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Reunion Resort & Golf Club – New Management Making a Difference

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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!”

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.

The Nicklaus Course is located down the road from the other two and with a new clubhouse and restaurant, it’s that much more popular. Of the three courses, the Nicklaus Course is the longest and for my money, the toughest. This parkland-style layout features elevated tee boxes and greens surrounded by beautiful – and evil – bunkers and waste areas. In all, there are more than 120 bunkers on the course and you’ll face a few forced carries but nothing outrageous. As with most Nicklaus courses, it’s the greens that make this course; they roll quick and true with a lot of subtle undulations. Depending on the hole locations, the greens can have you talking to yourself. To score well, you’ll need accuracy off the tee and the ability to think your way around the course; it’s brains over brawn!

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! To book your next visit to Reunion Resort, visit them online at www.reunionresort.com.