Guest (cart included), played on Friday, March 2018 at 10:46 AM
Salamander’s Reunion Resort is located west of Orlando off I-4 at exit 58, then about 1 mile east. The rooms in the main tower are not your typical hotel rooms, they’re spacious multi-bedroom condos that can sleep multiple couples. They are beautifully decorated and well appointed. This is the kind of place you could easily call home; and many do.
If these accommodations are not your style and you want or need more, Reunion rents a multitude of single family homes; as many as five bedrooms. While on property, you can take advantage of personalized concierge services, world-class dining, and a bevy of other amenities. Some of these amenities including horse stables, tennis courts, a state-of-the-art spa and fitness center, a water park and swimming pools in various locations as well as miles of biking and hiking trails. If this gives you the idea there’s a lot of thing to do here, you’re correct; and we haven't even started talking about golf!
Although Reunion is a great family resort, with its huge waterpark and kid-friendly programs, a lot of the guests are here for the golf. Reunion gives golfers three top-notch courses designed by three of the game’s greatest players: Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus and Tom Watson. The only way you can take advantage of these courses is to stay at the resort; stay and play packages are available year-round and require a minimum two-night stay. Perfect for three rounds of golf!
Formerly known as The Tradition Course, this Jack Nicklaus (and Jack Nicklaus II) Signature course plays 7,219 yards from the back tees with a course rating of 74.8 and a slope of 140. The white tees measure considerably less at 6,205 yards but still carry a rating of 69.8 and a slope of 129. The Nicklaus Course was the last of the three to open and offers four sets of tees, providing a challenge for all golfers. It is also far and away the toughest of the three courses.
The Nicklaus Course is a parkland-style layout and was named one of Golfweek’s Top 100 Resort Courses in 2009. It also ranked #17 on its Best Courses You Can Play list in 2010. The course follows the natural contour lines of the land in the area; water comes into play on 9 of the eighteen holes - much less than most Florida courses. A wide variety of trees can be found along the way including: oaks, magnolias, maples, and palms. Catching the magnolias in full bloom is an added treat.
There is a lot of undulation in the course both in the fairways and especially on the greens. There are more than 100 bunkers on the course, as well as small, postage-stamp greens, and a few forced carries. Tee boxes are beautifully landscaped and well maintained, fairways are meticulously trimmed and groomed, and the greens deserve their own article! Many of them are elevated and surrounded by evil bunkers and waste areas.
Because the course was completed during the recession, there has been no clubhouse to speak of. That all changed recently when ground was broken on the new Jack Nicklaus clubhouse, which is set to open in the fall of 2018. In addition, the large house you see being built behind the 18th green is for none other than the man himself.
The Nicklaus Course also has its own practice facility which includes an 1,100-ft. driving range with grass tees, a short game area and a practice putting green. The Nicklaus Course is a three-minute drive from the main clubhouse - providing there is no traffic in the roundabout.
Most Memorable Hole: Number 18: Par 5, 420 yards. If the tees are up, number 18 offers a great opportunity to finish on a good note; after all it’s just a long par 4. When they are back, and your tee shot needs to carry the marsh area, it can be a real test. Keep right off the tee and avoid the two large waste bunkers. The pot bunker in front of the green will keep many players from going for the green in two. Keep right again on your layup shot, avoiding the pot bunkers that dot the right side and leave yourself a short approach setting up a birdie opportunity and a spectacular finish!
Favorite Par 3: Number 16, 177 yards. Make sure you take the right club off the tee; anything short will most likely lead to an undesirable number on the scorecard. Number 16 is the signature hole and features a daring carry over water to a shallow, firm green protected in front and back by deep bunkers. Holding the putting surface off the tee is a challenge if you hit the ball with a low trajectory.
