Guest (cart included), played on Tuesday, May 2018 at
Florida Meets Scotland
Salamander’s Reunion Resort is a one of a kind family and golf vacation mecca. There’s a ton of things to do with the family: horseback riding, a waterpark, swimming pools, biking and hiking trails and a spa and fitness center. There’s also three championship golf courses built by three of golf’s champion icons: Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus and Tom Watson.
Most golfers know about Tom Watson the player, but they may not be aware of his prowess as a golf course designer. I can tell you that he shows the same focus and attention to detail when designing and building a golf course that he did as a player. Since he only designs a couple of courses each year, there is no doubt that he is committed to delivering a high-quality product. He eschews the “grip it and rip it” mentality and makes a player strategize their way around his course. With each Tom Watson Signature Golf Course, you will find three things: beauty, variety and challenge. And sand; lots of sand!
No one can ever deny Tom Watson’s love for Scottish Golf. And no course of his that I have played exemplifies this more than his signature design at Reunion Resort in Florida. This was Watson’s first crack at a Florida design and for my money he couldn’t have done a better job. It has more of a links style to it than its two sister courses. The one hazard absent from this course is water – you won’t find it anywhere except at the comfort stations. What you will find is sand in over 120 bunkers of varying shapes, sizes and depths. If that’s not daunting enough, there’s also a few waste areas and some fairly significant elevation changes for this part of Florida.
The course has won numerous accolades from such notable golf publications as Golf Digest, Golf Magazine and Golfweek, including #10 on Golf Digest’s list of America’s Best New Resort Courses in 2005.
Wide, rolling TifEagle fairways lead to large green complexes, many with multi-tiered greens. With all the undulations in the fairways and on the greens, you can end up with some awkward stances; another way Watson tests your mettle. No matter how good you are, the Watson course is going to demand that you give some thought to your approach shots if you want to score well. With significantly large green complexes, there’s a premium on a solid short game because your choice of club can be anything from a putter, lob wedge or some other club you have mastered the art of chipping with.
The Watson Course at Reunion Resort plays 7,154 yards from the back tees with a course rating of 74.9 and a slope of 141. The Blue Tees will challenge low – mid handicappers (10 – 18) at 6,319 yards (71.1/128). With five sets of tees to choose from and yardage ranging from the back tees to the front (Red) at 5,395, there is a distance to suit every players’ ability. From Blue Tees, the course rating is 71.1 and the slope is 128.
Most Memorable Hole: Number 1: Par 5, 528 yards. I love a course that starts out with a par 5; it gets the “take it serious or relax and have fun” decision out of the way quickly. You start off your round with a blind tee shot; a little left of center is perfect. Most players will need to really rip their tee shot if they want to be serious about getting on in two. Play your layup down the left side of the fairway to take the few trees on the left out of play. Your approach shot will be slightly uphill to a large two-tiered green with lots of undulation. Get use to that description of the green, you’ll see it a lot.
Favorite Par 3: Number 7, 193 yards. A long and demanding par three that features numerous bunkers down the right side and a large collection area left of the green. Leave your tee shot short of the green and you still have a decent shot at making par.
Favorite Par 4: Number 10, 399 yards. Hitting the fairway off the tee goes a long way to scoring well on Number 10. Pull or push your tee shot and there’s a good chance you’ll find sand. A back right pin placement can be exceptionally challenging with the large intimidating bunker you see before you, so favor the left side of the green with your approach shot. This is one of the most challenging holes on the golf course.
Favorite Par 5: Number 14, 463 yards. It’s all about the tee shot here. Hit it solidly off the tee, over the waste area and avoid the large fairway bunker and your chances of birdie (or better) are good. There is a lot of sand that guards the large putting surface but if you manage your game correctly, you’ll be successful.
Last Word: The Watson Course at Reunion embraces a shotmaker. Using common sense and not trying to overachieve or be heroic as you make your way around the course will go a long way to putting up a good number. So does the ability to keep the ball in the fairway. If you can make it around this course without using a rake, you’ve done well. Play from the set of tees that best suits your game and a good time is guaranteed.
Guest (cart included), played on Monday, 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 Watson Course was Tom Watson’s first Florida golf course design and is a job well done. Of the three courses, it has more of a links feel to it and what the course lacks in water hazards – there are none – it makes up for in bunkers. The Watson Course features wide, rolling fairways and fast, firm, undulating greens. There are over 120 bunkers of varying sizes, shapes and depths. A good sand game is a must if you want to score well. Common sense prevails on this course as well and the course favors a shot-maker over a long hitter. There are several memorable holes but none more so than Number 9. From the Blue tees, the hole plays 384 yards and with all of the bunkers lining the fairway. the tee shot is very intimidating. If I were naming holes, this one would be “A Day at the Beach!”
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!