Palmer's Legacy golf course at Reunion Resort shows true colors

By Tim McDonald, Contributor

ORLANDO, Fla. - The first thing you notice - the first thing you can't help but notice - at Arnold Palmer's Legacy golf course at the Reunion Resort & Club is the preternatural green of the course. Not just the fairways. The mounds and hills that rise to either side of them, and the grass bunkers and collection areas around the greens, are the same texture, color and feel, giving the course a seamless, unified appearance. It's all of a piece, as if poured from the same giant vat of molten plastic.

The Legacy course at Reunion
The Legacy course at Reunion Resort and Club was designed by Arnold Palmer.
The Legacy course at ReunionThe Legacy course - No. 15The Legacy course at Reunion
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Then there are the blinding-white sand bunkers. They bleach the sand to get it this white, and the contrast with the deep green is jolting; it will turn your head if you're driving down past the course. Palmer has always liked his bunkers super-white and that trait is here in abundance.

Add the light orange of the vast waste areas that lurk everywhere and you have a course of dramatically contrasting colors, further set off by the landscaping. Reunion's landscaping bill must rival that of nearby Disney World. Large enclosed sections are festooned with flowers and plants of a dozen varieties. The edges of the fairways are meticulously lined and sharpened.

No visual detail here is beneath the grounds crew's notice. The bunker rakes are hidden in the ground, lest golfers see anything so unsightly as an ordinary gardening implement. You step on a button and they come slowly rising out of the earth.

If you're partial to courses that seem to grow out of their natural surroundings, Legacy may strike you as a bit fancy. If you're one of those who prefer a well-tended lawn to wild nature, though, you're in for a treat. (Besides, if Legacy were to truly blend in with its surroundings, it would have three bedrooms, two baths and a patio.)

"I played Isleworth the other day, but I think this course is prettier," said Kian Lee, a Northern Californian who owns a home at Reunion. "It's a beautiful course. The [Tom] Watson course has gotten the better reviews, but I like this one better, especially the back nine."

The Watson, Reunion's other 18-hole course, has more of a links-type feel, much different than the parkland setting of Legacy. Both courses were listed among Golfweek's top 40 new courses for 2005. A third course, designed by Jack Nicklaus, was delayed by Florida's hurricane deluge but is scheduled to open this year.

Legacy sits smack dab in the middle of the sprawling Reunion resort, and condos loom over much of it, but they did manage to preserve a few natural areas. Between the water, the waste areas and the oaks and palm trees, it's is like a little park in the middle of booming development.

The course itself never stops dancing; the fairways dip, rise and swoop. You're lucky to get an even lie, with all the moguls and mounds. Most of the greens have dramatic slope and undulation, and they can be tough to read. One thing you can count on: Like everything else on this course, they are in excellent condition.

The verdict

Legacy is a pristine resort course, very playable with a slope rating of 137 from the back tees. There is plenty of challenge, especially from the tips. Most of the greens have false fronts, providing visual deception, and a number of holes can put a hurt on you. The 15th, a 527-yard dogleg with an intimidating carry over a lake off the tee, is a classic risk/reward hole: You can be the man you think you are or the man you want to be. Big hitters will go over the bunker at the far end of the lake, at 300 yards-plus, leaving a short iron and chance for eagle. Regular hitters will hit over water and trees in the middle, which also makes it reachable in two, or you can take the safe route further left.

It's pretty much everything you'd want in a resort course. The layout is imaginative, and there is a good practice facility with targeted greens at the driving range, all the range balls lined up neatly, and your personal towel waiting for you.

The Reunion Resort is still growing by leaps and bounds and it's obvious - the pro shop handles everything from tee times to check-in, and it can get a little confusing sometimes. The best way to play involves packages, which are in the $300- to $350-a-day range, depending on number of golfers and type of accommodation.

Stay and play

Located six miles from the Disney World entrance, the gated, 2,300-acre Reunion is a sprawling family resort suitable to the "bigness" of Orlando. The PR people tout it as a resort of "epic proportions" - they don't just have a pool here, they have a "multi-level water and swimming pavilion."

It's a decidedly upscale, pampering place, with personal concierges to arrange everything from tee times to dinner reservations. The villas come in one-, two- and three-bedroom arrangements, with big-screen televisions; many of them overlook the golf courses. Some of the homes have their own swimming pools.

There are hiking and biking trails, a riding stable and, of course, a fitness center. A tennis center and a wellness center and spa are on tap. A 4,700-square-foot ballroom is available now, and conference center and Grand Hotel are in the works.

Dining out

The clubhouse has indoor and outdoor dining, and there's a bar and grill at the pool pavilion. Room service is available, and you can even have groceries delivered prior to your arrival. Coming soon are a variety of eateries along Main Street in Reunion Square and dining at the Reunion Grand Hotel.

Tim McDonaldTim McDonald, Contributor

Veteran golf writer Tim McDonald keeps one eye on the PGA Tour and another watching golf vacation hotspots and letting travelers in on the best place to vacation.

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