Favorite Par 4: Number 2. 402 yards. The conservative play on this demanding par 4 is to aim down the left side of the fairway, between the two fairway bunkers. A more aggressive line down the right side and over the bunkers will leave a much shorter approach shot but runs a higher risk of finding trouble. The forced carry off the tee shouldn’t prove difficult. Club selection is everything as you approach this multi-tiered green; finding the front left bunker is a very tough up and down. Par is a good score here; after all, it’s the number 1 handicapped hole on the course.
Favorite Par 5: Number 3, 536 yards. Water rears its ugly head on the layout's first par 5. Avoid the right side at all costs; it is replete with trouble in the form of bunkers, and water. There is plenty of room out to the left. Ideally you want to play your tee shot down the left center of the fairway; for most, this is a three-shot par 5. Again, favor the left side on your layup and leave yourself a short chip shot into a small target green. Three well played shots can lead to a well-deserved birdie opportunity.
The Nicklaus course is not your typical resort course; it's more of a "player's" course. Scoring well here requires a significant amount of accuracy off the tee - anything hit wide left or right will either be irretrievable or in some sort of hazard - most likely a waste bunker. A player who is more of a thinker as opposed to someone who wants to grip it and rip it will prevail out here. There are a lot of bunkers and waste areas along the way; many have been placed strategically in the landing areas which again places an emphasis on accuracy off the tee. I found myself in several of them; I guess that’s how you know you’ve got the right set of tees! The green complexes are what make the Nicklaus Course truly challenging. Most holes have modestly elevated greens although a few are very significant. The way these green complexes are set up and bunkered, a bump-and-run approach shot is not usually an option unless you are skilled at running the ball through a bunker! Most green complexes require you to fly the ball on to the putting surface. Once there, the subtle little undulations of the green take over. Be sure to study all putts carefully, even the tap-ins; there are not a lot of straight putts out here. The course is in great shape year-round and the grounds crew is painstakingly meticulous. Staff is friendly and helpful, especially the starters. If you haven't played the course before, listen to them carefully. They will give you a wealth of information. If you're in the area, you owe it to yourself and your golf game to play the Nicklaus Course at Reunion Resort. After all, it's the perfect destination for a great round of golf on one of three fabulous courses designed by three of golf's greatest players. It's also a great spot for a family vacation. Come to think of it, why not do both?
Guest (cart included), played on Thursday, March 2020 at 12:00 PM
The Reunion Resort and Golf Club in Kissimmee, Florida is a beautiful 2,300-acre property that includes single-family homes, condos, and extraordinary amenities such as a water park, delicious dining options and three golf courses designed by three of the game’s greatest players: Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, and Tom Watson. Reunion is the perfect destination for family vacations, buddy golf trips, weddings, social events, and corporate meetings. Reunion Resort is a AAA Four Diamond-rated property and is just one of six resorts to receive Golf Digest’s “Best Golf Resorts in Florida” award.
Early in 2019, Kingwood International Resorts purchased the iconic Reunion Resort, previously managed by Salamander Hotels & Resorts and a mere twelve months later, changes within the resort are evident and playing conditions at all three courses have improved dramatically. I recently had the opportunity to visit the resort, sample the cuisine and play the courses. As I made my way around the courses, I spoke with several players who were familiar with some of the improvements. All commented that since Kingwood had assumed ownership of the property, course conditioning was a lot better.
Kevin Baker, Corporate Director of Golf, has been with Reunion for over 16 years serving in several different capacities including Director of Golf and General Manager. He has survived the Bobby Ginn and Salamander years and is pleased with what he sees already from the new owners. In the last year, Kingwood has invested over $1 million in enhancements to the three courses including upgrades to bunkers and landscaping around all of the green complexes. This scale of renovation has not been seen since the early days of LPGA tournaments at the resort.
