Disney’s Impact on Golf

Disney's Impact on Golf

In Disney’s nearly 100 years of existence, the iconic mouse has changed the global corporate landscape.

Love them or hate them, the impact of Disney on the modern world cannot be understated. This article will delve into Disney’s long-term relationship with golf and the company’s current impact.

Walt Disney, the famous founder of the Disney company, was not a golfer himself. He reportedly only ever attempted a few weeks of early morning rounds. However, the entrepreneur recognized the importance of the sport.

In 1966, during the early planning phases of Walt Disney World, Walt Disney set aside large swaths of land alongside the Magic Kingdom for future golf courses. Unfortunately, Walt Disney never got to see his plans come to fruition as he would pass away later that year. 

The death of the company’s founder did not slow the Disney company down. Preparations were soon underway to develop three separate golf courses for the Walt Disney Resort. To design these courses, Disney turned to Joseph Lee.

Joseph Lee was a prolific golf course architect who designed over 100 courses throughout his career. Jack Nicklaus is quoted as saying, “Joe Lee has never built a bad course”. The resulting three courses would come to be known as Lake Buena Vista Golf Course, Magnolia Golf Course, and Palm Golf Course. 

Disney Golf Architect Joseph Lee with Mickey Mouse

Mickey Mouse with golf architect Joseph Lee 

With the opening of Walt Disney World in 1971, the Disney company wanted to draw attention to their newly constructed golf courses. The solution was for the resort to host a PGA Tour event.

Lacking any previous golf experience, Disney hired the help of Arnold Palmer. With his help, the resort successfully hosted the Walt Disney World Open Invitational that year. The inaugural event was even won by Jack Nicklaus.

Arnold Palmer’s involvement would not end there. In 2011, Arnold Palmer Golf Management signed a deal to manage all the golf properties at the Disney World Resort. This deal included the complete redesign of Disney’s Palm Golf Course to modernize it. 

The original three championship courses at Walt Disney World have been joined by a fourth smaller nine-hole course called Disney’s Oak Trail Golf Course. This smaller course is more accessible for younger players and families compared to the original three. 

Disney Golf Course

Mickey Mouse Bunker at Magnolia Golf Course

Overall, the courses see a combined 200,000 rounds annually according to Disney. The final PGA Tour event hosted onsite was in 2012. The event stopped after sponsors pulled out and replacements could not be found. There are rumors that Disney may be looking to bring the PGA Tour back to its courses in the coming years. 

Have you played on any of the Disney Golf Courses? Tell us about it!

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