There’s only one place in the world where golfers can step outside their rooms and have a choice of playing courses designed by Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus and Tom Watson: the Reunion Resort in Kissimmee, Fla. If you opt for one of the resort’s several lodging options, with views overlooking many of the courses, you’ll feel like you’re at the golfing version of Disney World (the real thing isn’t very far away, either). How can you sleep knowing one of these gems awaits you the next day?
Innovatively routed on hilly, roller-coaster-like terrain, Arnold Palmer’s 6,916-yard, par-72 signature course boasts dramatic elevation changes—up to 50 feet in some places, which is huge for this part of flat Florida—creating a unique variety of risk-reward shots. Six tee locations give the player some choices, while the wide fairways and strategically placed bunkers beg for good course management.
The 7,154-yard, par-72 Watson course, is the biggest one-two punch in golf. You need to hit it long and accurate. If you do, the fairways are your friends, rolling fast and firm. The greens are large and accommodating, but don’t go in the bunkers (you’ll have your choice of close to 100). If your short game is on, you should do well on the Watson. Two words of this course: fair, demanding.
Other than maybe Tom Fazio, few golf architects offer the risk-reward design style of a Nicklaus course. Designed to entice golfers into hitting iffy shots with potentially big payoffs, this one challenges you to think before you swing. As a layout, it contours naturally to the landscape. The 7,244-yard parklands-style layout features smaller greens than the Palmer and Watson courses. Forced carries and plenty of trouble for wayward shots give the course a snarl of nastiness.
We’d like to think the signature hole of each of the courses is reflective of its architect and the way he played his game in his prime. Palmer’s go-for-broke style is on display in Reunion’s seventh course. The hole is a short, drivable par 4, playing anywhere from 180 to over 300 yards, depending on your tee box. A wiser golfer will take two short-iron shots, rather than a go-for-broke drive. But if you’re like Arnie (in spirit, if not ability), avoid the water on both sides and try to carry to the peninsula green. Swashbucklers always get the girl—and the birdie.
The 17th on Watson’s course is a man-size par 5 that muscles in at 554 yards. With a stream and the world’s worst sand trap nightmare along the entire left side of the fairway, this hole had to be designed by someone who knew how to avoid trouble in winning the British Open five times. Hitting the green in regulation is the equivalent of winning the lottery.
The signature hole on Nicklaus is the par, 3,210-yard hole, with a full-force carry over a lake, and a green defended by traps and a bulkhead. Play more club to carry the water, and you’ll find yourself in one of the bunkers behind the hole—so accuracy is utmost here. Nicklaus didn’t win 18 majors by taking the easy way out, and his design makes the golfer earn it on this treacherous par 3.
Greens fee: $100-$150 (resort guests only). 7593 Gathering Drive, Kissimmee, Fla., (407) 662-1800, www.reunionresort.com.