Among the ways to connect with our fathers, I’d argue golf is far and away the best. Sporting events have their merits and other recreational activities can work too, but how can you beat four uninterrupted hours outside, catching up on life and reminiscing about days of old, all while high-fiving incredible shots and unlikely sunk putts?
Admittedly, my Dad wasn’t much of a golfer during my middle-and-high school years. But always keen on spending some time with his son — and knowing it might be the only way to do so — he’d join me a handful of times each year, breaking out his trusty push cart and half-set of Pal Joey clubs.
I could tell it wasn’t his thing (he’d certainly rather be hunting, fishing or boating), but still he made the effort. Loading his bag with handfuls of rock-hard Top Flight balls not up to my lofty standards, we’d prep him for the inevitable firestorm that would ensue on the golf course.
Never one to shy away from the wilderness though, it wasn’t uncommon for him to return to the 19th hole with more balls than he set out with. Wooded courses didn’t stand a chance to his retriever-like skills, though water-ridder layouts certainly got the best of him. Despite his unrelenting golf ball search-and-rescue tactics, this 120-something golfer kept pace with the quickest of them. His happy-go-lucky, don’t-take-yourself-so-seriously demeanor left him more than satisfied with dropping a hundred yards from the green to continue the battle from there.
It wasn’t until this past year that my Dad reallycaught the golfing bug, thanks in no small part to his recent retirement. He’d been gaining interest in the sport leading up to that day, but once the weekly grind was nothing but a memory of the past, he began to experience that same love for the game that anyone reading this surely has, too.
With Pop’s newfound excitement for the game, I knew it was time for something I’d been wanting to do for years: a father-son golf trip. And in the winter and spring months, there’s no better place than sunshine-filled Florida. So, for our inaugural father-son golf trip, we chose Orlando’s Reunion Resort.
How We Chose Reunion Resort
There’s no shortage of destinations in Florida, but after some extensive thought and research, Reunion stood out as a great choice for us. Here are a few reasons why:
- Warm location: After 5 months of freezing weather, my Dad was more than ready for sunshine and balmy temps. No east coast state has better winter/spring temps than Florida
- Easy travel: Though we considered places like Streamsong and a few coastal resorts, Reunion’s location 30 minutes south of the Orlando airport made for easy flights and a super quick trip from the airport
- Variety of golf: Targeting a 3-4 day trip, we didn’t want to play the same course daily. Reunion offers 3 championship courses (Nicklaus, Palmer, Watson), and each are “user-friendly” for all skill levels
- No worry logistics: Once we arrived at our destination, we wanted a worry-free, laid back experience. Beyond the golf, Reunion offers on site pools, workout facilities, restaurants, etc. with shuttles to take you everywhere. Once on property, no car needed.
- Budget friendly: Reunion offers a variety of golf packages that bundle room, rounds and even some food if desired, making the cost very reasonable
The Reunion Resort Experience
Though we could have played more, we opted for one round per day during our stay. After all, Pops had barely touched a club since October (thanks to the snow-filled Pennsylvania winter), plus we knew we’d want to enjoy some time poolside along with a nice dinner each evening.
We played the courses in the order shown below, which in hindsight worked great as each course got progressively more difficult.
Round 1: Palmer Course
The Palmer Course is a great way to ease into your stay at Reunion. Its the most “resort-style” of the three courses, meaning generous fairways, large greens, and a generally friendly layout was presented.
The course was friendly overall, although it may have had the most water of the three courses. Not much of a worry for the scratch player, but a few forced carries and green side water-holes do present a bit of a challenge for the less-skilled golfer. Despite my best attempt at playing on-course golf psychologist (“What water? Pretend it’s just grass Dad.”), these few hazards got the best of my Dad.
Many holes are lined by sprawling houses and colorful condos (Big Joe actually connected with one on the 3rd hole — no worries though, no injuries!), but still the Palmer Course was very aesthetically pleasing and perhaps my favorite of the three.
It’s gradual elevation changes take golfers through a medley of nature preservation areas, lending to plenty of wildlife throughout. Railroad ties mingle with sandy waste areas, while cool bridges appear to carry into the distance forever.
