Written by Kevin Baxter
Published: August 29, 2004 at 4:01 PM
BARF! I think I need a shot of insulin after that bit of puffery. I didn't think there were that many adjectives and adverbs in the English language. I'm surprised they didn't whip out with a "Muy excelente" or some other foreign hyperbole.
Anyhow, we tried out the two different courses in one visit and I'll let you know whether or not they are worth a visit.
First, we headed to Winter Summerland, the newer course. This course was apparently budgeted before cheapness became Disney policy since it is themed up the ying-yang. To make a long, silly story short... Santa supposedly saw snow here (Blizzard Beach I assume) and decided this would be a vacation home for the North Poleans. (North Polish? North Polenese?) Half the elves wanted it to be cold, so they created the Winter course, while the other half enjoyed the sun, so they created the Summer course.
We tried the Summer course first. This course matches the Blizzard Beach theme closer than Winter does, as there are pools and surfboards and lifeguard stations throughout. But the golfing here is sub-par (ha-ha) to say the least. While some holes have a bit of a challenge, like the aforementioned pool hole, others could be finished blindfolded, as gravity is more important than skill. We racked up an insane number of holes-in-one by the end of the round, which did garner us a free soda when we showed the attendant our cards. (There is a different secret hole every day and getting a hole-in-one on that hole gets you a gift you sorely need after an hour or so out in the sun.) This is a great idea from a company that is usually Scrooge McDuck when it comes to handouts.
We needed to leave for dinner so we asked if we could return for our second round later. This was no problem. We showed up late that evening, as the courses are almost always open until 11pm, for a little night golf on the Winter course. Now I have heard that Winter is supposed to be easier than Summer, but I found both to be fairly simple. I seem to recall us getting fewer holes-in-one on Winter, so who knows?
The Winter theming is a little less whimsical than the snow-in-summer theme of Summer. This is more like Christmas in the tropics, with the Floridian landscape being decked out in holiday regalia. I think the best thing about both courses is how they both have their final few holes inside a large log cabin all bedecked for Santa's arrival. One hole requires you to shoot the ball into the fireplace that has Santa's legs adangling within. Another forces you to shoot the ball between two model trains that are zooming around a track. Unfortunately the final holes of each have a simple ramp, which will trigger the "computer" to unveil a clip of Santa doing something vacationy. Still, that limp ending doesn't ruin what is an innovative mini-golf course.
It was nearing 11pm and as we talked to the attendant, she told us we could golf Fantasia Gardens for half-price if we hurried. She gave us our "coupons" and we raced over there.
Upon first eyeballing Fantasia Gardens, you would swear the course was built in the 70s. It looks that old and faded. When I learned it was built in 1996, I almost faded! It's hard to believe only three years elapsed between these two themed courses.
Fantasia Gardens is also the name of one of the 18-holers here. Fantasia Fairways is far less whimsical, as its holes are made to look like those on a real golf course, with traps and hazards and the like. We were in a themey mood, so we chose to do the Gardens course.
The holes, while they don't please the eyeball as much as those at Winter Summerland, are inventive in their design. The five musical numbers in Fantasia are featured, and in order. So several holes cover each portion of the movie. Great idea, but they still aren't that great looking.
As for the golfing, like Winter Summerland much of it is very easy. There are a few challenging holes, but nothing that will cause even casual golfers to write that dreaded 6 on their scorecards. We wish we had time to try out the Fairways course, as it might have actually challenged us, but it was after 11pm by the time we finished.
So how do they compare to the other Orlando offerings? The theming of most of them - like the Pirate's Coves all over Orlando, the new Hawaiian Rumble on International or River Adventure in Kissimmee - are all just as good as Winter Summerland and better than Fantasia Gardens. I have no clue how the golfing compares, as our one attempt at a Pirate's Cove got lightninged out. They all look easier than your Golflands, but still probably more difficult than the three Disney courses I tried.
Prices aren't insane for any of them. Disney courses are just over $10, and the second round is half-price, which is very reasonable. We got three rounds for about $20, which was great, but we probably wouldn't do them again as we like more of a challenge. Still, they might be worth at least one outing.
Winter Summerland - 8 - Commendable
Fantasia Gardens - 6 - Fair