The Reunion Resort in Orlando is the only place where you can find designs by golf legends Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer and Tom Watson at the same location. Each offers unique and different challenges, but are playable for golfers of all levels if they select the right set of tees based on their skills.The Legacy or Palmer Course is routed on hilly, roller coaster-like terrain, featuring elevation changes of more than 40 feet, and winds through the condos, but has more of a parkland feel because of the natural wetlands and all the trees. Golfers really have plenty of room off the tees, if they avoid expansive waste areas bordering some of the fairways. However, they must be accurate with their approach shots to the undulating greens, avoiding the strategically-placed bunkers. It’s the shortest of the three at 6,917, 6,419, 6,058, 5,529 and 4,802, the most friendly for women.
My favorite hole from all three courses was the risk-reward par 4 7th on the Palmer where my partner Matt Owens actually hit his drive from the white tees over the green, almost chipping in for an eagle. Teeing off from an elevated tee across a lake on another occasion,I saw couple of long hitters actually end up on the other side of the 8th tee when they tried to drive the green from the blue tees. A wiser course of action might be long iron or hybrid to the right of large bunker on the left of the fairway.The Independence or Watson Course, his first in Florida, also offers undulating terrain unique to Florida with elevation variations of as much as 45 feet from tee to green. Because of his keen interest in golf in the United Kingdom where he won five British Opens, there are more than 170 bunkers, including some smaller ones like the pot bunkers across the pond, that put the emphasis on accuracy. The greens are well protected and several have false fronts where players coming up short will see their balls roll back down the slopes. While it can be stretched to7,154, most play will be from 6,697, 6,319, 5,980 and 5,395.
The Watson and Palmer Courses play out of golf shop located at the Reunion Grande, but you have to make a short drive to the other side of I4 to play the Nicklaus Course, which is not as penal as some of his earlier designs, but probably will prove harder than the other two for many resort golfers, measuring 7,244, 6,537, 6,260 and 5,055.The Tradition Nicklaus Course is a target, parkland style layout which will tempt the better golfers to take risks to achieve birdie chances. It’s flatter than its sister courses, but smaller and trickier greens, forced carries that lead to fairway targets sometimes only 50 yard long and a larger amount of trouble for wayward shots adds to the challenges.
The resort also features another legend as the home to the Annika Academy, a state-of-the-art facility where golfers can learn from some of the teachers who influenced her storied career that included titles in 10 majors.
In addition, former USGA technical director Frank Thomas is available to help with putting at the Frankly Putting Pad.
The accommodations at Reunion are second to none with 320 lavish villas and suites that include the 82-room Reunion Grande.
The Reunion Resort is now part of the Salamander Collection’s Grand Resorts of Florida along with Hammock Beach Resort in Palm Coast and Innisbrook Resort near Tampa.