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Retroworlds – Walt Disney World’s Golf Studio

Ad for Walt Disney World Golf Studio, 1979A couple of swingers from the 70s

I came across this bit of swankiness and for some reason it has amused me greatly. From 1979, it’s the Walt Disney World Golf Studio! Ditch the wife and kids and hit the links – a panel of professionals is waiting to show you how to improve your own natural style and swing to play better your way!

For no obvious reason, this screams early Walt Disney World to me. Look at that awesome camera! And the giant screen! And orange fringe! I feel like I’m in my Vacation Villa in my jammies watching on Channel 5. I’m glad the pants were slightly less terrifying by my time, though. Then again, in the 80s everyone had tiny upsetting shorts. C’est la vie.

The point is, this is a window into a time when Walt Disney World was truly the Vacation Kingdom of the World. Golf Studio or horseback ride? Bob-A-Round Boat or Eastern Winds? It’s up to you!

How about some more information on Phil Ritson, who developed the idea of the Golf Studio? Look no further

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6 comments to Retroworlds – Walt Disney World’s Golf Studio

  • Another Voice

    “Ditch the wife and kids and hit the links”

    WDW had a big problem when it opened.

    Much like Disneyland before it, attendance was hugely seasonal. This was back in the days of two week vacations, loading up the family station wagon, and when education was so important you didn’t take kids out of school to go to an amusement park. It all meant the park was jammed during holidays and summer…and empty the rest of the year. Disneyland used to close on Mondays and Tuesday but Disney had spent so much on WDW they couldn’t have that happen. So how to you fill up all those hotel rooms the rest of the year?

    If you’re in Florida, you book conventions.

    There is nothing an average business suit wants more on a dreary New York day in March than to find an excuse to go to Florida. Disney, knowing that they’d never get a seminar full of accountants to visit a “kiddie” attraction, went straight after what conventioneers wanted: golf. Disney even created the unthemed Golf Resort to attract “serious” business to the property (and because the high-end suits within Disney wanted to play as well). It sounds odd now, but calling it “Golf Resort” really did cut way down on the snicker factor. With the shortcomings of the studio in the 70’s, Disney was really seen as a company that made children’s products and a trip to WDW was something an adult suffered only “for the sake of the kids” (much like it’s getting to be again today).

    With conventions, Disney did more than sell hotel rooms. Catering is always a huge profit center for any hotel. Now here was a room of 500 adults scarffing down overpriced munchies and blowing their expense accounts with big dinners as opposed to all those budget pinching tourists. There was nighttime entertainment, from stage shows put on by Disney to booze cruises on the Southern Seas and everything in between. Disney was also able to capitalize on its “wholesome” image compared to that other big convention destination, Las Vegas – “Honey, of course I’ll be good – it’s Disney World!”

    You only have to look at the Swan & Dolphin, the Yacht & Beach Clubs, Coronado Springs and the convention center expansions at the Contemporary and Grand Floridian “Our Beach is Deadly” Beach Resort to see how successful the business strategy was.

    So don’t mock the golf.

    And I’ll take those plaid golf pants over the neon colored polyester from the 1980’s anytime.

  • android.dreamer

    @Another Voice

    Besides visitors, you would think even the locals would want extra time on their game? Golf clubs are a staple of Florida, they must make some money.

    TBH, I don’t really like this vacation idea of Walt Disney. I don’t want just another resort that you can find anywhere. I want something original. It is like with the theme parks, why didn’t more modern theme parks take after Disney and create something on the lines of Magic Kingdom instead of becoming a generic Six Flags? Offering golf lessons really isn’t that special. But maybe it was in the 1970s?

  • @AV:

    LOL… I’ll never mock the golf again! This is almost as bad as when I crossed the mom’s panel! Thanks for the perspective though – it’s amazing how much vacation habits changed in just a decade or so from the 70s to the 80s. And it still blows my mind that Disneyland used to close for a couple of days a week.

    It shows how good a job they did at changing the ‘kiddie park’ perspective by how I still perceive WDW of that era as so much more “mature” than today, despite the actual wider range of options today. Note the page number of the ad – it was featured on the inside cover of the resort guide. It’s all a matter of giving lip service, and integrating those adult experiences into the resort. I’d love to still have the option of those Seven Seas Lagoon cruises!

