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Len Ziehm On Golf

Fort Myers Country Club

Location: Fort Myers, Florida.

Architect: Donald Ross, with renovation by Steve Smyers in 2014.

Opened: 1917

Par: 70 for men, 71 for women.

Yards/Rating/Slope: Black tees, 6,675 yards, 72.9, 131; Blue, 6,245, 70.5, 126; White 5,815, 68.9, 124; Golf, 5,460, 67.0, 117; Red, 4,905, 69.0, 114; Green, 4,360, 62.9, 101.

Saturday morning green fee: $50 (does not include cart, which rents for $25 per person).

Caddie Service: None.

Walker friendly: Not really, but walking is allowed and pull carts are available.

Fairways: Bermuda.

Greens: Bermuda.

THE REVIEW

For starters: One of only five courses in Florida that has celebrated a centennial, The Fort (as its known locally) is a heavily-played layout owned by the city of Fort Myers. It has a rich history with its past players including such long-ago stars as Walter Hagen, Jock Hutchison, Gene Sarazen, Horton Smith, Charlie Sifford, Babe Zaharias and Arnold Palmer.

Play because…: The course underwent its only major renovation in 2014 when Steve Smyers strived to re-capture the style of original designer Donald Ross. While Smyers was successful in that regard, the course underwent some notable changes. Par was changed from71 to 70 for men and 72 to 71 for women. Smyers put in six new water hazards and the course now has 52 bunkers.

Takeaway: Smyers’ renovation greatly improved the condition, as the drainage was extensively modernized and the turf quality upgraded. One notable problem: it has no practice range.

THE COURSE:

Best Par-5: No. 18 (Yards from tips 535/520/490/475/400/385). This sharp dogleg left is as very good but challenging finishing hole. Water run across and to the right of the fairway, which necessitates a decision to lay up or go for the green on your second shot.

Best Par-4: No. 2 (45 yards from tips/420/400/385/320/300). Being so early in the round this is an unusual place for the No. 1 handicap hole in any course rotation. A slight dogleg right, it gets your attention because of that.

Best Par-3: No. 10 (Yards from tips 220/190/180/140/130/100). The most difficult of the short holes, this one is uphill from tee to the elevated green and plays much longer than the listed yardage. Also factoring in is the tee box’s location. It’s below the outdoor lounge and is in full view for spectators.

THE RATINGS (1 to 10 scale, 10 being the highest)

Overall: 7.75.

Food/beverage: 8.

Pro shop: 7

Clubhouse: 9

Difficulty: 7

Pace of play: 7.

INFORMATION

Phone: (239) 321—7488.

Website: www.cityftmyers.com/golf.

Facebook: @Fort Myers Country Club

Twitter: @cityftmyers

Instagram: #fortmyerscountryclub.

Second U.S. Senior Women’s Open will do just fine at Pine Needles

The best senior women golfers, the ones who did so much to make the Ladies PGA Tour into what it is today, haven’t gotten the respect they deserve.

Their own tour barely recognized them, leaving it to Jane Blalock and The Legends Tour to provide a circuit for players after they turned 45. Thanks to major support from Steve Ferguson and Dave Harner at Indiana’s French Lick Resort, The Legends eventually got their own major championship and five years later, in 2017, it was transitioned into the Senior LPGA Championship, a 54-hole event played on Monday-through-Wednesday dates in October to entice The Golf Channel to provide coverage.

The U.S. Golf Association dragged its feet even more. The USGA – after much outside pressure – announced it would conduct a U.S. Senior Women’s Open in 2015 but didn’t hold the first one until three years later.

Now it’s time for the second one. It’s coming May 16-19 at Pine Needles in Southern Pines, N.C., and 17 nation-wide qualifying rounds are underway. While players who have reached their 45th birthday are allowed into the Senior LPGA Championship, the USGA makes them wait until they’re 50 to play in its Senior Open.

The second U.S. Senior Women’s Open won’t be much like the first and you’ve got to wonder about the tournament’s place down the road. The second U.S. Senior Open was scheduled just 10 months after the first, which was played in mid-July at Chicago Golf Club — the nation’s first 18-hole course.

