LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. - While avid fans of the PGA Tour may jump at the chance to play Walt Disney World's Magnolia golf course, host of the final rounds of the Children's Miracle Classic each fall, golfers shouldn't overlook its next door neighbor: the Palm course.
The Palm rotates with the Magnolia course during the first two rounds of the tournament before heading to the longer Magnolia over the weekend. As a result, the Magnolia's profile stands a little higher than the Palm, but that shouldn't deter golfers, especially the mid-to-high handicapper who will probably score lower and have more birdie chances on this more player-friendly track.
"The Palm has a couple more scoring opportunities than the Magnolia (for the amateur)," notes Kevin Weickel, head professional at Disney World. "Two or three par 5s on the Palm are reachable in two versus only one on the Magnolia. So the Palm is a little friendlier in that aspect."
Countless palm trees and scores of springing fountains in its many ponds make the Palm feel more like a coastal, south Florida resort course than a demanding PGA Tour host.
There are numerous holes that can vie for the title of prettiest, like the par-3 16th hole, which plays from an elevated tee entirely over water - or the most difficult hole on the course, the par-4 sixth hole that features water all down the left side and in front of the green.
Whichever hole is the most pleasing to your eye, the Palm's mix of beauty and playability make it a favorite among resort-goers.
"The Palm is my favorite of the Disney courses," said Paul Foley, who visits Disney every year. "I like it better than that dang Magnolia, which is too long for me and not as pretty."
But the real fun on the Palm is the holes where you can be aggressive.
No. 1 is a modest par 5 under 500 yards, and it's not even the shortest par 5 on the course from the white tees - that belongs to the 14th, which weaves around water to a very risk-reward length of 471 yards. Two holes in particular, the par-5 seventh and the par-4 17th, feature doglegs big hitters can blast their drives over to take a shortcut. It adds up to a course with plenty of opportunities for red numbers.
But the Palm isn't all scoring opportunities, after all, the pros play a round here each fall too. The number one handicap hole, the par-4 fourth, features a narrow fairway with water all down the left side, which creeps in front of the green on the approach shot.
And like the Magnolia, the Palm features a long, demanding finishing hole. The 18th plays 439-455 yards. Compounding the difficulty is a canal that runs in front of the green, which will hamper amateur's approach shots more than pros. The hole has ranked among the 50 most difficult holes on tour eight times since 1983.
The Verdict on the Palm Course at Disney
After being replaced in 2004, the TifEagle greens at the Palm this time of visit were spectacularly smooth and firm, a real treat to roll the flat stick on. The Palm and Magnolia's greens aren't all that undulating, so even the average hacker has a chance at rolling a few long ones in. Be aggressive on the greens out here.
Shorter hitters will appreciate a track about 200 yards shorter from the white tees (6,400) compared to the Magnolia. But low handicappers shouldn't feel like the course is child's play for them, as its championship yardage is over 7,000 yards and a 73.8/138 slope/rating.
Green fees on the Palm are $149 in the peak season. Guests of Disney resorts receive a discount and free transportation to and from the course.
Walt Disney World resorts: Where to stay
The Polynesian Resort is a Pacific-themed village that features tiki torch-lined walkways and tropical vegetation on its grounds. It also boasts a fantastic location for both golfers (located across the street from the Palm and Magnolia) and families, as it's on the monorail line, which offers access to the Magic Kingdom and Epcot in minutes.
Spa buffs will want to stay just down the monorail line at the Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, which is set in a classic Victorian theme paying homage to Palm Beach's golden era.
Families and larger groups will want to consider the Old Key West Resort, a Deluxe Villa Resort, which features condo-style suites. Guests interested in the villas option, but who are looking for a more festive atmosphere, should also consider the Boardwalk Resort, which features a livelier atmosphere including the ESPN Club. Two-bedroom villas can accommodate up to eight guests.
Justin Rose holds the course record on the Palm: a 12-under 60 in 2006.