    I just love that they could plainly call something the “Golf Resort” and have that work, no questions asked. The good thing about all the Disney scholarship going on online in recent years is that I’m finally getting answers to those nagging questions, like why we got the Golf Resort instead of the Asian. Poor Asian…

    The irony is, as you stated, that Disney has re-created the perception that they worked so hard to eliminate. Namely, that WDW is a place that your kids drag you, and you have to go, and it’s an overpriced kiddie place that you have to suffer through for your family. Disney has no one to blame for that but themselves. This could all have been avoided if they had kept Monorail Club Car…


    I think the scope of the experience was unique at the time. I’ll admit that I’m the last person to use most of these recreation options, and historically have spent most of my time in the parks, but I just love the idea of this vast resort with all these different experiences available and so well integrated. Even if I just rent a boat or something every 5th trip, at least it’s an option if I’m so inclined.

    I love that the promotional materials of this era only presented the MK as a part of the scope and intent of WDW. So many of the early plans called for huge expansions of recreational opportunities – Lake Buena Vista’s various themed recreation sites would have stretched from the Village all the way up to Bay Lake, and where the Four Seasons is going to be located. This seems to be a big part of Disney’s intentions at the time; witness the Celebrity Sports Center in Denver, and the planned developments at Mineral King and Independence Lake.

    And while it’s not my thing, for some reason I totally love it. I cannot justify it, but it’s true!

    You do raise a good question, though. Why haven’t more parks tried to rip off Disney?

  • Another Voice

    There are a couple good issues here.

    While it’s true that vacations have changed radically since WDW opened (a great topic for another post), there are a few things that have remained constant.

    The idea of an “all parks, all the time” vacation is extremely recent. It happened because Disney management decided it would be cheaper to get “core” customers to return more often than it would be to attract a wider audience. One person visiting twice would, in theory, bring in as much money as two different people visiting once. So for the last decade Disney ramped up what they thought that “one person” really wanted – more parks (hence Animal Kingdom) and more branded accommodations (the Valueless and DVC).

    There is a real question about whether this “nothing but parks” strategy works. We’ve also seen Disney forced into a decade of discounts, gimmicks and annual “this year’s amazing once-in-a-lifetime event carried over from last year” marketing events. And one has only to look at Universal Escape – er – Universal Orlando, the Disneyland Resort expansion and the massive flop of Euro Disney to see that theme parks do not a resort make.

    That’s the real reason why no one else has really followed Disney’s example: most people want to do more on a vacation than visit theme parks. Yes, there is a group of people that will spent their entire day hopping from one Dole Whip location to another – but they are freaks and you can’t build a business on them (no matter how many pins they buy).

    Disney knew this from the very beginning of “Project X”. They also saw this as a way to expand the concept of a “Disney Experience”, to make it more than just something where you had to remain seated at all times with your hands, arms, legs and feet inside the vehicle. The shining example of this is River Country, the first modern water park in the country (and a park that launched a whole new industry). Discovery Island also was shaped to be a Disney, non-theme park attraction. Dinner shows – such as the Hoop-de-Doo Revue – were also “Disney Experiences” outside of a theme park environment. Other “traditional” activities such as golf, boating and sports exist to take advantage of WDW’s advantages – for those sad people in the northeast, a chance to play tennis or skim across a lake in the middle of February is just as “magical” as a 3D movie spitting water in their face.

    Even Eisner stumbled onto this. While he thought he was simply co-opting Church Street by building Pleasure Island and all those I-92 places with his own mini-golf joints and Downtown Disney – in fact he was simply recognizing the huge demand for non-theme park actives that Disney wasn’t offering.

    Disney’s effort to eliminate these activities will be very harmful for them in the long run. In a lot of ways, WDW now reflects the old Las Vegas – when cheap rooms and cheap buffets were used as ploys to get people into the casinos. Really, what is the real difference between the Disney Dining Plan and the “$1.95 Surf ‘n Turf”?

  • philphoggs

    Clap clap clap- well thought or once again just good information AV.
    As far as the ad, it reminds me of the coup that WDW had with Jack Nicklaus. Class and Class.

  • android.dreamer

    My point was that they could do something different with golf, and not do the “same-old-same-old”. …maybe George Lucas-style annoying animatronic gophers– that’s a terrible idea. …or how about artistically rendered grass? They just need to do something unique, like Fort Wilderness implementing a steam train.

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