That’s a short turn-around for both players and staff, and the third playing will be 14 months after the second – July 6-12, 2020 at Brooklawn Country Club in Fairfield, Ct.. No dates have been announced for beyond 2020. In short, the tournament has no firm place on the USGA calendar, and hat could be a problem down the road.

The first U.S. Senior Women’s Open was played at an exclusive private club. The second will be on a resort course that has already hosted three U.S. Women’s Opens and will host a fourth in 2022. The first had competition with a major on PGA Tour Champions. Its Senior Players Championship was played in the Chicago area on exactly the same dates. The second U.S. Senior Women’s Open will be a warmup for the U.S. Amateur, which comes to nearby Pinehurst Resort in August.

Still, there should be no such wavering over the U.S. Senior Women’s Open. The first playing was a rousing success. – better than even the USGA could imagine.

“It doubled our expectations from the crowd standpoint,’’ said Katherine Thigpen, the event manager. “There was way more interest in women’s golf and these players.’’

One reason for the first tournament’s success was simply that it was the first. You can only be at the first playing a big event one time. That thinking was a factor in the warm reception the first Augusta National Women’s Amateur had in April. Women competing for the first time on fabled Augusta National – even if it was for just one day – was special. Everyone knew it would be – and it was.

The first U.S. Senior Women’s Open was a real feel-good story, too. After all the waiting, there were even a few tears shed when Nancy Lopez announced Joanne Carner as the tourney’s first player to tee off.

Big Mama boomed her drive down the first fairway of a club that has rarely opened its course to tournament play and spectator traffic. Carner, then 79, shot her age that day. Now 80, she’ll try to do it again at Pine Needles.

Spectators were permitted to walk along with the player in Chicago and everyone of them – not just the big names – had at least a few followers from hole to hole. When it was over there was exultation over Laura Davies’ 10-stroke victory and 16-under-par score on a par-73 course set up at 6,082 yards.

Now we go to Pine Needles – a good site for the tournament if not quite as eye-catching as Chicago Golf Club. The players will know Pine Needles a lot better than they knew Chicago Golf Club. Some tidbits worth noting:

Pine Needles will have an autograph area set aside to encourage interaction between players and fans. It’ll also have four players in the field, among them Davies, who played in the U.S. Women’s Opens there in 1991, 2001 and 2007. Not only that, but two of the greats of women’s golf – Beth Daniel and Meg Mallon – will be in the field after taking a pass on the inaugural in Chicago.

Hammock Creek

Location: Palm City, Florida.

Architect: Jack Nicklaus and Jack Nicklaus II

Opened: 1995

Par: 72.

Yards/Rating/Slope: Tips (Black) tees 7,131 yards/ 74.6/143; Gold 6,770/73.2/140; Blue 6,360/70.9/135; White 5,922/68.7/124 (men), 74.1/133 (women); Red 5,045/64.3/114 (men), 68.6/118 (women).

Saturday morning green fee: $59 (but varies with the season).

Caddie Service: No.

Walker friendly: Yes.

Fairways: Bermuda.

Greens: Bermuda.

THE REVIEW

For starters: The is the first course co-designed by Jack Nicklaus and Jack Nicklaus II in Florida. The head professional is also has a familiar name. Rod Curl Jr. is the son of Rod Curl, who played regularly on the PGA Tour from 1969-78. Rod the father’s only PGA Tour win was at the 1974 Colonial National Invitation when he beat Jack Nicklaus (the father) by one stroke.

Play because: It’s not just about those names. This course hosted several events on the Golden Bear Tour and has a convenient location with I-95 and Florida’s Turnpike both near by. The conditioning is consistently good, with lively fairways and smooth greens, and the design is adaptable for a wide range of players.

Takeaway: Hammock Creek may be the best golf buy in South Florida and it’s an outstanding value for Nicklaus-designed layout. While the greens fees change on an almost weekly basis, it’s always very competitive with other public courses, many of which aren’t nearly as good.

THE COURSE:

Best Par-5: No. 2 (504 yards from tips/489/475/460/362). This hole is a wake-up call after a timid opening hole. A long water hazard on the right greets you when you arrive at the tee and water is a factor the rest of the way in, on both the right and behind the green.

