Review of the Palmer Course at Reunion Resort
Arnold Palmer designed another masterpiece golf course that sits smack dab in the middle of the sprawling fantastic Reunion Resort. Condos loom over most of the holes but Palmer did an excellent job of preserving and leveraging a few of the natural wetland areas and he added lots of oaks, palm trees, and colorful landscaping to create what feels like a little park in the middle of a booming development. And he sculptured 18 outstanding holes with generous roller coaster fairways, expansive waste areas, elevation changes of up to 50 feet, several risk reward opportunities, challenging green complexes, and strategically placed bunkers creating a golfing experience that is fun, fair but demanding, and a blast to play.
Arnold Palmer has always liked his bunkers super-white and that trait is in abundance at Reunion Resort's Palmer course – the contrast between the lush green fairways and greens and the glistening white sand bunkers is stunning. And when you add the whites, reds, yellows, and purple colorful landscaping plus the orange/brownish natural waste/sand areas that are everywhere you have a colorful masterpiece! The course is meticulously maintained from tee to green.
But there is a beast in that beauty – the fairways are heavily contoured, the greens have severe slope and undulation, and most of the bunkers are steep and deep and some are long and narrow with multiple fingers. Which means if you spend too much time enjoying the scenic beauty or don't focus on course management and club selection, you'll be buying the drinks at the 19th hole which overlooks the putting green and driving range where you'll also wish you had spent more time.
We loved the Palmer course at Reunion Resort and it's not surprising that the course has received a number of awards and accolades, some of which include:
- #21 in Golf Digest's "America's Top New Courses"
- GOLF Magazine's "Best Courses Near You in Florida – #27"
- Golfweek's "Top 100 Resort Courses" and #12 in "Florida's Best Public Access Courses"
Some of the holes that we really enjoyed included:
- the 421 yard par 4 first hole gives you a taste of what to expect for the rest of your round – an elevated tee box, a wide rolling and contoured fairway that takes a sharp turn left to a severely sloping green with water on the right and a big bunker on the left
- #7 is stunning – an elevated tee shot across the lake to a relatively small landing zone thanks to the water and some huge bunkers and an oblong severely undulating green flanked by three big bunkers – a great risk reward opportunity if you want to try and go for the green on this short 303 yard par 4
- three fantastic finishing holes – a demanding 178 yard slightly downhill shot to an elevated green with a steep drop off to a large natural sand area; on 17, a 399 yard dog leg left, which offers a risk reward shot to try to carry a natural sand area that runs tee to green and a huge long sand bunker with 17 fingers or an accurate shot off the tee (leave the big dog in the bag) followed by a downhill shot to a two tier green with two big bunkers protecting it; and an excellent finishing hole with a huge tee to green natural sand area on the right, a wide landing zone that leads to a hidden natural area with stone walls, and a challenging uphill shot to an expansive two tier green surrounded by 5 bunkers
From our perspective the back nine was a lot more fun and home to some fantastic holes. The greens on the back seemed a little smaller and flatter, the fairways seemed a little more forgiving, and there weren't as many long sweeping natural sand areas, but there are a couple more big bunkers that seemed harder to avoid. And the last four holes are very memorable, unique, and will make you want to come back again, and again, and again!
The fairways are generous and the wide rough is playable at the Palmer Course, but after that you're in trouble. The heavily contoured and roller coaster fairways were in near perfect condition when we played.
The greens are all shapes and sizes and most are on the large side and raised making bump and runs tough. All have some combination of slope, undulation, or tiers with subtle breaks and slope to collection areas which can make three putts common. They were running around 10 to 11 and were very smooth when we played.
The bunkers are everywhere and range from small pot bunkers to some huge monsters that would swallow a 5 car train! In addition there are lots of waste areas, which are too nice to call water areas since they are well maintained and landscaped with soft playable sand.
Reunion Resort is outstanding with a wide choice of lodging options, great restaurants, excellent amenities, and some of the best service we have experienced. They have an great Stay & Play offering which we enjoyed during our visit to Florida – read our review of Reunion Resort. In addition to all of the above, Reunion Resort is home to three excellent signature golf courses designed by Arnold Palmer, Tom Watson, and Jack Nicklaus. To learn more, read our review of the Watson Course.
The Palmer Course is private but is open for play for guests of the Resort. Both the Resort and the Palmer Course are outstanding and well worth the price of admission.
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Service is top notch and some of the best we have experienced. The pro shop is well stocked, the practice facilities are excellent, and the restaurant serves a wide variety of very good food for breakfast and lunch. Annika Sorenstam's ANNIKA Academy is adjacent to the courses and offers a variety of lessons and clinics to help you score better.