Part II of the magic of Disney golf: The magnificent Magnolia course
Orlando, Fla. - As big brother to Disney's championship Palm course, the Magnolia packs a little more punch at 7,190 yards. Additionally, as host to the final round of Disney's National Car Rental Golf Classic for the last 30 years, this mature, Florida-classic course exudes experience.
"Its had all the great tour players play on it - Nicklaus, Woods, Nelson, Stewart, and Sutton," says Tournament Director and Head Professional, Kevin Weickel. "They've all won here."
Built by Joe Lee in 1971, the Magnolia was field of choice for the PGA Tour Qualifying School finals until the early 1980s. From 1988 to 1990, it hosted the Bryant Gumbel/Walt Disney World Celebrity Tournament benefiting the United Negro College Fund. It has since relinquished the event to its sister courses, Osprey Ridge and Eagle Pines. In 1995, it became home to the AJGA / Polo Golf Junior Classic and this year hosted the ACC Conference Championship.
The Magnolia course features elevated tees and greens with wide and generous fairways graced by over 1,500 magnolia trees that bloom from late spring to mid-summer. Brightly colored crape myrtles and oleanders, along with beds of blue plumbego and seasonal flowers, add sparkle to an otherwise dense, natural forest. Spectator mounds, added during renovations in 1993, are seen throughout, as is water on 12 of its 18 holes.
Of all the Disney courses, the Magnolia supports a greater abundance of wildlife. At any given time, you're likely to see deer, osprey, alligators and turtles. Weickel says one gopher turtle has lived between holes four and five since the late 1980s. Additionally, a flock of wild turkeys has brought several tournaments to a standstill while they pecked along its fairways.
From the start, the golf course opens like an exploding double-barrel shotgun. The 428-yard, par 4 opening hole and the 526-yard, par 5 number 10, rip deep into its respective nines sharing only a slender creek and opposing forest walls. Holes 2 and 11 veer away from one another, leading to a series of obstacles meant to humble any long hitter. Of particular interest is the 552-yard, par 5 number 4 with its 14 protective bunkers - the course carries 98 in all.
Arrival at holes 5, 6 and 7 with their varied look, length and dimension, offers the prettiest set of switchbacks found throughout the course. Hole number 5, for instance, is a wide and sweeping dogleg right, measuring 448 yards. Your approach to its elevated green requires caution, as deer are often spotted darting from one pine hammock to another.
At hole number 6, a 195-yard, par 3, you'll spot something of a different nature. Here, a large sand trap in front of the green resembles none other than Mickey himself. And, while it's the only Disney character you'll find on the course besides the tee box markers, its mischievous angle will create havoc for any attempt at a sand save.
A shared waterway is best revealed at the switchback of hole number 7, a 410-yard, par 4. Off the tee, the water comes into play for almost half the hole. So try to stay focused.
Magnolia's final stretch begins as early as hole number 14 and is truly magnificent. Here, the fairway runs dogleg right along the forest for 595 yards to a green that features water, sand and a false back. The course then turns 180 degrees left to a long, 203-yard, elevated par 3.
A second hairpin turn brings you to hole number 16 where a heavily bunkered, water-protected green limits any birdie chance but is known to reward the aggressive player.
Doubly dangerous is Number 17. A pond running the entire left flank and a wide creek to the right, make this 427-yard, par 4 something to seriously think about. A good strategy here is to hit a draw off the tee aimed at the middle catch bunker on the right. Your approach to the green from the left will be safe if you've made it this far.
Magnolia's final hole is a secluded, 455-yard corridor between two, towering forest walls. At first glance, it provides a clear path all the way to the well-protected, elevated green. But look again. Those trees have reach. So too, does the concealed waterway creeping behind the woods on the right.
For many players, all this natural beauty with its many challenges, is a reminder that the Magnolia is a living, breathing ecosystem. It is a testament to Disney's environmental commitment. As such, the Audubon Sanctuary Cooperative System certified the course as an Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary in September 2000.
Like the Palm and 9-hole walking course of Oak Trail, the Magnolia is within a 5-minute drive of the Magic Kingdom. And, as with all Disney courses, resort guests receive complimentary "to and from" taxi vouchers. For non-resort guests, take Interstate 4 or Hwy 192 to the Magic Kingdom Park. Using Disney's far right lane toll booth, pass through and follow the signs beyond the Polynesian Resort to the Palm and Magnolia courses.
See Part III of "The Magic of Disney Golf" - Osprey Ridge.