Best Par-4: No. 11 (454 yards from tips/433/379/355/302). A good test for the No. 1 handicap hole. Water is somewhat a factor off the tee, especially if your drives goes even slightly left. While the course offers largely generous fairways off the tee, this one is on the more narrow side.

Best Par-3: No. 14 (151 yards fom tips/141/133/118/105). Water blocks the green most of the way on Hammock Creek’s shortest par-3, but this creates more of a psychological factor — especially if you play the course with any regularity. It’s the last par-3 in the rotation, and not really difficult if you hit even an average tee shot. You especially need a good number here, though, as the last four holes are long and strong and can influence your score significantly

THE RATINGS (1 to 10 scale, 10 being the highest)

Food/beverage: 8.

Pro shop: 8.

Clubhouse: 7.

Difficulty: 7.

Pace of play: 7.

Overall: 7.75.

INFORMATION

Phone: 772-220-2599.

Website: www.hammockcreekgolfclub.com

Facebook:@Hammock Creek Golf Club.

Twitter: @golfcreekgc

Instagram: @hammockcreekgc

Rater: Len Ziehm

Sultan’s Run

Location: Jasper, Indiana

Architect: Tim Liddy, a Pete Dye disciple.

Opened: 1992.

Par: 72

Yards/Rating/Slope: Black tees – 6,859, 73.5, 143; Gold – 6,429, 71.5, 138; Silver – 5,762, 68.8. 129; Green – 4,911, 69.1, 129.

Saturday morning green fee: $69. (The course is closed for the season but may re-open when weather permits. It’s scheduled to open for the 2019 season on March 1.

Caddie Service: No.

Walker friendly: No.

Fairways: zoysia.

Greens: bentgrass.

THE REVIEW

For starters…This is an extension of the French Lick Resort, which is 20 miles away. Sultan’s Run is owned by Jasper resident Steve Braun whose brother Mike has recently elected to a U.S. Senate seat. French Lick, which has hosted the Senior LPGA Championship the last two years, has three courses – the Pete Dye Course, the Donald Ross Course and Valley Links, a nine-hole course designed as a tribute to old-time architect Tom Bendelow – on its property and Sultan’s Run is another option.

Play because…: Sultan’s Run, designated as “affiliated’’ with French Lick, provides a fun layout for players looking for another place to play in the area, plus Jasper is a bigger community with more dining and retail options than French Lick has. The Pete Dye Course and Donald Ross Course are among the very best in Indiana. Sultan’s Run is more on the sporty side.

Takeaway: Alvin C. Ruxer, who donated the land for the course, was into show horses and one of his best was named Supreme Sultan. The golf course derived its name from that and each of the holes is named after one of Ruxer’s horses. Head professional Jeff Howerton has been on the job for seven seasons during which the course hosted the 2016 Indiana Senior Open and qualifiers for a Web.com Tour event at nearby Victoria National. The Indiana Golf Course of the Year in 2015, Sultan’s Run is a worthy, more economical partner course for the French Lick layouts.

THE RATINGS (1 to 10 scale, 10 being the highest)

FUN METER OVERALL: 8.5.

Food/beverage 8.0

Pro shop: 8.0

Clubhouse 8.5

Difficulty: 9.0

Pace of Play: 8.5

THE COURSE

Best Par-5: No. 13 (574 yards from the back tees, 538, 481, 407. Located near the entry to the course, both the tee and green are elevated on this hole.

Best Par-4: No. 9 (412 yards from the tips, 393,280, 271). A very picturesque hole, you can’t see the green from the tee on this dogleg left that also features a big ravine.

Best Par-3: No. 12 (209 from the back tee, 191, 145, 128). A nice-looking short hole, there’s water behind the green that features a fountain.

INFORMATION

Phone: 812-482-1009

Website: www. SultansRun.com

Facebook: @Sultan’s Run Golf Club

Twitter: @SultansRunGC

Instagram: #sultansrun

SAGE RUN

Location: Bark River, Michigan.

Course architect: Paul Albanese.

Opened: July, 2018.

Par 72

From the tips: 7,375 yards. There are five sets of tees, beginning at 5,231 yards.

