ATTRACTION REVIEW - Miniature Golf Courses in Walt Disney World

Orlando has all kinds of hyper-themed mini-golf to entice visitors. So how do the two courses at Walt Disney World compare?

Written by Kevin Baxter
Published: August 29, 2004 at 4:01 PM

From the official WDW website: Take a miniature golfing vacation at these fantasy courses. Hit the little links with the whole family at two wonderfully whimsical miniature golf courses that bring Disney magic to life. Golf as you grin and giggle to the musical, interactive, delightfully designed courses that offer a fun-filled outing for your whole family. Choose either (or both!) of two courses. Whichever course you choose, miniature golf means oversized fun.

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.

TPI Ratings:
Winter Summerland - 8 - Commendable
Fantasia Gardens - 6 - Fair

Readers' Opinions

From John Franklin on August 30, 2004 at 12:13 AM
I miss the two miniature golf courses that you used to see across the streets at Disneyland. One was owned by Disneyland near the Disneyland hotel but was removed for the new Mickey and friends parking lot. The other was located off Harbor Blvd. across from the entrance of the original Disneyland Parking Lot.
From Kevin Baxter on August 30, 2004 at 12:49 PM
You know, Orlando is an embarrassment of riches when it comes to miniature golf. We were looking for a course last time we were in Anaheim and you really have to drive to get to one. With all the other tourist traps, you'd think there'd be at least one of these nearby.

If anyone has tried one of the other Orlando courses (or the WDW ones too) let us know what you think!

From Jason Lester on August 30, 2004 at 7:16 PM
Disneyland in Anaheim desperatly needs a mini golf course. Orlando has some great ones, so why not build one here.
From Derek Potter on August 30, 2004 at 8:43 PM
One would think that Disney could build a killer mini golf course. Of course one would think that Disney could do a lot of things, but that's just the way it goes.

The best mini golf courses I've played on are at Myrtle Beach, S.C. My favorite in particular is called Mt. Atlanticus, an Atlantis/jungle themed course converted from an old 4 story building. The difficulty level isn't very high (maybe it's just my mad skills), but the creative hole designs and the theming put it over the top. The structure is huge, and it's kind of cool that you have to take an elevator to the top of it. That's just one of many great courses in Myrtle. Orlando has some nice ones, but even with Disney there, they still have nothing on Myrtle Beach in this department.

From Ruth Honor on August 31, 2004 at 10:54 PM
We played at Pirate's Cove at the crossroads in Lake Buena Vista a few years ago. They have two 18 hole courses. We tried the challenging one. Nice theming, very lush, and extemely clean. It was a hot summer night and we pratically had the place to ourselves.
From Steve Snead on April 18, 2005 at 10:48 AM
It's hard to get an accurate attraction review from someone who is obviously and cynically anti-Disney. I suggest objective reviews, without interjected negativity (such as 'Scrooge McDuck' and 'Barf') would better suit this site.

How about how the attractions compare to the local mini-putt in YOUR area? As I suspect - no comparison.

From Kevin Baxter on May 25, 2005 at 4:51 PM
Yes, I gave Winter Summerland an 8, I am so anti-Disney. Unfortunately, you are clearly anti-brain, so really anything out of it should be discounted as the rantings of an imbecile in need of medication. So eat me.

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