Where To Golf Next

Bear’s Den prepares for roaring growth

The Nicklaus Course at Reunion Resort in Kissimmee, Fla., opened for play in 2007, but operated without a clubhouse until November. The new 12,000-square-foot clubhouse comes at a time when development of the Bear's Den, a gated community adjacent to the course is underway. [Photo: Joy Sarver]

KISSIMMEE, Fla. — Jack Nicklaus-designed golf courses are generally showpieces — the focal points for golf communities internationally. That was not 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 finally opened for play in 2007 as the hardest of the trio of courses, but — until 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 12,000-square-foot clubhouse opened three months ago. 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. 

Unfortunately, it just took an extraordinarily long time for the facility to materialize. 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, sales manager for the Bear’s Den at Reunion Resort, a gated residential community that is being developed around the Nicklaus Course. “[Building a clubhouse] wasn’t the time to do it back then, when you think about it. This is the right time for this to happen.

“At Reunion, we look on this as the template for what we’ll do in more locations. I had worked with Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer communities all over Central America, South America and the Caribbean. This is typical of what I’ve been doing for 15 years.”

The Bear’s Den at Reunion Resort isn’t quite like the others. It’s the only gated community attached to Reunion, which is a 2,300-acre resort that also features a hotel, seven restaurants and bars, a golf academy, and tennis and fitness centers. “That’s the formula we’ll be using at other locations,” Williamson said. “We’re looking at places like Telluride in Utah, Pinehurst (in North Carolina) and other sites in Florida.”

At Reunion, developers have used a Jack Nicklaus golf course and clubhouse to create a community licensed by Jack Nicklaus. It has 52 lots. The lots are all elevated about 15 feet above the course, creating more of a stadium feel 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.

Homes across the street from those will cost from $1 million to $1.5 million. They will be constructed along Golden Bear Park, a landscaped area that will be connected to the course practice area and include a large 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. 

“It’s 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 three to 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, according to Williamson, about half of them from the U.S. and the other half being international potential buyers.