Orlando is one of the most visited locations in the world, and the world-class amenities at Reunion Resort in Kissimmee, just six miles from Walt Disney World, have made this venue one of the most popular tourist destinations in Florida. Certainly, the approaching New England frost and cold and early winter weather can be alleviated with a quick trip to the Sunshine State and a few pars and birdies.
A Decade of World-Class Service and Amenities
Celebrating its 10th year, Reunion has been appropriately named, for it has become a favorite gathering place where couples, friends, families, and conventioneers can share quality time together amid a wealth of activities. The literature calls Reunion, without hyperbole, “the ultimate escape,” and here’s why.
The expansive 2,300-acre community offers superior accommodations, three 18-hole championship golf courses, Annika’s only golf school, foot soccer, six lighted tennis courts, a full-service boutique spa, 10 pools and a five-acre Water Park (with huge slides, playgrounds, and a 1,000-foot “lazy river”), children’s programs, a fitness center, bicycle and jogging paths, conference facilities, shopping, and memorable dining with a selection of restaurants and bars.
Reunion Resort is a AAA Official Four Diamond Award Property and the recipient of Travel Magazine’s Award of Excellence. It is also in Travel + Leisure‘s Top 25 America’s Best Family Hotels and in Travel Channel’s list of Top Luxury Orlando Resorts.
Self-parking is always complimentary, but guests really don’t need a car once they arrive. A complimentary shuttle quickly moves the guests anywhere on campus they want to go. Orlando International Airport is within 30 minutes and an uncomplicated jaunt in both directions. For those with cars, besides nearby Disney World, other area attractions like Sea World, Universal, and Legoland are just minutes away.
Luxury Accommodations Abound
Reunion features 360 exceptional accommodations including condominiums, private villas, vacation homes, and luxury rooms in the 11-story Reunion Grande hotel. The Grande offers more than just a typical hotel room—it is resort living, a place to spread out and relax, with all the comforts of home. The Master Suite has a King-size bed with private, spacious bathroom; all other bedrooms have private bathrooms; the roomy dining and living room area comes with a Queen-size sleeper sofa; a flat-screen TV’s with DVD/CD is in the living room and bedrooms; the fully equipped kitchen with ice maker and microwave makes eating “at home” easy; a private balcony has a table with chairs; high-speed wi fi is complimentary; and a washer/dryer is either in the room or in the building.
The Play Is the Thing
Reunion Resort is definitely not all about the golf. But, about the golf and the instruction—it’s incomparable and unforgettable. Reunion is the only place in the world where you will find three Signature courses named for and designed by three of golf’s greatest champions and most proficient architects: Arnold Palmer, Tom Watson, and Jack Nicklaus. Each course is a par 72 with four par 5’s and four par 3’s and is meticulously manicured. Carts contain GPS systems, a prerequisite to navigate the landscape. The greens putt true and Stimp at around 10. They all combine the beauty of the naturally rolling and lush landscape with the design concepts of their creators. The results are a trio of challenging layouts that have won both numerous awards from Golf Digest, GOLF Magazine, and Golfweek and widespread acclaim from the players.
The Palmer Course—Legacy
As usual, Arnie has bestowed the common touch on his layout and has made sure that all skill levels will thoroughly enjoy the experience. Named one of the Top 100 Resort Courses and #10 in Best State by State rankings, the Legacy, as Arnold first named it, has five sets of tees from 6916 to 4802 yards, allowing the player to choose his distance. The Blue Tees (CR: 69.3) at 6058 yards provide all the test most of us need. His fairways are wide with mature trees guarding some areas and strategically placed bunkers protecting others. The greens are large and inviting and have gentle undulations. Natural preserve areas, large waste areas, and careful use of lagoons complement the hole routing.
Just as he was known for his “go for broke” attitude on the Tour, Arnie has a number of holes that seduce the golfer into contemplating risk/reward tactics, including the short par-4 seventh, which measures 249 yards from the Blues. The course ratings attest that the Legacy is the least severe of the three, but that relative difficulty factor does not include the outright fun that begins on the first tee. As Darin Hoff, PGA pro at Reunion, said, “This course is the epitome of Mr. Palmer’s personality, warm and welcoming.”
The Watson Course—Independence
Tom has always enjoyed his competitive golf, but he has also always “stopped to smell the roses” along the way. He has stated, “Golf attracts more players than any other outdoor sport. . . . [Why?] . . . It’s the simple pleasure of being on a beautiful course.” The Tom Watson Course or the Independence layout, his first design in Florida, is a gem, certainly both beautiful and demanding. It is traditional parkland and displays all the native flora in the area—15 varieties of grasses, azaleas, hibiscus, camellias, and other striking foliage—and it is traditional Sahara and displays more than 170 sand traps (all in perfect condition, by the way), ranging from pot bunkers (his British Open influence, perhaps) to yawning holes. Waste areas also abound with a few running from tee to green. The large, rolling greens require accuracy to get near the pin.
