Course: Disney World Fantasia Gardens
Location: 1205 Epcot Resorts Blvd, Orlando, FL 32836
Price: $14 for 18 holes.
Review: Ok. Yeah. This was good.
Really really good.
After dining like lords at Orlando Medieval Times*, my friend Connor and I gave our smile muscles a workout and visited the happiest place on earth. And I’m not talking about the Museum of Islamic Art located in sunny Qatar, I’m talking about the big one, the place that single-handedly replaced Fuddruckers as the largest source of manufactured childhood nostalgia. Disney World. And I honestly have no idea how to start this review.
Seriously, do I mention how this course perfectly embodied the film Fantasia, split into five thematic segments for each of the five different orchestral movements of the Disney classic? Do I discuss how each hole was unique and challenging? Do I reference the riddles placed at the beginning of each hole – rhyming riddles that, when solved, told you the best way to putt the hole? Do I talk about the motion-activated waterspouts that only appeared when you sunk a putt perfectly (otherwise you’d never experience them at all)? Do I talk about how, immediately after putting 18 perfect holes, the Disney fireworks went off in the distance, erupting like an overripe pimple made out of fire and dreams?
I suppose I’ll start at the beginning, where my friend, Connor, and I were given a reservation time by a strapping German employee named Helmut.** Had I ever been given a reservation time for mini golf before? Never. It was like being told to wait half an hour before I could eat a delicious blueberry lying just out of reach. But when I finally ate that blueberry it tasted even more delicious than I could have possibly dreamed. More delicious and succulent than if I had just immediately taken it for myself like a tyrannous, impatient, and inbred king of a medieval jousting themed restaurant. When we entered the course, enchanting classical music flowed from the air around us like a swarm of mellifluous bees. But these bees were not here to harm us. No. They were here to seduce us with the sound of strings and timpani. And it worked.
As we played through the five movements, Connor and I were seduced by much more than just the music: the holes were challenging and clever, featuring gigantic xylophones, lofty caverns, and immense tutu-clad hippopotamuses. The scenery was gorgeous, surrounded by a man-made beach that (perhaps prophetically) warned customers to “beware of alligators.” The iconic likeness of Mickey mouse appeared many times throughout the course, blissfully unaware of the devastating feral cat infestation that threatens to destroy Disney World’s Californian older brother. And, as the 18 holes ended, the fireworks exploded in the distance and Connor and I stood in awe – unsure of the future, unsure of when we would see each other again as we went our separate ways. And I was happy. This moment is what mini golf is all about. This memory is what mini golf is all about.
This course comes with my highest recommendation.
*Our fallen champion, the Red and Yellow knight will rise again, more powerful than before. As he has been slain, so too shall he return from his earthen slumber to reclaim the lands that were unfairly stolen from him by that treacherous knight falsely garbed in yellow rags.
**This isn’t a joke, just the actual name of the man who helped us. Any humor derived from this name is unintentional/comes from a purely xenophobic place.
Course Score: Connor – 56, Me – 52, par – 53.
Pros: Perfect atmosphere; perfect upkeep; intensely clever and challenging holes; fun for adults and kids; the fireworks went off as we finished the 18th hole and fountains of water sprayed from the ground like the earth itself was celebrating our achievements; I’m listening to When You Wish Upon a Star while writing this review and a tear is coming to my eye because this course was just the embodiment of everything I loved as a child, and of course Disney knows that and monetizes that sense of nostalgia but it doesn’t make the feeling any less powerful. Or any less real.
Cons: Holes sloped in a bit to make scoring easier.