Ken Baker of One Club Limited is overseeing a redesign of the Magnolia course at the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida.
The Magnolia was one of the original Walt Disney World Resort golf courses when it opened in 1971. It was designed by Joe Lee and named after the 1,500-plus magnolia trees that grow on the site. The layout is the longest of the four Disney courses and it features a Mickey Mouse-shaped sand hazard on the sixth hole.
Over 10 years ago, the resort and Arnold Palmer Golf Management agreed a 20-year strategic alliance where they would continually improve the golf experience on the four Disney courses. The Magnolia redesign follows major changes on the Palm course in 2013, Oak Trail in 2014 and 2018, and Lake Buena Vista in 2018.
“We’ve assembled an incredible team that is devoted to creating the best possible experience for our guests from around the globe who travel here for a championship calibre golf vacation,” said Bruce Gerlander, general manager of Arnold Palmer Golf Management. “For more than four decades, Disney’s Magnolia served as a favourite stop on the PGA Tour, and we have been methodically planning for this massive project for years.”
Work on the Magnolia involves reconfiguring holes 14 to 17 as well as renovating all 18 greens, rebunkering, and building new tees. Contractor Heritage Links is executing the work.
Baker’s plans include redesigning the fourteenth hole from a par five to a four, with players hitting to a new green; relocating and converting the par-three fifteenth into a long par five; shifting the par-four sixteenth to play with a dogleg left; and converting the seventeenth from a par four to a three.
The project also includes the construction of a bridge that will connect the sixteenth and seventeenth holes.
“These are going to be dramatic changes to the Magnolia course that will create a playing experience that will be challenging yet fun for all golfers,” said Faron Kelley, vice president of Disney Sports. “We know our guests expect a magical experience every time they come to play golf at Walt Disney World and this redesign is part of our ongoing commitment to achieve that for every golfer who steps up to that first tee.’’
Sergio Garcia, the 2017 Masters winner, and 2019 US Open champion Gary Woodland recently got a sneak peek at the redesign.
“It will be amazing,” said Woodland. “The fifteenth [becoming] a big par five; the sixteenth is a long par four and they’ve brought in water perfectly. You’re going to have four closing holes down the stretch that will test every aspect of your game. It’ll be a great finish here at Magnolia.”
Garcia added: “It’s a fun course to play. When golfers finish their rounds, they can’t wait to come back, and I think that’s something the Magnolia course will have.’’
Disney expects the Magnolia course to reopen later this year during the 50th anniversary of Walt Disney World Resort.