In his ongoing quest to bring the best of golf to the Preferred reader, contributing golf-pro Steve Wilson hits the links in Orlando, Florida with a candid critique of the professionally designed courses at the exclusive 2,300-acre community Reunion Resort.
MY ‘REUNION’ WITH JACK, ARNOLD AND TOM
Decisions, decisions, decisions. When visiting Reunion Resort in Orlando, Florida, your first task is to decide which of the three courses to tackle first. Each unique in their own way, and designed by true legends of the game, the Nicklaus, Palmer, and Watson courses have received numerous accolades. In fact, all three have been ranked in the top 20 of Golfweek Magazine’s ‘Best Courses You Can Play’. However, taking on any of the courses without the proper preparation is not something I would recommend or dared to try myself. Fortunately, the resort boasts one of the finest practice facilities I’ve ever seen, and is home to the world famous ANNIKA Academy.
After some much needed practice, Day 1 found me at the Jack Nicklaus designed ‘Tradition’ course. Little did I know that this would be the sternest test of my weekend. Make no mistake, this course is not what you would call a ‘resort’ course by any stretch. Set up in true Parkland style, it winds its way through natural marshland areas with a series of stunning bridges. Well defined, tight landing areas reward good ball striking, while the smallish greens tease you into aiming at the flagsticks. The greens at the Nicklaus course were in perfect condition, and rolled at near tour speeds. In true Nicklaus fashion, much of the course favours left to right tee shots. Right from the opening hole that message is clear, and although it does offer some margin for error, it quickly grabs your attention in the holes to follow. Bring your ‘A’ game…Jack expects it!
Day 2, and the Palmer ‘Legacy’ course awaits. The thought of generous, rolling fairways and larger greens immediately gave me a warm, comfortable feeling, much like one of Arnie’s signature cardigans. But be careful not to fall asleep at the wheel. In keeping with Palmer’s legendary ‘go for broke’ style, there are a number of risk-reward holes that require your full attention. The 7th hole, a drive-able par 4, is framed by a lake and several bunkers: long and straight and you could be staring at a makeable putt for eagle…not so long or not so straight and you’ll have a tough time making double! With wonderful landscaping throughout, the Palmer course pays great attention to detailing, and highlights the natural foliage and surroundings. This course is very playable and would be an enjoyable outing for any player regardless of ability.
My final round was at the Tom Watson designed ‘Independence’ course. I must admit that I had very little prior experience with Watson-designed courses, and wasn’t quite sure what to expect. My trepidation was very quickly quelled…this course has it all. Challenging, well thought out routing combined flawlessly with the natural beauty of the property to create a very memorable experience. Watson’s reputation as one of golf’s greatest short game players is evident here with a heavy emphasis on creativity, especially around the greens. The visuals from the tee decks throughout are stunning, with significant elevation changes that are usually not associated with Florida golf, yet don’t seem out of place. Massive bunkers frame a number of the lengthy par 4s, and club selection to the elevated greens will test your mind and mettle. The ‘Independence’ course was Watson’s first-ever design in Florida, and I found it to be thoroughly enjoyable and impeccably maintained.
Without question, Reunion’s 3 courses, incredible practice facility, and extremely attentive staff made for an unforgettable visit. Decision made…it’s a great time for another Reunion!
Steve Wilson is the Head Golf Professional at Wooden Sticks Golf Club in Uxbridge, Ontario