Rating: TBD. (STUART, Raters have been out but not provided info yet).

Slope: TBD.

Saturday morning green fee: Basic rate is $85 but there are a variety of options, based on groups and hotel guest status.

Caddie service: No.

Walker friendly: No.

Fairways: Low-Mow Bluegrass.

Greens: Bentgrass.

THE REVIEW

Starter: This is one of Michigan’s newest courses and it has a unique design courtesy of architect Paul Albanese, a resident of Plymouth, Mich. It complements Sweetgrass, another Albanese design, that is part of the Island Resort & Casino in Harris, Mich. Sage Run is eight miles from the Island Resort and its creation is part of an $8 million renovation of the resort.

Play because: In addition to being new to Michigan’s vast golf marketplace, Sage Run has an unusual look. Albanese made use of a huge drumlin — a big ridge that runs through the center of the 300-acre property and creates a variety of elevation changes. The holes run around, over and through the drumlin.

Takeaway: Sage Run is a most challenging layout, no matter what tees you play. It’s obviously lacking in maturity and there are plenty of loose rocks in the rough areas that can come into play. Lots of balls get lost in those areas. The clubhouse and pro shop are small but cozy in these early days of operation. Once the obvious cleanup measures are completed, however, Sage Run figures to be a nice option for golfers in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

Ratings (1 to 10 scale, 10 being highest)

Food/beverage: 6.5

Pro shop: 5.0.

Clubhouse: 4.5.

Course difficulty: 9.0

Pace of play: 6.5.

Overall score: 7.0

THE COURSE SCORECARD

Best Par 3: No. 5, 170 yards. The first short hole on the course can be very misleading. It plays severely uphill, meaning that two or three extra clubs might be needed to accommodate the listed yardage.

Best Par 4: No. 8, 298 yards. This one plays uphill, too, but it’s drivable. This is a good risk-reward hole thanks to its split fairway. A successful tee shot to the left side could lead to reaching the green. A drive to the right is safer, but then you have to contend with lots of bunkers fronting the green.

Best Par 5: No. 12, 585 yards. Another dual-fairway situation to a green that is slightly elevated. The lower fairway is wider and safer, but the approach is then over bunkers to a blind putting surface. The upper fairway is tougher to hit but could offer a less challenging approach to the green.

INFO

Website: islandresortandcasino.com.

Phone: 877-ISL-GREEN.

Facebook: @sage run golf course

Instagram: NA

Twitter: NA

Rated by: Len Ziehm

ST. LUCIE TRAIL

Location: Port St. Lucie, Florida

Architect: Jim Fazio

Opened: 1988

Par: 72.

Yards/Rating/Slope: 6,901/73.4/142 from the tips; Tournament 6.470/71.0/139; Standard 5,946/69.8/126; Combo 5,778/69.1/124; Middle 5,608/68.2/120; Forward 5,012/65.4/115

Saturday morning green fee: $49 is top fee in December (Rates will increase for winter of 2019).

Caddie Service: No

Walker friendly: No, but GolfBoards are available.

Fairways: Bermuda.

Greens: Bermuda.

THE REVIEW

For starters: This course, now in the throes of a massive reorganization, was the start of the PGA of America’s PGA Golf Club – the winter home of the PGA of America’s 29,000 members. Originally it was a private layout called PGA West Country Club, then was renamed PGA Country Club. It remained private as three resort courses were added to the PGA complex. In 2014 the PGA dropped the private designation and changed the name to St. Lucie Trail. The course was sold to CGI Investments, which also owns The Evergreen Club in Palm City (15 minutes away) in 2017.

Play because…: St. Lucie Trail is shorter, but tighter, than the three PGA Golf Club courses on the opposite side of Interstate 95. St. Lucie Trail was frequently used for tournaments while under PGA ownership and remains a challenging test since the ownership change.

Takeaway: The ownership change has affected this place, as different parties now operate the tennis courts, swimming pool and restaurant. The course, though, is one of the oldest and most challenging in the Port St. Lucie area. Whether it will regain its place as a frequent tournament venue is uncertain.

