Photos by Chris Green, Stadium Journey
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 4.14
Tranquilo Golf Course at Four Seasons Resort Orlando 3451 Golf View Dr Lake Buena Vista, FL 32830
Year Opened: 1992
True Golf Enjoyment in Disney’s Back Yard
The Diamond Resorts Tournament of Champions is unique in golf for several reasons. First, it is located at the Four Seasons Resort at Walt Disney World in Orlando. Second, it features only LPGA pros who have won a tournament in the past year. Finally, it also features some top-level sports and entertainment celebrities, as well as some of the best access to them that fans can expect.
While modestly advertised, this “best kept secret” remains popular among fans and locals in the know, and features a game-day experience that rivals the best in the local sports scene. While professional golf has a history at Disney World thanks to the 41-year run of the Walt Disney World Golf Classic at the Palm and Magnolia courses, the 2019 tournament is the first official return of golf that is part of a season, and not just a one-off event – from 2013 to 2018 the event was a PGA tour and celebrity invitational.
Food & Beverage 4
The food booths are pretty well spread out around the golf course, making it easy for fans to grab a bite to eat or something to drink. While most concessions stands have limited menus for food, the drink options are quite extensive.
The most extensive menu is found at the main food stand just past the shuttle drop-off zone for the 3rd and 17th holes. Here you can find a grilled hot dog for $5, a grilled cheeseburger, grilled Italian sausage, or grilled chicken sandwich for $8, or a Mediterranean chicken salad bowl for $10. The stand also offers turkey spinach wraps and almond tarragon chicken salad sandwiches for $9. Snacks like Smucker’s Uncrustable PB&Js are $4, while chips, crackers, cookies, and fruit are $2; drinks like bottled water and soda are $4.
Various alcohol companies that sponsor the event are also on hand to sell variations on popular cocktails using their respective products. For example, The Glenlivet has their own bar setup that features seven different cocktails ranging from $12 to $20. Local brewer Crooked Can Brewery is also on hand with their beers at various concessions stands and in their beer garden, with beers costing anywhere from $8 to $9.
In addition, this year American brewer Yeungling featured a beer garden that included free samples of their latest beer, as well as their other beers for sale.
The weather in Florida in January is almost always as picture perfect as it gets – highs range in the upper 60s to low 70s in the day, meaning it’s perfect golf weather. The course itself is also stunning; the 18-hole course is laid out on the property that was once Disney’s Osprey and Eagle golf courses, but now is part of the Golden Oak neighborhood and Four Seasons Resort. The fans also turn up in respectable crowd sizes, meaning popular players are usually followed by a solid crowd of patrons to cheer them on.
This may not initially look like the PGA stadium-style setups that are popular among bigger tournaments, but the facilities and atmosphere here are no less enjoyable. A minimalist golf tournament taken to its max potential, fans are sure to enjoy their day at Tranquilo Golf Course. For example, where massive grandstands may usually sit at various greens, here fans can find stacks of comfortable outdoor lounging chairs which can be positioned wherever you want to watch from, giving fans the best view possible at each hole.
The relaxed setting transfers over to the 18th hole, where a DJ spins tunes throughout the entire day, and fans party to celebrate the final hole for each group’s day.
Tranquilo Golf Course is located on the property of the Four Seasons Resort, which is deep in the heart of Walt Disney World. Nestled between the Fort Wilderness Camp Grounds and the Port Orleans Resort, the sounds of the Magic Kingdom train whistles and monorail horns can be heard as the wind blows over the property. Because of this, you’re not far from pretty much everything you need on your trip.
For obvious reasons, the best place to stay would be at the Four Seasons Resort. Guests of the resort get a special entrance to the course and tournament, placing them literally steps from the first tee. The other resorts closest to the course would be Port Orleans Riverside, Fort Wilderness Campgrounds, and Disney’s Contemporary Resort.
For food, anywhere on Disney’s Property is a go-to. Kona Café at the Disney Polynesian Resort is a popular stop for sushi and a south seas flavor for dinner, while California Grill at the top of Contemporary Resort is also a popular go-to for a more upscale experience. In addition, popular tourist stops include EPCOT, Magic Kingdom, Hollywood Studios, and the Animal Kingdom theme parks. In addition, Disney Springs, accessible via bus and by car, is home to countless restaurants, bars, and shopping opportunities for the whole family.
While you may not have that Sunday crowd feeling at the 18th hole, the fans here are no less passionate than those at the LPGA Tournament of Champions. The addition of various celebrities and athletes also helps bring out bigger crowds. There still could be a lot more people on various days at the course, but part of the appeal is the ability to see top-level golf without the massive crowds of people. The big downside here for fans hoping to grab autographs from celebrities is the large number of autograph hounds and resellers that attend the event in hopes of getting that prized signature.
Getting to the tournament is pretty easy and very stress free. Parking is free for the tournament, but is not located on the property of the golf course, so make sure you have everything you need before you leave your car, because a trip back to the car for anything is not as easy as at a normal sporting event.
Most fans park at the Magic Kingdom parking lot; once there you will also find will call and the box office. Fans can also go through bag checks and security checkpoints in the parking lot as well, making it easy to get into the tournament as soon as you arrive, without waiting in line yet again.
Once through security, fans are put onto a Disney bus and driven to the course, which is no more than a 5 to 10-minute trip. Once at the course you are dropped off right at the entrance to the clubhouse next to the driving range; pickup for the parking lot is also in the same place.
Return on Investment 5
Tickets for the weekend are $15 for a single day or $30 for the full four-day weekend. Combined with free parking, this easily vaults to the top of the list for best bang for your buck in professional sports in Florida. When also considering the time of year, location, and ease of access, it is hard not to want to attend the same tournament year after year. It also is extremely family friendly, with most golfers and athletes/celebrities willing to stop for photos and autographs after the tournament, especially for kids.
The event has several vendors and displays throughout the course that give fans a chance to see some new golf technology – these displays almost always feature free giveaways. Also, tournament merchandise, once only available in modest amounts at the pro shop in the clubhouse, now features a massive air-conditioned tent. Inside, fans can find a variety of merchandise, including t-shirts as well as hats, sports memorabilia for autographs, and branded merchandise from some of the celebrities appearing in the event.
In addition, the autograph zone near the media center and scorer’s check-in area allows fans to get up close and personal with the visiting athletes, celebrities, and LPGA pros after the tournament is over.
This is easily the best hidden gem of sports in Florida. A perfect mix of location, event access for fans, affordability for tickets and concessions, and perfect weather for the time of year, this is the event fans of the LPGA say is one of the most enjoyable on the calendar.