Fantasia Gardens Mini-Golf: Disney’s Toughest CourseJanuary 31, 2011 No Comments
Mini-golf has been a nearly ubiquitous part of American vacations since the 1920s. The game was invented in Scotland in 1867 to provide an alternative for women, as social customs prevented them from playing traditional golf. While early mini-golf courses were simply miniature putting greens, by the 1930s obstacles were all the rage. Today mini-golf courses compete to be the most extreme, the most heavily themed or the most difficult in town.
As a major tourist destination, the Orlando area boasts a vast array of highly themed mini-golf courses of every description. Some courses are owned by conglomerates that offer discounts for playing at more than one location, while others are smaller mom-and-pops that compete by providing excellent customer service and loyalty discounts. All the competition forces each course to be its best, and on a sunny day it can be tough to find a course that isn’t packed.
Walt Disney World entered the mini-golf competition in 1996. Winter Summerland, located near the Blizzard Beach water park, offers two holiday themed 18-hole courses. The Summer course offers a tropical holiday overlay, with Christmas ornaments and decorations draped over palm trees. The Winter course offers a “snow in Florida” scheme, with fake snowdrifts and snowmen prevalent throughout. Both are excellent choices for novice mini-golfers and great fun for all ages.
Fantasia Gardens is located near the Boardwalk hotel. It also offers two courses: the Fairway and the Gardens. The Fairway is a traditional miniature golf course complete with dog legs and sand traps. It is the best choice for those who prefer a smaller version of regular golf. The Gardens course, with its zany Fantasia theme, is arguably the most difficult and the most fun of the four Walt Disney World courses.
Fantasia Gardens Overview
From the moment you step onto the Gardens course, it is clear that this is no ordinary mini-golf course. Each hole is carefully crafted to represent a segment from the 1940 animated film, Fantasia. All obstacles are woven into the relevant theme, and most holes have special effects such as water splashes or musical interludes that are triggered by various putting behaviors. For example, the bouncing of your ball or a hole-in-one might set off a particular effect.
The well-lighted course is open late into the evening. Although the course is beautiful by night and the obstacles are easy to see, the darkness does add an additional level of challenge. I strongly recommend playing during the day first, and then returning at night if you like.
Fantasia Gardens is particularly challenging due to the layout of the course obstacles. Steep hills, water hazards, and sharp turns are common. Always check the topography of the green near the hole. Several of the holes are built up or down from the surrounding green, making it necessary to putt harder or softer than your distance from the hole would indicate.
Fantasia Gardens Tips and Tricks
If you arrive at a busy time of day, you will be given a tee time that could be 30 minutes or more after you arrive. Kill time in the on-site arcade, take a seat in a comfortable patio chair or walk the course and get an idea of what to expect. If anyone in your family is a novice mini-golfer, try to visit at a less crowded time. Although other golfers are generally relaxed and friendly, you may feel a bit of time pressure if you know another group is on your heels. Fantasia Gardens asks that you impose a six stroke limit per hole, but if no one is waiting, this is not actually enforced. Mornings and evenings are generally less crowded than midday.
Set up your putting order so that adults putt both first and last. Each hole has a trick to it, which younger golfers may have trouble discovering. The adult that putts first can help younger kids figure out the hole, while the one that putts last can keep an eye out for balls that go off the course. Expect that your group will lose at least one ball in the water at some point on the course. When this happens, one person can return to the check-in area to get a new ball. It is a common occurrence and there is no charge for another ball.
Pay attention to the signs at the beginning of each hole. The short rhymes give clues on the best way to approach the hole. Each hole has an optimum path that could result in a hole-in-one, and at least one alternate path. If you or your child have trouble making it down the main path, using the alternative could actually be the better choice.
Although the bulk of the course is child friendly, one hole could be frightening for sensitive children. You will actually putt through the cave of the demon Chernabog, villain of the Night on Bald Mountain segment of Fantasia. As you move through the cave, you will hear Chernabog roar and see his image briefly displayed on the cave wall. Make sure the first adult through triggers the effect, and stays with the kids while they complete the hole.
Fantasia Gardens is a challenging but visually stunning mini-golf course. If your kids are novices, consider playing through Winter Summerland before moving on to Fantasia. Visit at an off time to minimize pressure to hurry, and be ready to take a break if anyone gets tired or frustrated. Benches are located throughout the course, and a drink machine is provided at the halfway point.