KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- Tom Watson doesn't always get lumped in with the "A" list of player designers -- Jack Nicklaus, Tom Weiskopf, Arnold Palmer, etc. He's designed far fewer courses than them, but he's done some nice work in Florida.
Two Salamander resort courses designed by Watson regularly rank among the top public courses in the Sunshine state -- the Conservatory at Hammock Beach near the Atlantic Ocean and the Watson course at Reunion Resort near Orlando. Golfweek recently ranked the Watson course at Reunion No. 181 among the top 200 resort courses in the country for 2017. (The Conservatory sits at No. 105.)
Watson's 7,154-yard course at Reunion is generally regarded the best of the three choices at the 54-hole resort (the others happen to be Palmer and Nicklaus designs). Where the Watson trumps his contemporaries is playability. Its slope is much more manageable than the Nicklaus (141 to 148), and there's no water to sink the ball. Wide fairways provide ample room off the tee, whereas the villas and homes are set well back from play. Sweeping waste areas and bunkers define the landing zones, keeping things interesting. It's simply an enjoyable round from start to finish, especially for winter guests bringing rusty swings.
Every time you feel like the course gets tough, a shorter hole reels you back in. For example, the demanding par 4s at No. 4-No. 5 and No. 9-No. 10 are followed by shorter scoring holes, the 340-yard sixth hole and 356-yard 11th hole (yardages are from the gold tees).
Golf Advisor Top 10 contributor 'extennisnowgolfer' gave the Watson course five stars in his review, writing: "The Watson course is visually appealing from every tee box. Plush tee boxes, fairways and greens. Every bunker is well sanded, and there are hundreds of bunkers on this course."
All three Reunion courses are open only to members and guests who stay at the resort, home to hundreds of villas/suites ranging from 700 to 2,350 square feet. Everyone in the family has their favorite hangouts. Children can choose among the water park, lazy river and pools, while spouses gravitate toward the spa, fitness center, six tennis courts and multiple restaurants. Disney who?