Guest (cart included), played on Friday, May 2018 at 10:13 AM
Another Crown Jewel for the King
Salamander’s Reunion Resort, just west of Orlando Florida, is how to three fantastic golf courses by three of the game’s greatest players: Jack Nicklaus, ow Watson and the late, great, King, Arnold Palmer.
The Arnold Palmer Course at Reunion Resort plays 6,916 yards from the back tees with a course rating of 70.9 and a slope of 132. Five sets of tees make the Arnold Palmer Course enjoyable for golfers of all skill sets and abilities. The course can be played anywhere from 4800 yards to 6900 yards.
Since its opening, the course has received many accolades including #21 on Golf Digest’s list of America’s Top 40 New Courses in 2005, and Golf Magazine’s “The Best Courses Near You”, where it ranked # 24 in 2008 and #27 in 2010. Golfweek Magazine has also bestowed many awards on this Arnold Palmer masterpiece.
What makes this course so unique – particularly in this part of the country – is the hilly terrain. You can also find some dramatic (remember this is Florida) elevation changes of up to 50 feet. All of this can make for some interesting risk/reward opportunities. Would Arnie have it any other way? The Palmer course is as beautiful as it is challenging. Expansive waste areas and strategically placed bunkers combine with the natural rolling terrain, mature trees and meticulous landscaping to ensure you have a memorable round. The fairways are, for the most part wide and generous, giving you the opportunity to do what Arnold did for a living: go for broke!
The greens feature quite a bit of undulation. Many of them are oversized, some feature multiple tiers, crowns and ridges; very seldom do you find yourself with a straight putt.
The practice facilities are second to none with a targeted grass range, putting greens and short game areas for chipping, pitching and bunker practice. The course is serviced by a beautiful clubhouse with an impressively stocked golf shop, restaurant, lounge and outdoor patio.
Memorable Holes (All Yardages are from the Gold Tees)
Number 4: Par 4, 339 yards. Don’t let the length of this hole fool you, it may be short but it demands two good shots to get it close. The green is rather shallow; it is also very firm and slopes drastically from back to front. Unless you are approaching from the right side, you will need to carry it on to the green. If this is your only par, it’s nothing to be embarrassed about!
Number 6: Par 4, 376 yards. The right side of this dogleg right par 4 is full of bunkers as well as a large waste area the farther right you go. A well-placed fairway bunker on the left side collects a lot of balls as well off the tee. A drive played down the right side of the fairway provides the shortest approach shot however club selection on your second shot is critical for a realistic opportunity at birdie.
Number 7: Par 4, 274 yards. The ultimate in risk/reward opportunities and the rarest of golf holes! This is truly a short par 4. Many players will be tempted to drive the green; few will succeed! This severely undulating green is almost completely surrounded by deep bunkers; not to mention the intimidating tee shot over water. There is nothing wrong with marking a 4 on your card for this hole!
Number 9: Par 5, 526 yards. Longball hitters can get there in two if the hole is playing downwind. The waste area that you have to carry off the tee is present all the way down the right side. The pitch and undulation of the fairway can also make for some awkward lies. The green is large and slopes gently from back to front making for plenty of birdie opportunities.
Number 10: Par 5, 581 yards. This par 5 dogleg right hole is pretty much a three-shot hole for any golfer. Try and cut the dogleg and a cluster of well-placed fairway bunkers awaits your shot. Hit whatever club you hit the longest (this may include a driver depending upon your confidence of hitting it “off the deck”) on your second shot to leave a manageable distance for your approach shot. The green has a gentle slope to it and as well guarded by bunkers.
Number 15: Par 5, 487 yards. This to me is the most interesting hole on the course. It is - by all accounts thus far on the Arnold Palmer Course – a short par 5. The thing is that unless you can hit a 300-yard drive over water, you can’t really aim at the green. If you can pull that off, getting on in two is pretty much a given. The rest of us will have to determine how much of the hole to cut off, making it a three-shot hole. You will also find huge elevation changes on both your layup and approach shots so be sure to take an extra club.
Number 18: Par 4, 382 yards. This is a beautiful and well landscape finishing hole. What you don’t see off the tee can hurt you. From the tee, you can see the well-placed fairway bunkers on either side of the fairway. What you don’t realize is that from there, the fairway dips downhill and incorporates a large waste bunker and large rocks. Very aesthetic and appealing – unless you get behind one! Your approach shot is uphill to a two-tiered green that slopes from back to front. A very scenic hole.
The Arnold Palmer Course at Reunion Resort is a very exciting and challenging course. While it may be the shortest of the three courses, it still offers a good mix of long and shot holes that will have you hitting every club in your bag. There are several risk/reward opportunities that can make (or break) a good round. Something else you don’t usually experience in these parts of Florida are uphill shots. There are several elevation changes whether it is hitting over a deep depression on a par three hole or trekking uphill to the green on a par 5, it is certainly a welcome change from your typical Florida golf outing. This layout has a number of forced carries off the tee, however it shouldn’t be much of a problem unless you are playing from the back tees. But then, what else would you expect?
The course and especially the greens are always in tournament playing conditions. There are not a lot of straight putts on any of the greens on this course so be prepared to take your time and read each putt carefully. There are also a few hidden surprises that cannot be seen of the green in the form of waste and sand bunkers and the rocks on 18.
Besides being home to three championship courses designed by three of the most memorable players to ever pick up a club, Reunion Resort is also a family retreat, combining the best of resort amenities with small-town life. Amenities include horse stables, tennis courts, a state-of-the-art spa and fitness center, a water park a multitude of swimming pools in various locations, miles of biking and hiking trails and, of course shopping. And let’s not forget the world-class dining! All in all, the Palmer Course at Reunion Resort is a great test for golfers of all playing levels and abilities.
Guest (cart included), played on Wednesday, 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.
Believe it or not, the Palmer Course rates the toughest of the three courses when comparing slope and course rating. Interestingly enough, it’s also the shortest! The Palmer Course has the most elevation changes of the three courses – albeit 50 feet - and the rolling terrain that the course is built on can make for some interesting lies. Many of the greens are humongous with a tremendous amount of undulation and several with crowns and ridges. The risk/reward par 4, 7th hole plays 248 yards from the Blue tees over water and is a lot of fun, even if you don’t find the green off the tee. Palmer is a course that can be enjoyed by everyone, regardless of ability. 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!