Lake Buena Vista, Fla. – While developing the overall concept for what would become the Walt Disney World Resort, Walt Disney sketched a preliminary outlook for the future of the newly acquired Florida property—including his vision for EPCOT, Magic Kingdom Theme Park, resort hotels, convention facilities, and man-made lakes – Disney identified and labeled a large area designated for “golf.”
Since the opening of Walt Disney World Resort in 1971, golf has played an integral role in creating the diverse atmosphere that comprises the guest experience.
Now operated by Arnold Palmer Golf Management, Walt Disney World Golf, also known as,“The Happiest Place on TURF!” offers four unique courses, with layouts that are challenging enough for the PGA TOUR’s greatest players, but also friendly enough to accommodate all skill levels.
Walt Disney World Golf is proud to be celebrating alongside Walt Disney World Resort as it kicks off “The World’s Most Magical Celebration” on Oct.1 in honor of its 50th anniversary.
ARNOLD PALMER’S INFLUENCE
Arnold Palmer became inextricably linked to the history, design and success of golf at the Walt Disney World Resort decades before the Arnold Palmer Golf Management took on the role of caring for the courses and facilities in 2011.
Palmer, a winner of 92 tournaments worldwide including seven major titles, visited the Walt Disney World Resort in 1971 – just in time to take an inaugural test ride on the Walt Disney World Monorail System. During his visit, Palmer became a consultant for the first PGA TOUR at Walt Disney World Resort, which took place later that year. In 2013, Palmer played a hands-on role reimagining Disney’s Palm Golf Course. Today, Arnold Palmer Golf Management continues to build on the50-year-long legacy of Walt Disney World Golf with by regularly enhancing the guest experience.
While each of the championship-caliber courses receives accolades for design and playability, it is the accessibility to all of the world-class amenities, service and convenience that helps differentiate the Walt Disney World Resort from any other golfing destination.
WALT DISNEY WORLD RESORT: OFFICIAL HOST TO PGA TOUR, LPGA TOUR AND PGA CHAMPIONS
The PGA TOUR began play at the Walt Disney World Resort in 1971 with Jack Nicklaus winning his first of three consecutive Walt Disney World Open Invitational titles. Since then, Tiger Woods, Payne Stewart, Raymond Floyd, Larry Nelson, Davis Love III, Lanny Wadkins, Ben Crenshaw, Vijay Singh and David Duval have been among the illustrious winners, creating a legacy of champions at the Walt Disney World Resort.
From 1974 through 1981, the PGA TOUR switched to a team format, playing a tournament known as the Walt Disney World National Team Championship. Hubert Green paired with Mac McLendon won the inaugural two-man event, which produced eight different winning pairs in as many years.
Hal Sutton defeated Bill Britton on the fourth playoff hole when the PGA TOUR resumed individual play in 1982. The next 30 years saw 25 different winners, with Tim Simpson winning back-to-back titles from 1989-1990.
LPGA Tour players teed it up at Walt Disney World Resort in 1996 and 1997, with Karrie Webb and Michelle McGann capturing the HealthSouth Inaugural titles contested over Disney’s Lake Buena Vista Golf Course.
Disney’s Magnolia Golf Course hosted the Senior PGA Championship from 1975 through 1979. The tournament required playoff holes to determine a winner three times during that span. Charlie Sifford, Joe Jimenez and former U.S. Open winner Jack Fleck triumphed in those events.
While elite professional players and their memorable winning moments have carved out a legacy, it is the wide array of options available to recreational golfers that is shaping the next 50 years at Walt Disney World Golf.
All resort guests and the general public now have the opportunity to enjoy the same courses conquered by Nicklaus, Woods and so many more of the world’s most iconic golfers. And thanks to the tropical and mild Florida winters, guests can enjoy golf at Walt Disney World Resort during all four seasons.
THE FAMILY EXPERIENCE
After more than four decades of hosting annual tournaments televised by ABC, ESPN, NBC and the Golf Channel, Walt Disney World Golf’s focus has shifted to expanding golf’s reach. It now showcases world-class amenities while offering a superlative experience in stunningly beautiful surroundings for family vacations, industry gatherings and business seminars.
“We want to be accessible to everyone,” said Alex Forsyth, Director of Sales and Marketing for Walt Disney World Golf as operated by Arnold Palmer Golf Management. “Our Guests arrive daily from around the world, excited for the experience they are about to have. No matter what they anticipate, we strive to meet and often exceed their expectations on a consistent basis, providing them with a magical and memorable experience.”
Walt Disney World Golf has truly opened its doors to the community. In addition to hosting U.S. Open regional qualifying rounds and the PGA TOUR Champions Qualifying School, it has hosted college championships, the Special Olympics Florida State Championships, Florida State Golf Association and Hurricane Junior Golf Tour events and a plethora of charitable fundraising functions.
“We believe we have a social obligation to grow the game, especially from the perspective of junior golf, and by showcasing diversity and inclusion into the sport,” facility General Manager Bruce Gerlander said. “We have a commitment to being guest-centric – creating an all-encompassing experience that is uniquely Disney while providing the opportunity to play where champions were crowned. We task ourselves with melding the flair of the resort with upholding the classic traditions of the game of golf that our founder, Mr. Arnold Palmer, stood proud and tall for, every day of his life.”
George McNeilly (APGMGolfMedia@palmergolf.com)