THE COURSE:

Best Par-5: (550 yards from tips/535/473/460/460/415). The longest hole on the course is a good one to finish on with the clubhouse in the background. While many finishers are risk/reward holes the one should be played conservatively with hazards right and left all the way to the putting surface.

Best Par-4 : No. 6, 418 yards from the tips/409/370/355/355/316. This one presents the most demanding tee shot on the course and it is the No. 1 handicap hole. Drives hit left will like wind up in a pond and the uphill T-boned-shaped green is tough to hit.

Best Par-3: (No. 17, 184 yards fom the tips/154/140//140/123/111): A very pretty hole, with water leading up to the green. Any tee shot left of the green will likely wind up in a hazard and the right side of the green is protected by some severe slopes. A most memorable hole given demanding look from the tee.

THE RATINGS (1 to 10 scale, 10 being the highest)

Food/beverage: 8.

Pro shop: 7.

Clubhouse: 9.

Difficulty: 9.

Pace of play: 7.

Overall: 8.2

INFORMATION

Phone: 772-340-1444.

Website: www.stlucietrail.com

Facebook: @ St Lucie Trail Golf Club

Twitter: NA

Instagram: #stlucietrailgolfclub

Rated by: Len Ziehm

Singh, Fowler, Koepka had a chance — but Mitchell ruled Honda Classic

Keith Mitchell beat some of golf’s most high-profile players to nab his first PGA Tour win.

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Florida – The stage was set for the biggest historically significant accomplishment of the 2019 PGA Tour season on Sunday. Vijay Singh, in the final pairing of the Honda Classic, was ideally positioned to become the oldest winner of a PGA Tour event and erase one of the longest-standing records in golf.

Coming off a third-round 65 on the Champions Course at PGA National Resort on Saturday, the 56-year old Singh started the final round of the $6.8 million championship just one stroke behind leader and playing partner Wyndham Clark. Clark, 32 years younger than Singh, was (and still is) winless on the PGA Tour.

There were other challengers, though, and a most unlikely one got the win. Keith Mitchell, despite opening the final round with two bogeys, nabbed his first on golf’s premier circuit thanks to a 15-foot left-to- right birdie putt on the final green.

That killed off the hopes of local stars Rickie Fowler and Brooks Koepka, who had finished at 8-under-par 272. Mitchell, posted a final round 67, finished at 9-under 271, earned $1,224,000 and claimed spots in seven of golf’s biggest events including the upcoming Players Championship and Masters.

“My mind started wandering a bit at the end,’’ said Mitchell, “and then I hit a great putt.’’ That said it all for this staging of the first event on the PGA Tour’s Florida Swing.

As for Singh, he was in a tie for the lead twice on the back nine and was in contention until his tee shot at No. 17 – a par-3 that concludes the fearsome stretch of holes known as the Bear Trap – came up short, with the ball partly submerged in a water hazard. That led to a bogey, and Singh finished sixth after his final round 70.

“It was awesome to see Vijay play well this week and get himself in contention,’’ said Fowler. “I’d love to be healthy and swinging and being able to compete with guys that are half my age at that point. It’s impressive stuff.’’

Mitchell was impressed, too.

“It’s so amazing what he has done at that age,’’ said Mitchell. “He’s 30 years older than me and he’s hitting more balls on the range than I am. That guy is a true testament to fitness, to health. If I’m anywhere near a golf course when I’m 56 I’m going to be excited.’’

The last of Singh’s 34 PGA Tour wins was 11 years ago but he won his first major title on PGA Tour Champions last year at the Constellation Senior Players Championship at Exmoor Country Club in suburban Chicago.

The strong showing against the young stars also came after Singh and the PGA Tour recently reached a settlement on a lawsuit that had been a distraction for both since 2013. It had started with the PGA Tour suspending Singh for use of deer antler spray, a banned substance. But the settlement means that neither side will talk about it any more – and that’s a good thing.

Mitchell’s clutch putt on the last green wasn’t such a good thing for two hometown heroes. Fowler lives in nearby Jupiter and Koepka, the reigning two-time U.S. Open champion and defending PGA champion, grew up in West Palm Beach. They were waiting for a playoff with Mitchell – a player neither knew very well. Still, both were there to congratulate Mitchell before he reached the scorer’s table.

