Walt Disney World is a noisy place, and why shouldn’t it be? Millions of families visit each year to scream, yell and have fun while enjoying the Lake Buena Vista, Fla., theme park’s plethora of thrill rides.
Many of those vacationers, and non-resort guests, also appreciate the quietest spot in Disney — Osprey Ridge Golf Club. Tom Fazio’s routing at Osprey Ridge, the youngest and finest of Disney’s five golf courses, meanders through a forest of pine, palmetto, oak, cypress and bay trees, and moss hammocks, and over and around picturesque wetlands.
Fazio moved more than 1 million cubic yards of dirt to create links-style dunes and ridges, some 25 feet above grade, that frame Osprey Ridge’s elevated teeing areas, rolling fairways and large, undulating greens. Water comes into play on nine holes.
The tranquil, 7,039-yard, par-72 layout is a Certified Audubon Cooperative Wildlife Sanctuary and is backdropped by the wetlands and dense native vegetation. Opened in 1992, Osprey Ridge offers the most variety, challenge and scenic beauty of Disney’s five-course lineup. And while it poses a stern test for all playing abilities, Osprey Ridge’s wider fairways and more strategic tee-box settings help give it the edge on Disney’s other layouts.
The peaceful, secluded experience makes you forget you’re in the world’s busiest theme park. The course is one with nature, and you’re guaranteed to see ospreys, alligators and other wildlife. Our threesome spied six gators, but unfortunately the two ospreys I saw were my only birdie encounters.
You’ll navigate a raised wooden bridge from the second green all the way through wetlands to the 16th hole. En route you’ll encounter some wonderful holes, including the 193-yard downhill third (the elevated tee is the highest point on Disney’s golf property) with a green backed by a sandy waste area that also flanks the right side of the putting surface and extends almost to the front tee.
Other great holes abound, but the 542-yard, 216-yard and 454-yard finishing holes provide a memorable grand finale. The risk-reward 16th can be reached in two by big hitters, but their shot to the elevated green, which is narrow front to back, has to carry water on the hole’s left side and fronting the green. Water also lines the entire 17th hole’s left side and requires a tee shot to carry that water. The par-4 finishing hole features bunkers and water lining the hole’s entire right side.
In other words, your quiet round might end with a loud crash.
Walt Disney World’s Osprey Ridge Golf Club, Lake Buena Vista, FL
Rates: Through Jan. 17, 2013, $45-$125; Jan. 18-March 31, $55-$165; April 5-May 27, $45-$125. Check www.disneyworld.disney.go.com/golf for specials, packages and 2-Round Pass information.