A personal favorite was the drivable par 4 7th, both for its strategic nature and beauty of a backdrop.
Round 2: Watson Course
Our second round of the father-son golf trip brought us to the Watson Course at Reunion Resort.
The course continues with the theme of amply wide fairways, however strategic bunkering really plays a role here. Plenty of drivers are still in play, though lines from the tee become more important. And in a handful of cases, dialing back with a fairway wood or iron yields the best chance to end-up in the shortgrass to attack the green.
The green complexes carry a bit more weight than the Palmer too, with more runoffs, undulation and overall difficulty. That adds to the fun though, especially for a lower handicap player, as hitting the large putting surface doesn’t guarantee a par. Multiple tiers and challenging shelves are the norm on the greens, so good birdie chances often only come with dialed-in approaches.
One of the more unique features comes at the par 5 9th hole, where a sea of fairway bunkers intimidate from the tee, but are nowhere to be seen from the green!
Round 3: Nicklaus Course
Where the Palmer and Watson Courses are located directly by the main resort hotel, the Nicklaus Course is a quick 5-minute shuttle ride away. It’s the newest of the three layouts, has it’s own clubhouse and practice facilities, and is the toughest, too.
Jack Nicklaus loves building championship layouts, and his course at Reunion certainly fits that mold. While it is very challenging from the back tees, typical of Nicklaus designs, it’s actually relatively friendly from the more forward tees (as tee shots land in the largest portion of fairway).
Still, everyone must navigate the challenging approaches to greens that are well guarded and often have very narrow corridors for the low ball hitter to run shots onto the surface.
The takeaway here for higher handicappers is to play the course to a yardage that almost felt a little too short. My Dad played from the second shortest tees, which left him enough short-to-mid irons that he could enjoy the round vs. struggling to hit the tough greens with long approaches. Plus, it made the forced carries just a bit easier, too.
Check your ego at the door, tee it forward, and trust you’ll enjoy the round!
Beyond the Golf at Reunion Resort
The golf is reason enough to make a trip to Reunion — especially if you’ve got a variety of handicap players — but here’s are a few thoughts on the off-course features, too.
- Accommodations: We stayed in the main resort hotel, which as mentioned before is smack next to the Palmer & Watson Courses. The main driving range, putting and chipping greens are all a minute’s walk away, making this a fantastic central location for a stay. Admittedly, we were spoiled with a larger-than-life sized room, but speaking to a number of other guests, their rooms were great too. Grab a room with a balcony that overlooks the golf facilities, and your morning breakfast and evening drinks will be met by quite the view.
Note: For families or larger groups of buddies wanting to stay together, there are plenty of villas and house rental options throughout the resort.
Eats: Reunion has a bunch of different dining options — here are the spots we explored during out stay.
Breakfast at Traditions: We had a kitchen and cooked a few breakfasts on our own, but we did try Traditions (located at the Palmer/Watson clubhouse) one morning. They offer a reasonably priced buffet, with just about everything you could want to fuel up for the day.
Eleven: Located on the top floor of the main hotel, Eleven is an open-kitchen concept restaurant with elevated food options. If you want a good steak or perfectly cooked salmon, this is your spot. Also, a nice bar area to hang out, and an outdoor area where you can see the Disney fireworks from each night around 9:15pm
Forte: A great Italian spot located in the main resort. Strong wine selection, too.
Grand Lobby Sushi Bar: Offers a lively bar scene in the main lobby that we stopped by nightly. Great for a quick drink or a casual dinner.
Pool: Reunion has over a dozen different pools scattered about the property. Our go-tos were the rooftop pool at the main resort hotel (good for poolside lounging) and the largest pool across the street at Seven Eagles (great for a little lap swimming to loosen up the muscles).
Whether you’re looking for a little father-son bonding time, choosing your next buddies golf trip destination, or want to take the family to a place everyone will love, consider Reunion Resort. With a variety of courses and a hassle-free way of life, it’s a great choice for golfers of all skill alike. I know Pops and I sure enjoyed our stay, and can’t wait to head back (maybe next year) for round two!