Miniature golf at Disney World is one of those great “beyond the parks” recreation options, especially if you have a free morning or evening in your itinerary. A round of mini golf is included as a Fun option on the Water Parks Fun and More theme park ticket add-on, and if you book a Magic Your Way package, you’ll receive two vouchers for a free round of mini golf. (Note that both of these are for tee times before 4 PM.) With two options for Disney World mini golf, which one is best for your family? After golfing at both courses, I took a look at a few contrasts that really stood out: skill level, kid-friendliness, shade, and transportation.
Fantasia Gardens includes two 18-hole courses. The Fairways, with its sand traps and water hazards, is truly a golf course in miniature. No goofy golf here! The Fairways course is a real challenge, with long sloping greens that will appeal more to skilled golf players than kids who just want to swing a club. Of course, that just makes the wait all the longer for the other course, the Gardens. But even the Gardens requires a certain level of skill–it’s more challenging than whimsical, and there were certain holes where I was bored and ready to give up before I’d even gotten the ball in. Both sides of Fantasia Gardens are challenging for the less-than-avid golfer.
Winter Summerland also has two 18-hole courses, but these are both traditional mini golf, designed to amuse rather than challenge. The Winter and Summer courses are mirror images, with the winter course shrouded in traditional Christmas-time snow, and the summer course a more beachy version of Christmas in Florida. The snow castle becomes a sandcastle, and that poor snowman… well, he melted! Both of these courses are much simpler than the Fantasia Gardens courses, too. It’s relatively easy for just about anyone to make the par.
Fantasia Gardens is very pretty, and has some nifty features, like a statue of Pan that plays his flute when your ball finds the hole. But it’s definitely not easy, and not every child will appreciate the Fantasia references.
Winter Summerland is kitschy, funny, and just plain easier to golf than Fantasia Gardens. Whether you’re playing the Winter or the Summer course, kids will love the decorations, like the elf-sized Airstream trailer or the North Pole that slurps up your ball, sucks it to the very top, and then transports it down along the pole’s curving stripes before spitting it out close to the hole. It’s definitely the more kid-friendly of the two courses.
Only the hardiest of golfers won’t mind the Florida sun beating down on them after a few minutes watching a toddler trying to maneuver a ball around a mini golf course. Shade’s important! In this category, Winter Summerland comes out far ahead of Fantasia Gardens. The spare, Mediterranean landscaping around the Gardens is pretty and thematic, but doesn’t provide much shade. Winter Summerland is built in a grove of palm and oak trees, and most of the course is protected from the sun at least part of the day.
Fantasia Gardens is located near the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin hotels. It’s easiest to reach by car. If you’re using Disney Transportation only, you can reach it by walking from any of the Boardwalk-area hotels, passing through the Swan and Dolphin recreation area and then crossing a street. This makes Fantasia Gardens a little bit of a commitment: you don’t want to make the forty-five minute walk from Epcot, only to decide the wait is too long to bother with.
Winter Summerland is located next to Blizzard Beach, and so during the day, when Blizzard Beach buses are running, it’s very easy to reach. But after the water park closes, usually around 5 PM, a car is your only option unless you fancy a stroll. There is a walking path that connects Coronado Springs to Blizzard Beach, and then continues on to the All-Star Resorts. It’s about a twenty-minute walk from either resort. If you don’t have a car and you feel you’ve already done plenty of walking on this vacation, better plan on visiting Winter Summerland during the day with resort transportation.
For our family, the ease of Disney transportation, the more entertaining and easy course, and the shade all made Winter Summerland our new favorite Disney mini golf course. We have played Fantasia Gardens many times, but always with a car and always in the evening. To use our Magic Your Way vouchers, which are only good before 4 PM, we had to play during the heat of the day, and that really made a difference in how we felt about this challenging course.
If you like a more challenging game or want to brush up on your golf game, though, go with Fantasia Gardens. The Fairway course is a very unique option, and the Gardens course will challenge the best of miniature golf players.