“I know he went to Georgia,’’ said Koepka. “He was there when I was at Florida State so I knew him a little bit in amateur and junior golf. He’s a good player, strikes it really well, a powerful golf swing. Good to see him win.’’

“I’ve always heard a lot of good things about him,’’ said Fowler. “I haven’t played with him or seen him play much but you can’t fake it around this golf course. You have to go out there and earn it.’’

Mitchell did.

“It was awesome, just to have a chance coming down the stretch against Rickie and Brooks,’’ said Mitchell. “I’m just glad I could prove myself against guys like that.’’

With Thomas, Koepka and Fowler, this Honda Classic isn’t exactly without star power

With storm clouds forming during Wednesday’s pro-am, the Honda Classic could face weather issues.


PALM BEACH GARDENS, Florida – The field for today’s start of the Honda Classic isn’t very good, no doubt about it. Only three of the top 20 in the Official World Golf Rankings are here.

Clearly this $6.8 million event that has roots on the PGA Tour going back to 1972, when it was known as the Jackie Gleason Inverrary Classic, is a victim of the new scheduling by the circuit. Maybe four straight weeks of tournaments in Florida in March wasn’t such a good idea after all.

Still, all is not lost for the Honda Classic, an event that has been played under its current title since 1984 and been held at the Jack Nicklaus-designed Champions Course at PGA National Resort since 2007.

Those three top-ranked players are all in the world’s top 10 – defending champion Justin Thomas (3), reigning U.S. Open and PGA champion Brooks Koepka (4) and 2017 Honda champion Rickie Fowler (9). Thomas and Fowler will play together in the first two rounds – along with Billy Horschel – and there are few more attractive pairings in golf than that one.

Fowler and Thomas are residents of nearby Jupiter. They welcomed the home game tournament, while fellow area residents Dustin Johnson, Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy did not. Johnson was even photographed nearby doing a commercial shoot for a watch company on Tuesday night.

The champion of last week’s World Golf Championship event in Mexico, Johnson opted for some time off with bigger events like The Players Championship and Masters closing in. You can’t really criticize Johnson for making that decision either. I’d call it understandable.

Wheaton’s Kevin Streelman is all about Chicago-based Wilson in the Honda Classic pro-am.


Decades ago the PGA Tour made an effort to group tournament in the same geographic areas to simplify travel plans for the players. Remember the days when – in a three-week period — the Western Open, Greater Milwaukee Open and Quad Cities Classic (or whatever the now more established John Deere Classic was called back then) – came on successive weeks?

Such scheduling concerns aren’t a factor any more. Thomas didn’t even accept the suggestion that tournaments scheduled close together might help him “get in a comfortable groove.’’

“I’m probably playing just two (of the four on this Florida Swing),’’ he said. “It’s a shame because this is such a great stretch of golf tournaments. It’s just not possible for us to play all of them.’’

The Honda may suffer the most of them all. Woods and McIlroy have already committed to next week’s Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill. The Players is — in the eyes most every player – a “fifth major’’ and an event not to be missed and the Valspar Championship on a course popular with the players and dates still allowing for a two-week break before the Masters.

“I know it’s unfortunate for this event,’’ said Thomas. “With this time in the schedule it had a lot of people that always play that just can’t play this year.’’

Plus, there are no guarantees for 2020.

“There’s so many great tournaments on the PGA Tour the whole season,’’ said Thomas. “At the end of the day, although we have respect for that tournament director, that tournament, that course, that city, whatever it may be, we have to think about ourselves and our bodies. What is going to produce our best golf? That’s what everyone is doing when they’re thinking of their schedule.’’

Going from the West Coast to the East Coast is not an easy transition, given the time zone changes. It’s hard to imagine that changing a year from now.

“The hardest part is the time,’’ said Thomas. “Not that it’s ever easy to wake up at 5:30 a.m. but it was really hard to wake up this morning at 5:30 (for an early teeoff in a pro-am). You’ve got to get used to that, getting your body clock back to where it should be.’’

Thomas won last year’s Honda thanks to a great wedge shot on the last hole of regulation play. It set up a birdie that preceded a playoff victory over Luke List. Thomas hasn’t won yet in the 2018-19 season but he has four top-10s in five starts in 2019.