The Nicklaus Course is located down the road from the other two and with a new clubhouse and restaurant, it’s that much more popular. Of the three courses, the Nicklaus Course is the longest and for my money, the toughest. This parkland-style layout features elevated tee boxes and greens surrounded by beautiful – and evil – bunkers and waste areas. In all, there are more than 120 bunkers on the course and you’ll face a few forced carries but nothing outrageous. As with most Nicklaus courses, it’s the greens that make this course; they roll quick and true with a lot of subtle undulations. Depending on the hole locations, the greens can have you talking to yourself. To score well, you’ll need accuracy off the tee and the ability to think your way around the course; it’s brains over brawn!
As far as warming up before your round, both facilities have comprehensive practice facilities with full-length driving ranges, short game areas, practice bunker, and practice greens. There’s no excuse not to play your best!
Reunion Resort offers its guests a variety of accommodations options. Choose from luxury 1 - 3-bedroom villas and multi-bedroom vacation rental homes. Regardless of what you pick, you’ll have spacious living and dining areas, full kitchens, patios, and balconies. Each master suite has a king-size bed and private bathroom; living rooms and bedrooms have flat-screen TVs and DVD/CD players. Many units have washers and dryers and if you’re in a rental home you may even have your own private swimming pool, game room and possibly your own putting green! All units have complimentary high-speed wireless Internet. These aren’t your average hotel rooms!
Guests at Reunion Resort have several dining venues to choose from as well. Eleven is the resort’s signature steakhouse and sits on the 11th floor of the Reunion Grande. Eleven was remodeled recently and has an elegant feel thanks to the open dining room. Many dishes use farm-to-table ingredients paired alongside premium steak cuts and signature entrees. Be sure to try one of their award-winning steak enhancements: truffle balsamic glaze, jalapeño hoisin sauce or crab Oscar. Chef’s creations include pan-roasted scallops accented by a lobster butter sauce and a crab-crusted Florida grouper filet drizzled with citrus butter. Be sure to leave room for dessert and choose from such sweet delicacies as Brown Butter Bread Pudding with whiskey glaze and Peanut Butter Macadamia Chocolate Torte. Eleven boasts an impressive wine list and an intriguing selection of dessert martinis. After your meal, step outside on the veranda and, if you’re lucky, catch evening fireworks compliments of Walt Disney World.
Inside the new Nicklaus clubhouse – once named The Tradition Course – you’ll find Traditions, another great Reunion Resort dining venue. Traditions offers a seasonal menu with a local flavor and a focus on farm-to-table freshness and excellent service. Ask for Mary Ellen and you’ll see what I mean! You don’t have to be a member or even a resort guest to eat at Traditions, although you can charge it to your room! They offer a breakfast menu and an all-day menu. If you’re looking for something different for breakfast try their Sunshine Smoothie, made with bananas, almond milk, orange juice, fresh strawberries, and ginger. Traditionalists will enjoy one of their heartier dishes such as a Skillet Breakfast with includes eggs, andouille sausage, caramelized onions, spinach, potatoes, and mozzarella cheese.
The lunch or dinner menus offer savory entrees such as Buttermilk Fried Chicken, Boneless Braised Short Ribs and Crusted Snapper. Or try something light and fresh like a Chef’s Artisan Salad with heirloom tomatoes and goat cheese, or a Tuna Poke Bowl with fresh tuna, arugula, couscous, edamame, and pickled ginger. Before your main course, may I suggest the Ale & Cheese Fondue with Bavarian Pretzel Bread? Craft cocktails, a signature barrel-aged bourbon program, and weekend entertainment make Traditions a gathering place for all.
The Clubhouse at Reunion is always a good choice for breakfast before your round, a quick bite as you make the turn or a mouthwatering bite to eat afterward. They feature regional American cuisine served in a casual and comfortable setting. For breakfast, you can order off the menu or choose to eat from their breakfast buffet. For lunch or dinner, I highly recommend the burgers and Turkey Avocado sandwich.
Reunion has something for everyone; there’s a spa for mom, a water park for the kids, dining, and accommodations for all and golf for dad. Lots of golf! To book your next visit to Reunion Resort, visit them online at www.reunionresort.com.