However, not one lagoon or creek is in play—so some solace there. The tips at 7154 yards (CR: 74.9) could host a Tour event, but the other four tees from 6697 to 5395 yards are more reasonable. The Blues at 6319 yards (CR: 71.1) are the most frequented tees. Regardless of the length, Tom’s layout necessitates a well-thought-out game plan where the approach shots must be solid and the short game must be creative. Independence has been #14 in Best Courses You Can Play in Florida and #36 in Best Resort Courses in the nation.
The Nicklaus Course—Tradition
OK, now to The Nicklaus Course, or Tradition as Jack called it, and bring all the skill and perseverance you can muster. This Bear is daunting and difficult, so play it after you have honed your game on either The Palmer or The Watson or both. Another Parkland-style layout, Nicklaus has made optimum use of the natural roll and flow of the land, building elevated tee boxes and greens. Jack only put in four sets of tees with the tips playing at 7244 yards (CR: 75.7) and the forward tees at 5055 yards. The Blue Tees at 6537 yards (CR: 72.5) and the Whites at 6260 yards (CR: 71.0) are the other two alternatives.
If golfers can shoot within five shots of their handicaps, they will have played well. Even if they don’t, they will appreciate both the lovely setting and the knowledge that Jack made them plan their shots. Oh, by the way, part of this plan embraces hitting high and soft approach shots, just as Jack used to! The Tradition is a continuous ordeal of both trying to avoid the precarious shots that could land in big trouble—cavernous bunkers, water hazards, and extensive waste areas—and trying to get the ball close or, at least, to keep it in play. All that being said, The Nicklaus is an opportunity not to be missed. Accolades include Best
Courses You Can Play—#17, Top 100 Resort Courses, and Top 25 Toughest Men’s Golf Courses in Florida—#4.
Instruction by Annika and Frank Thomas
Along with these three Signature courses, one more big name adorns the Reunion repertoire—Annika Sorenstam. The only ANNIKA Academy in existence is a boutique-style golf school that specializes in providing personalized instruction to individuals of all ages and skill levels. Annika teaches the “Winning Approach” that she used in her career. Besides the instruction, the Academy does fitness, nutrition, course management, mental training, and club fitting. Annika’s sister Charlotta is one of the instructors and one of the club fitters in the Callaway Performance Center. Because technology has become such a large part of the game, the school makes sure that its students are playing with equipment that fits their specifications.
ANNIKA Academy offers a number of different programs, based upon student needs and number of days of instruction. For those who want to interact with Annika, the three-day Soren-Slam Program is the most popular, where Annika conducts a clinic, has lunch with her students, and then plays golf with them.
From beginning to end, the Academy is a very customized golf experience.
Restaurants and Lounges
Man cannot live on golf and sleep alone, and Reunion’s restaurants will keep body and soul together in between the golf and the shut-eye. Eleven is for gourmet tastes and thirst-quenching cocktails. The flagship dining room is on the 11th floor of the Reunion Grande hotel, and its indoor/outdoor adjoining bar and rooftop pool offer spectacular views and handcrafted cocktails. Eleven is a steak house that showcases prime cuts of beef as well as other specialties, all created by Chef Etienne, who will undoubtedly stop by the table to ask if the meal was prepared just right. On the menu are several of Chef’s entrees that he made while a guest on Emeril’s TV show. An impressive view from the lounge by day, the night time star gazing is even better, and Walt Disney World even provides the nightly fireworks.
What else? The Forté Grille on the first floor of the Grande serves traditional Italian cuisine with the emphasis on pasta dishes and fresh seafood. A wine cellar with more than 250 selections from around the globe insures the perfect complement to the entrée. The Clubhouse overlooks the practice range and the Watson Course and offers a wide variety of traditional American breakfast, lunch and dinner dishes. Dine indoors or out. The Grande Lobby Sushi Bar is just right for the light dinner or the evening cocktail. Chef Michael Ha’s freshly prepared sushi appetizers are the real draw, however, and pack the room. Finally, Longboards, The Cove at Seven Eagles, and Drink Deck all cater to the snack and thirst whims of the pool and Water Park patrons.
A Golf Package Made for New Englanders
Reunion’s “Just Golf Package” would be the perfect excuse for “the ultimate escape.” It features unlimited golf with cart during the day and breakfast in the resort’s clubhouse each morning. Rates start at $201 per person, per night, based on quad occupancy in a three-bedroom villa, exclusive of taxes and resort fee. Travel dates are from September 4 to December 20. Give yourself and three others an early Christmas gift!
For more information and for reservation options, access the Reunion website at www.reunionresort.com.WHAT'S YOUR REACTION?