out of the same clubhouse across the street from the Polynesian Resort. On-site sits a small grill and pro shop. Golf carts are equipped with GPS. And there's the nine-hole Oak Trail golf course, a gentler, family-friendly facility. It has received more use in recent years as part of the resort's Fun n' More package, which includes the option to play Oak Trail. It's also slated to soon undergo enhancements and renovations.
At the clubhouse, keep watch for the Mickey Golf Cart parked in front of the practice green for a fun photo op.
June 7, 2010