2005: Features - Peace and quiet at Disney? It’s possible at Osprey Ridge

Mickey won’t carry your bag, and Goofy won’t wipe down your clubs. You might be in the world of make-believe, but there is nothing imaginary about the quality of golf at Walt Disney World Resort.

This is a collection of 99 holes just a tram ride away from sensory overload, but the golf courses offer serenity. No fireworks. No loop-de-loops. No cartoon characters. Just some real solid golf.

Solid enough, in fact, to draw the PGA Tour every year. When the Tour comes to visit, it holds its tournament on the Palm and Magnolia courses. These layouts have fewer trees and are more gallery-friendly, but the Disney course with the most wildlife, tranquility and personality is Osprey Ridge.

Sometimes, when playing Osprey Ridge, it’s hard to imagine how close you are to all the activity. It’s a Small World, After All.

Since it opened in 1992, Osprey Ridge has extended an ambience of peace. It is parkland golf in what used to be Florida citrus groves, proving once again that Disney is capable of almost any transformation. There are enough pine trees here to make those who live near a Carolina forest feel like they’ve never left home.

Osprey Ridge winds through heavy vegetation and dense oak forests. There are several nesting platforms for various species of birds, and many fish-stocked ponds. Players don’t traverse wetlands on asphalt cart paths; hand-built boardwalks offer a much nicer journey.

The Osprey Ridge course might be the biggest golf surprise in Central Florida. The Disney name ordinarily offers credibility in the world of recreation, no matter the venue, but it might pose a question mark to those seeking a pure golf experience. Cynics, however, should be warned: If you don’t play Osprey Ridge because you think Disney can’t do golf, you’re wrong. And you’re missing a chance to play a very nice course.

Tom Fazio’s Osprey Ridge layout is the best at Disney, but there are 81 more holes to enjoy.

The Magnolia features 97 bunkers and more than 1,500 magnolia trees.

It is undergoing renovation, so check ahead for tee time availability. The Palm is carved from the woods, although the trees aren’t nearly as thick at Osprey Ridge. With water in play on nine holes, the Palm isn’t as long as Magnolia, but requires more accuracy.

Lake Buena Vista and Eagle Pines are the other two 18-hole courses, and Oak Trail is a nine-hole walking course. Pete Dye, Joe Lee and Ron Garl join Fazio as Disney designers. Variety complements excellence.

There is peace and quiet at all the courses, complete with gentle hills that are home to many species of wildlife.

No matter which course you want to play at Disney, it is important to plan.

Time of day is an important factor. The courses are crowded in the morning, and pace of play can be slower than you might like.

But the courses thin out after 2 p.m., and crisp rounds are possible in mid-afternoon virtually any time of year. The afternoon is an ideal time to play if you can stand the heat.

As Disney’s 99 holes of golf prove, especially the 18 at Osprey Ridge, all the magic at this kingdom isn’t just for kids.

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