By BRUCE VITTNER
Legends of Golf Trail in Florida
magine a golf trail across Florida? The Grand Golf Resorts of Florida, a Salamander Collection, has launched one of the country’s best golf packages with the creation of the Legends of Golf Trail. We had the opportunity to play golf on all nine courses on this Florida Trail last winter with the Golf Travel Writers Assn. The Trail combines three of Florida’s grandest golf resorts under the management of Salamander Hotels and Resorts and gives golfers the opportunity to play courses designed by Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Tom Watson and Larry Packard — three legendary players and all four considered excellent golf course architects. Sheila C. Johnson, Salamander’s owner and CEO, who has owned and operated Innisbrook Resort since 2007, announced the formation of the Grand Golf Resorts of Florida last year. Salamander has assumed the management of Reunion Wyndham Grand Resort in Orlando and Hammock Beach Resort in Palm Coast. “Florida is the world’s greatest year-round and most
accessible golf and vacation destination and we are creating an experience unlike any other,” said Johnson. In addition to the nine courses there are 1,250 spacious suite accommodations over 200,000 square feet of meeting and function space, 25 swimming pools, 17 tennis courts, 16 restaurants and numerous other activities. The best part may be that there is only a 90-minute drive between each of the multi-course locations. We started our golf trip at Hammock Beach Resort. Located less than an hour south of Jacksonville. The resort is spectacular with beautiful accommodations, excellent restaurants and two wonderful golf courses. Our ﬁrst course was the Conservatory Course located 10 minutes from the resort near Route 95. This Tom Watson-design is the longest in the state with dramatic elevation changes and undulating greens. With ﬁve sets of tees, and 12 teeing choices all rated and sloped, you can pick the right distance for you and your playing partners. Brad Hauer, Director of Golf at Hammock Beach
Innisbrook Resort in Palm Harbor, Florida 34
Reunion Resort in Orland, Florida Resort talked about the 12 sets of tees. “Everyone should have the opportunity to play a course that ﬁts their length. It was relatively easy to combine distances from our ﬁve tee boxes to increase the number of tees to use,” said Hauer. There are 140 bunkers (three are sodfaced), and it has the feel of Scottish designs favored by Watson. The award-winning Ocean Course, a Jack Nicklaus Signature Design that opened in 2000 has six holes with views of the Atlantic Ocean, including three holes that play right along the water. The ﬁnal four holes are called the “Bear Claw” with sweeping views of the coastline. You will ﬁnd many doglegs over water. With luxury villa and condominium accommodations overlooking the Atlantic, you might be tempted to just stay in your room and
enjoy the vista. Don’t. There is so much more to do than just golf at the resort. There are eight tennis courts, a 200slip marina with kayaking and ﬁshing, a multilevel pool complex and large spa and ﬁtness center and a beautiful beach along the Atlantic Ocean. If you can’t get enough golf, there is a great practice area and teaching facility at the resort. Next stop was Reunion Resort in Orlando. It was an easy 90-minute drive down I4 from Hammock Beach and we had a tee time scheduled that afternoon. As you arrive at the resort, you see a large high-rise hotel, but unlike standard hotels, each is a multi-bedroom villa. There are also three-to-eight bedroom private estate homes on the property for rent to larger-sized groups. It’s the only place in the world where you will ﬁnd signature design courses by three of golf ’s greatest legends: Jack Nicklaus, Tom Watson and Arnold Palmer. Each of the three courses is quite different. Jack Nicklaus is known for his bunkering, but there are more bunkers on the Tom Watson course. The ninth hole on the Watson Course has bunkers everywhere, but when you get up to the green and look back, you don’t see any of them.
SOUTHERN NEW ENGLAND GOLFER / Fall 2013 / 401-464-8445 / www.snegolfer.com