Review: Reunion Golf Courses, Orlando FL
+3 great courses by 3 great designers
+Lots of practice area
–Busy staff had trouble keeping up
A Gentle Shotmakers course w/ Watson’s Style
Watson has always been a fan of European style courses winning the majority of his majors at the British open. Courses that reward shotmaking more than brute power or infinite obstacles, but instead have strategically placed bunkers or well places knolls that force the golfer to hit the right shot at the right time.
The Watson 18 starts right off the back of the clubhouse. It winds through a park like setting for all 18 holes. There is no water on this course, but that doesn’t mean you can’t find trouble. Already on the second hole, you can find a waste area that is pretty nasty. The 3rd hole is a tame par 3, but with its mounded green, even just off line a little leaves a tough up and down. The 5th hole is the toughest on the front side. It is long and requires some accuracy. The par 3 7th is long from the back tee, but receptive to long irons and woods. The 9th hole is a long uphill par 4 that really wraps up a solid front side. You make the turn after a short drive to a long par 4. It just takes length to get par on this hole.
A short drive through one of the many tunnels brings you to what might be the most spectacular looking holes on the property, the 11th. It is a short par 4, with an elevated tee that just goes downhill all the way to the green. The right bunkers and left pit just look amazing. The following par 3 is also solid hitting across the pit to a hillside green. From 13 – 16 it seems like you drive through a tunnel to get to every hole. They are a solid collection of holes that end with 2 amazing ones. 17 is a great par 5 that really takes a couple of bombs to reach in two. The 18th brings you right next to the Annika academy. It is a gentle sweeping dogleg right. It is a tough finishing hole, but rewards well placed shots.
Jack has never been known to take it easy on golfers when it comes to designing courses. He notoriously has very difficult tracks. They are narrow, long, and the greens usually have significant undulation. The Reunion resort course was no different.
To get to the Nicklaus course, you need to take a left turn at the round-about and head what seems to be almost off the property. This course was designed and built during the height of the golf and housing boom, only to be completed right around the downfall. While that probably has been tough on the resort, golfers still get to enjoy a fantastic no-frills, few condos golf course. Currently there is only a trailer like clubhouse, but it still has a full driving range and its own putting course.
A signature of Jack Nicklaus’ courses is a tame open hole. He lets you ease into the round. Hole 1 is a straight forward shorter par 4. After that you can expect the rest of the course to be a bit more challenging. Compared to the other two on the property you will notice the narrower fairways, long yardage and trickier greens. 2-5 were all solid holes that left few scoring opportunities. The 6thand 7th holes are real chances to score some low number. Neither one is real long or tough. I think our group walked away with a couple of birdies on each one. The finishing hole for the front side was a tad frustrating. On the score card it doesn’t look anything to intimidating, even off the tee, it wasn’t too tough, but the green area was ridiculous. The green is narrow and longer front to back. The elevated green has a couple of bunkers/waste areas right off the front courses. While they looked like sand traps, they are something completely different. They are compact red sand/clay. It is more like hitting off a cart path than anything else. I would be fine with something like that away from the green, but we had a couple of decent shots that just didn’t hold the greens and ended up in these areas.
After the disappointment at 9, the back side opened up into another great collection of signature Jack holes. The 10th hole was no picnic with its length and bunkers, don’t expect a birdie to start the back 9. The 11th is another really tough hole. A solid par 3 that just is so hard to hit the right club, on the right line. We had a couple of really good looking shots in our group that just ended rolling off the back down the hill to a collection area, making for a really tough up and down. From 12-14 don’t expect any low scores, sometimes it is just about survival. But the 15th hole might offer you a chance to get home in two and put a low number down. The 16th is strong par 3, getting par is good. When reaching the 18th hole you might be tired and worn down, but you better bring it to finish strong. It is long, uphill and needs power and accuracy. The Nicklaus course is just what you expect; tough, long with only a few solid scoring opportunities.
Arnold Palmer has some signature styles to his courses. It seems that he likes to have forced carries off the tee, visual beauty and usually plenty of water hazards. The terrain at the Reunion resort that he used fit his style perfectly to create what I would call a traditional Palmer course. This course starts on a hill top just a little drive from the clubhouse. From the first tee you can see a good vista of what you will be playing, rolling hills, trees, bunkers and plenty of water to navigate. The opening hole is a solid par 4 downhill; the real danger is on the approach on this one, with water to the right of the green. The second hole is tricky. While it is a short par 3, the downhill shot, from the elevated tee to an elevated green is all about distance control. The next few holes wind through some condos and waste areas. The 7th hole is right up there with one of the best on the property. It has a forced carry over water, but is a drivable par 4. The 8th is another forced carry over water; this hole is the toughest on the front 9 because it is long too. The finishing par 5 is nothing too difficult, but a solid wrap up to a good 9 holes.
The back 9 takes you across the road to another great collection of tough holes with multiple forced carries. Hole 10 is a 600 yard 3 shot par 5. The next collection of par 4s are all solid again with some forced carries over swampy waste lands. The 14th hole is another Palmer tradition, a very short par 3 that shouldn’t be hard, but can be intimidating. The rock faced green on this hole is really picturesque. The 15th hole is by far the most intimidating tee shot on the property. You stand on these little island like tee boxes, looking over this giant swamp to what looks like a line of tree that you must carry your driver over to reach the fairway. It’s about 250 from the back tee. The fairway is also angling to the right up the hill. It really is an interesting design. 17 is fun downhill par 4 dogleg left and 18 is a strong uphill par 4. The Palmer course has many of the tradition design features you expect from Arnold. Lots of water, forced carries, a short par 3 and some visually stunning holes.