Part V of The Magic of Disney Golf: Lake Buena Vista and the Oak Trail Golf Course

By Elaine Gallant, Contributor

ORLANDO, FL - It comes as no surprise that illusion is part of the game at Walt Disney World Resort's Lake Buena Vista Golf Club. While the course appears to be short and easy at only 6,749 yards, it's hidden dangers and tricky pitfalls quickly become a labyrinth for anyone other than the straight shooter.

From elevated tee boxes, at least 12 of Lake Buena Vista's fairways take dead aim at their perspective flags. Of the remaining six, four fairways turn right or left while the other two bend only slightly. And, on almost every hole, the elevated greens are accessible from the front.

With all this relative ease, what then are the dangers at Lake Buena Vista and where will you find them?

From the start, a dense forest seems to exert its will. Sure, the fairway is open with only one catch bunker to the left, but that tangle of pines makes enough of a presence to influence any quick draw. Fortunately, it's to your back leaving the fairway ahead in full view.

What's not so quickly noticed is the waterway up the entire left side. While it shouldn't be in play on this 514-yard, par 5, don't count it out. As a matter of fact, don't count water out as a hazard on at least 11 of the remaining holes, especially on the front nine, as it's an integral feature throughout the course.

At number 4, for example, water comes into play immediately off the tee. So too does the stand of pines to the left of this 382-yard, dogleg left fairway. A draw aimed at a large live oak slightly forward of two catch bunkers on the right is ideal, leaving an easy approach to a heavily bunkered green.

Hole number 6, a 354-yard par 4, features water off the tee to the right and has a large hazard at the green. Keeping your focus here might be a little tough for there's plenty to distract you. There is the brightly-colored Old Key West Resort in pale blue, pink, and green. There's the red and white lighthouse behind a bridge crossing the waterway. And, there is the dip in the fairway just before the green - hardly noticeable, really - that leads directly into the canal.

An island green at the par 3 number 7 is followed by the number one handicapped hole at number 8, a lengthy and heavily wooded 524-yard par 5. All the trouble here is whatever you create. Stay out of the forest, right and left, and you'll be putting for birdie.

The back nine features plenty of dry land but is less glamorous than the front. Its track continues past the Old Key West Resort, then sidles up to the more muted-colored units of the Disney Institute.

The brightest spot on this nine comes at the 200-yard, number 16 where suddenly there's a flurry of water activity. You'll find passenger-carrying boats and smaller watercraft zooming about in the canal on the right. Between tee and green, there is a lesser-used canal, so be sure to take a long look before hitting. Otherwise, a forced shot will put your ball in the far right rough or greenside bunkers.

At the finish, Lake Buena Vista throws the last of its tricks. Water up the left on this 438-yard, par 4 fades behind a cypress hammock. A catch bunker on the left innocently hides a long, grassy ditch. And, the dogleg right fairway narrows to a well-bunkered, elevated green. Pretty hole, but it does require your absolute attention.

Of all Disney's courses, Lake Buena Vista is the change of pace - short and straight, simple and direct, but still challenging and provoking. It was built in 1972 by architect Joe Lee and is recognized as the only Disney course to host within a 12-month period, from 1995 - 1996, a PGA Tour, LPGA Tour and USGA event. It was also the first of Disney's courses to earn certification as an Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary by the Audubon Sanctuary Cooperative System (September 1999).

Lake Buena Vista plays 6,749 yards and carries a course/slope rating of 73.0/ 133. The whites play 6,264 yards at 70.1/129; the golds play 5,919 yards at 68.6/123; and the par 73 reds play 5,194 yards at 69.4/120.

The course is located at the Disney Institute not far from Disney's Downtown Market Place. Resort guests receive complimentary "to and from" taxi vouchers. Non-resort guests can simply take exit 26B to the Old Key West Resort exit and Community Drive. Then, follow the signs to the Lake Buena Vista Golf Club.

The Charms of Oak Trail: Disney's 9-hole Walking Course

It's amazing how charming a golf course becomes when the impact of the ground and the soft undulations of the fairway are felt beneath your feet. Such is the case at Disney's Oak Trail Golf Course - Walt Disney World Resort's only 9-hole walking course.

Intended for slow enjoyment, Oak Trail features wooden benches at every hole, water fountains and gazebos placed near interesting focal points, and plenty of enjoyable, natural terrain. There's a lot of wildlife, too, the same as found on Disney's nearby Magnolia course with its turkey, deer, and waterfowl.

Because Oak Trail was designed for family play, it has only two tee boxes, the whites measuring 2,913 yards and the reds at 2,552 yards. However, it's equally great for a quick nine or even the beginning player.

For the most part, this course is a series of wooded, par 4 and par 3 switchbacks. But it breaks away at holes 5 through 7 into an area highlighted by a deep canal and large pond, making this the most intriguing section.

Here at the 517-yard, number 5, you'll find a fairway moving uphill, dogleg left, then downhill, dogleg right to a large and guarded green. Its tilt favors the woods and water to the right, so try to stay "up" on the left without catching the fairway bunker.

Number 6 journeys deep into the area's picturesque timberland. This 378-yard, par 4 is fairly straight and narrow, but does include a water carry at its approach, a wooden bridge crossover, and a double-tiered green framed entirely by a pine grove.

And, at the 489-yard, par 5 number 7, a water-carry tee shot finds a large pond on the right upon landing. While its elevated green favors a left-to-right bank flanked by scrub, there are also two bunkers, one to the left and one at its rear.

Oak Trail shares a driving range with the Magnolia Course and was built in 1980 by architect Ron Garl. As with all Disney's courses, resort guests receive complimentary "to and from" taxi vouchers. For non-resort guests, take Interstate 4 or Highway 192 to the Magic Kingdom Park. Using Disney's far right tollbooth, pass through and follow the signs beyond the Polynesian Resort to the Palm and Magnolia courses.

Walt Disney World Resort
Lake Buena Vista, FL 32830
(407)-WDW-GOLF or (407)-939-4653

We hope you have enjoyed this 5-part series on the Magic of Disney Golf!

Elaine GallantElaine Gallant, Contributor

Elaine Gallant is a freelance writer specializing in golf, tennis, and travel. Her many experiences with travel and golf have taken her around the Untied States, Europe, Greece, the Caribbean, Mexico, Hawaiian Islands, Australia and points in between.

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