Putting Around the World

by Emily Owens-Pickle, AllEars® Guest Columnist

Feature Article

This article appeared in the August 19, 2008 Issue #465 of ALL EARS® (ISSN: 1533-0753)

My family and I are season passholders at Walt Disney World, which means we are blocked from the parks eight weeks during the summer. This, quite frankly, is OK with us. As all Florida natives know, summer in Florida equals natural outdoor sauna. Recently, I made the mistake of wearing my favorite jeans for a trip to the World, which made for an extremely sticky wait for boat transportation at the Wilderness Lodge. Post-piping-hot-BBQ, I found myself lying on a bench at Fort Wilderness wishing Davy Crockett would come by and put me out of my self-induced misery.

But even the formidable Florida rays, and a moment of denim-clad insanity, can't keep a good mouse down. It was time to spend a beautiful blue-sky July morning at the Most Magical Place on Earth. Temporarily blocked from the parks and in search of some "ear-mmersion," our family headed to one of our favorite Disney spots -- a place we have made many wonderful memories: Fantasia Gardens, a mini-golfing experience, Disney-style.

Fantasia Gardens is a self-proclaimed combination of 'Golfing-Fantasy' and the 'Hippo-est Golf Around!' Themed after Disney's masterpiece Fantasia! this mini-golf adventure is located in the Epcot/Disney's Hollywood Studios area of the Disney property near the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Hotels. Fantasia Gardens offers two courses: the Fairways Course and the Gardens course.

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The Fairways Course is a literal mini-golf course, complete with water and sand hazards. This course is not for the faint-of-heart.

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The Gardens course is a whimsical, theme-filled journey complete with colorful musical notes and flute-piping fauns.

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Each course takes you through sights and sounds of Fantasia. The Gardens course is my recommendation for the less serious mini-golfer or families with young children. This course will keep your little ones Disney-engaged and allow the whole family to have a great experience.

Since I embarked on this round with my young daughter, at my urging our party opted for The Gardens side (grudgingly). FYI: Disney offers small plastic child-putters for little golfers, so be sure to ask. More details on course prices and policies can be found on the website at http://allears.net/btp/golf.htm

From my personal experiences, Disney seems to do a good job of managing the tee times so that you move through these courses with little to no wait. That being said, remember that good golfing etiquette asks that you let other parties 'play through' if they are continuously catching up to you and having to wait for their turn.

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I stepped up to the not-so-hidden-Mickey tee and pulled together all my golfing knowledge, which mainly came from a few (very few) afternoons spent at the putting green with my father. For many years he held on to the desperate hope of raising a female Tiger Woods -- and I do mean desperate. I gripped my putter firmly, but not too firmly, squared my shoulders, breathed in slowly, lined up my shot, visualized the ball, pulled back, took a small swing, tap... annnnd... the ball quickly rolled the exact opposite way of my aim.

Er, I guess still better than the first time we played Fairways. I somehow hit the ball directly back and to my right, where it proceeded to ricochet off of a decorative rock formation and whiz into oblivion. I am sure there is a family out there who still talk about the time grandma was almost killed by an errant hot pink golf ball while enjoying Fantasmic! at Disney's Hollywood Studios.

At this point of the game on the Fairways course our family usually begins a hybrid game of mini-golf and bocce ball. We have a practice run on each hole that consists of one member of the party chucking a ball down the course until we think we have found the path of least resistance.

Then comes the hard part -- getting down that path with your putter. But on the Gardens side of the course, our hybrid sport is a no-go. Chucking the ball down the much shorter and hazard-crowded fairways could result in a potentially deadly rebound off of an oversized piano key or twirling snowflake. Folks, it's all fun and games until your spouse launches a Sorcerer Mickey ball off of a concrete hippo tutu that flies back and whacks you in the shin.

With our foursome of players we had many 'fours' during our game. My husband Evan was the easy winner of the round with four holes-in-one. And we managed to hit four balls in the various water features of this course.

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Never fear, I promise that this is harder than you might think, though our pictorial evidence would say otherwise.

Negatives were that the course did have some maintenance issues. The 'mushroom hole' was not working, though a cast member did 'magically' materialize in front of us to fix the problem immediately.

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Also, the Hippo on one of the back holes was 'taking five' from her usual pirouetting, which made hitting the ball through this hole challenge-less. Yes, it still turned into a three-stroke hole for me. The course was also extremely warm, but that's Florida in July. Just make sure you bring lots of water and rub on that sunscreen before and during play. There are refreshments available, as well as a small arcade and restrooms, and picnic tables line the front of both courses.

The manager of Fantasia Gardens was kind enough to let us sneak on the Fairways course to snap a few shots.

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(I have to ruin the magic and stop any speculating by stating that yes, this shot is posed. Don't worry -- I'm sure it's not the first time you've seen 'posed fun' while looking up info on the World...)

We left the Fairways course and for the second time were offered souvenir balls by a cast member. We demurred and explained we had already received our Mickey-themed golf balls. The CM asked in a surprised tone, "You don't want more?" We didn't, but the gesture was appreciated -- as were the free lollipops at the counter. I suppose in retrospect we should have taken the extra three balls and given those plus one of the others we had received to make up for our uh, misplaced equipment during the game.

So, to make this short game story short -- you need to play one or both of these courses. You have nothing to lose... except possibly an eye if playing with teenagers (or me). Get to Fantasia Gardens, grab a club, find a (brightly colored) golf ball, and get putting!

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

A native Floridian, Emily Owens-Pickle first visited Walt Disney World when she was 5 years old. She bee-lined down Main Street USA looking for the fastest route to the top of Cinderella Castle and hasn't looked back since. Two years ago she was lucky enough to marry into a family of fellow Mouse-addicts and together they shamelessly (over)indulge in everything Disney.

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RELATED LINKS:

Emily's Photo Gallery to Fantasia Gardens: http://allears.net/btp/golf3.htm

Fantasia Gardens Fact Sheet: http://allears.net/btp/golf.htm

Winter Summerland Fact Sheet: http://allears.net/btp/golf2.htm


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Editor's Note: This story/information was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all current rates, information and other details before planning your trip.