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.
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. For more information on the Watson Course at Reunion Resort or either of the other courses, visit their website at www.reunionresort.com.