His only practice round on this week’s course was in Wednesday’s pro-am, and five inches of rains fell in a two-hour period the night before.

“There’s a lot more positives to take from this year than negatives,’’ he said. “I’m very, very close to going on a little bit of a run. I just need to continue to stay patient and wait for good things to happen.’’

Even after heavy rains PGA National’s Champions course is ready for another Honda Classic.

New clubhouse at Reunion’s Nicklaus Course could trigger a housing boom there

All Reunion’s Nicklaus Course needed was a clubhouse. Now the Bear’s Den is up and running.


ORLANDO, FL. – Jack Nicklaus-designed golf courses are generally show pieces – the focal points for golf communities world-wide. That wasn’t the case at one of Florida’s biggest resorts, however.

Reunion Resort started with an 18-holer designed by Tom Watson, then added one designed by Arnold Palmer. The Nicklaus Course there opened eight years ago as the hardest of the trio of courses but – until last November – it didn’t even have a clubhouse. The staff and visitors operated out of either a trailer or a tent.

That’s all changed now. A most pleasant 8,500 square foot clubhouse opened in November. Other places have bigger clubhouses, but this one has a very nice outdoor events area that includes a practice facility, a more-than-adequate fitness center and a restaurant that opened to rave reviews. The views from the place are spectacular. It just took an extraordinarily long time for the facility to materialize.

The Nicklaus touch is immediately evident, at the first tee of Reunion’s prize course.


In fact, some Reunion regulars wondered if there ever would be a clubhouse to complement the high-profile golf course.

“There was a waiting period,’’ admitted Craig Williamson, who is now playing a prominent role in what’s going on there. “It wasn’t the time to do it back then, when you think about it. This is the right time for this to happen.’’

The opening of the clubhouse has triggered a big project within the Reunion community. Williamson was brought in manage sales of The Bear’s Den – a very upscale community that is being developed around the Nicklaus Course.

“At Reunion we look on this as the template for what we’ll do in more locations,’’ said Williamson, who has been on the job for 14 months.

“I had worked with Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer communities all over Central America, South America and the Caribbean,’’ said Williamson. “This is typical of what I’ve been doing for 15 years.’’

But, The Bear’s Den at Reunion isn’t quite like the others. It’s the only gated community within the gates of Reunion.

“That’s the formula we’ll be using at other locations,’’ he said. “We’re looking at places like Telluride in Utah, Pinehurst (in North Carolina) and other sites in the Florida.’’

What they’ve done at Reunion is take a Jack Nicklaus golf course and a Jack Nicklaus clubhouse to create a community licensed by Jack Nicklaus. It has 52 lots. They’re all elevated about 15 feet above the course, creating more of a stadium look so that golfers won’t be looking into the homes.

Home sizes will range from 7,000 to 12,000 square feet, and they’ll be built basically around the Nos. 17 and 18 fairways. The choice homes will be along No. 18 and will start at $1.5 million. One has been priced at $4.5 million.

Home across the street from those will cost from $1 million to $1.5 million. They’ll be constructed along Golden Bear Park, a landscaped area that will be connected to the course practice area and include a big children’s play area, a dog park (with two areas, one for dogs over 30 pounds and one for dogs under 30 pounds), a sand volleyball court and a walking trail.

A third price point, in the $800,000 range, will also be available as a residential option. All are freestanding homes now, but Williamson said townhomes and condos are under consideration at other locations.

Initial reaction to The Bear’s Den project was enthusiastic. Two months after the clubhouse opened there were 17 homes under contract. Williamson expects more in the very near future.

“It was tough to sell $2 million when you’re sitting in trailers,’’ he said. “Some (prospective buyers) couldn’t see what’s going to happen. Now they can. The Bear’s Den was planned for thee-four years, but this started at about the time they opened the clubhouse. In the last three months there’s been a lot of activity.’’

Over 3,000 prospective homebuyers visited in the first three months, about half of them from the U.S. and the other half international. They included celebrity types who were attracted by the privacy that The Bear’s Den offers.

