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February 18, 2024

Head for the Hills of Central Florida

By Dan Vukelich, Alabama Golf News Inline Editor
Mission Inn El Campeon No. 16

Rare Florida golf resort has elevation changes

Head to the hills of the Mission Resort + Club in Central Florida for a quality spring golf getaway.

The hills, you say? In Florida?

Well, yes, that’s why they call the nearby town, population 1,206, “Howey-in-the-Hills.” It’s a small community in a fast-growing, semi-rural area of Lake County just north of the Orlando metro area.

That’s where you’ll find the Mission Resort + Club’s two 18-hole courses.

First, the Howey-in-the-Hills thing: The Town of Howey, just up Florida Hwy. 19 from the resort, was founded in 1925 by William John Howey, a citrus grower and developer. The town’s name was later changed to reflect the area’s hilly nature – a rare thing in generally ironing-board flat Florida.

Mission Resort + Club: El Campeon and Las Colinas 18s

The resort’s two golf courses are parkland in style. They climb and descend about 60 to 70 feet of the aforementioned hills of the Mission Resort + Club property, which which started life in the 1920s as the Floridian Country Club.

The resort’s El Campeón, or “The Champion” course was built in 1917 and Las Colinas “The Hills” course, designed by Gary Koch, was built in 1992.

The hotel itself is built in the Spanish Colonial style with tall porticos shaded from the sun. It features swimming, tennis and fishing, a marina and boating on its own bass lake, Lake Harris. The resort has four restaurants, a spa, 176 hotel guest rooms, 131 deluxe rooms, 38 club suites and several other suites ranging from one to three bedrooms.

The property was purchased by the MMI Hotel Group of Mississippi from the Beucher family, which had owned it since 1964.

The 7.015-yard par 72 El Campeón layout is one of the oldest courses in the South with a classic design featuring unusually sharp elevation changes. The 7,026-yard par 71 Las Colinas course has wide fairways over gentle rises. Both courses feature undulating greens surrounded by tropical vegetation and incorporate large water hazards on many holes.

“It’s a unique place because when you drive here, you don’t feel the hustle and bustle. Once you arrive in Howey-in-the-Hills and our resort, it is very quiet and secluded like a ‘kept secret’ in a way. It’s a very special place,” said the resort’s director of golf, Brian Mulry.

The resort is a 35-minute drive northwest of Orlando or an 80-minute drive northeast of Tampa.

Dan Vukelich is the online editor of Alabama Golf News. He lives in Albuquerque, N.M.

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Featured image of El Campeon’s island green 16th hole courtesy of Mission Resort + Club

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