A Friday Visit with Jim Korkis: Winter Summerland
By Dave Shute
WINTER SUMMERLAND GOLF
By Jim Korkis
Opened March 12, 1999, the Winter Summerland miniature golf courses located near the entrance to the Blizzard Beach water park was the second such venue built for Walt Disney World. The first mini-golf course on property was Fantasia Gardens that opened in 1996 near the Swan and Dolphin resorts.
These were built to try to keep guests on WDW property instead of venturing to the popular mini- golf venues that were nearby in the Orlando and Kissimmee.
Established in 1983 in Traverse City, Michigan, the Pirate’s Cove Adventure Golf courses around the country provided elaborate landscaping and distinctive props and the one on State Road 535 just minutes from WDW drew both local and tourist families.
Established in 1978 in Fort Myers Beach, Florida, Jungle Golf also has locations around the country as well as the Orlando area. Congo River mini-golf on International Drive is one of eight locations in Florida that also offers a themed environment.
The back story to Blizzard Beach was that a freak snowstorm in Central Florida led to the creation of Florida’s first and only ski resort. However, that weather did not last long, leaving behind a soggy venue that was converted into a water park using the same infrastructure that had been installed.
According to the Disney publicity release, the mini-golf course was inspired by that same snowstorm.
“Late one moonlit Christmas Eve, as Santa was flying over Florida on his way back to the North Pole, he glanced down and could not believe what he saw. Santa found snow in a place that is usually hot. After surveying the strange location, he decided to build a vacation destination for his off-duty elves — a Winter Summerland.
“The only thing Winter Summerland lacked was a golf course. So the elves divided into two camps, one that enjoyed the warm Florida sun and another that preferred the snow and cold of the North Pole. In this Winter Summerland, the elves built two distinctly different 18-hole golf experiences — a sand course and a snow course.
“Both courses at Winter Summerland are loaded with interactive elements that will entertain and engage golfers of all ages. On the snow course, Squirty the Snowman sprays water on unsuspecting guests when their golf balls pass beneath him. On the sand course, guests putt over a slumbering Santa buried underneath a tremendous sand mound.
“Although the elves were split into different camps, they agreed that the last couple of holes should converge within an old log campground lodge. Upon sinking their last putt on Hole 18, guests journey through cyberspace via the WinterNet as a computer downloads a special greeting from Santa. Winter Summerland also features Santa’s ‘winterbago’, a converted travel trailer that houses the starter booth, and small snack and gift shops.”
Since the courses were designed to be “elf-size’, it means that there are the perfect proportion for younger guests. Merry obstacles include giant peppermints, hockey sticks and the drawbridge of a fantastical, melting castle. Both courses have a replica of Cinderella’s Castle that looks like ice and sand respectively.
Photo opportunities include the ability to sit behind the reins of Santa’s sleigh or gather in front of a surfing Santa statue created by the elves and provides just one more enhancement to this entertaining, and often forgotten, location.
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Thanks, Jim! And come back next Friday for more from Jim Korkis!
In the meantime, check out his books, including Secret Stories of Walt Disney World: Things You Never You Never Knew, which reprints much material first written for this site, and The Vault of Walt: Volume 4, and his contributions to The easy Guide to Your Walt Disney World Visit, all published by Theme Park Press.