Despite the quality of the course, this Nicklaus layout hasn’t hosted a significant tournament. A big event – the 54-hole Kissimmee Family Golf Classic – will be coming from June 20-23. The team scramble event also will be played on Reunion’s Watson Course and the nearby Celebration Golf Club.

Reunion is a 2,300-acre resort that also features a hotel, seven restaurants and bars, a golf academy, tennis and fitness centers, meeting space, full-service boutique spa, 10 community swimming pools and a water playground.

Bunkering like this leaves no doubt that the Nicklaus Course is Reunion’s toughest.

PGA Tour Champions rivals don’t have a prayer against Langer

There isn’t much more Bernhard Langer can accomplish as a golfer. Last week he became the career money leader on PGA Tour Champions, surpassing Hale Irwin.

Thanks to his $255,000 payday for winning the Oasis Championship on the Old Course at Broken Sound, Langer has $27,120,554 in career earnings on PGA Tour Champions. He needed just $179,050 to climb ahead of Irwin, who – at 73 – plays only a limited schedule now.

Irwin still leads Langer in wins on the 50-and-over circuit. Langer has 39 — six behind Irwin – and hopes to reduce the number by winning another Florida tournament this week. The Chubb Classic tees off on Friday at Lely Resort in Naples.

Don’t be surprised if Langer wins there, too. He already has been the champion three times in Naples – in 2011, 2013 and 2016. Broken Sound was 10 minutes from his home in Boca Raton. The Chubb site isn’t very far, either – less than a two-hour drive from Boca. Langer relishes those few home games available to globe-trotting golf stars.

His win in Boca Raton was another family affair. It came with Jackie Langer John – his married oldest offspring – as his caddie. Jackie was the last of Langer’s four children to carry the bag during one of his victories. Stefan, Christina and Jason already had experienced that thrill. Jackie also lives in Boca Raton.

“I know it meant lot to her, especially with the home crowds, lots of friends and family members around who follow us and cheer us on,’’ said Langer. “She had only caddied three times for me. We had a second, lost in a playoff and now a first – so that’s a pretty stellar record for her.’’

Talk about stellar records, consider Langer’s. He’s 61 now, and Champions Tour players usually see their games start to fade after they turn 60. Langer’s has shown no signs of that. In 11 years on the circuit he has topped the money list 10 times and been Player of the Year eight times. His latest win was one of his most impressive.

Starting the final round with a one-stroke lead Langer made birdies on five of the first seven holes and won by five strokes over Marco Dawson.

“One of my best starts ever,’’ said Langer, who didn’t cool off much after that. His 19-under-par 197 score for the 54 holes was a tournament record and he became the first player in the event’s 12-year run to win it twice.

“He lives like on the putting green here, doesn’t? Isn’t that where is house is,” chided David Toms, who also was in contention through 36 holes. “Obviously he has a lot of experience out here, and he’s a great player. He plays with confidence all the time and he’s won so many tournaments it’s kind of second nature.’’

Langer’s rivals in Boca Raton included nine members of the World Golf Hall of Fame and 17 former major champions. Some had better records on the PGA Tour than Langer, who was a late-bloomer.

Of his 113 world-wide professional victories only three came in PGA Tour events. They included his only two wins in majors, at the 1985 and 1993 Masters. He followed the first Masters win with his only other PGA Tour victory, at the Sea Pines Heritage Classic, the following week and that hot streak was a big reason he became golf’s first official No. 1-ranked player when the Official World Golf Rankings were created for the following year.

Born in Anhausen, Germany, Langer posted the bulk of his wins on the European PGA Tour. He won there 43 times, 29 of which came before his second win at the Masters.

“The key to success is a lot of things,’’ said Langer. “You’ve got to be healthy, and a lot of guys at age 61 aren’t healthy anymore. They had this operation or that operation or a hip replacement. I’ve been fortunate enough not to have any major surgeries besides my thumb in 2011.’’

He believes his strong religious beliefs are a factor too. He carries a Bible verse in his pocket during many of his tournaments. That included his latest win.

“I felt very calm out there and very peaceful, and that enabled me to do the best I could,’’ said Langer. “That doesn’t mean I’m going to win every time I put a Bible verse in my pocket, but it just makes golf less important and something else more important.’’