The Unique Green at Number 16


Mission Inn- El Campeon:

An Historic Blend of Beauty and the Beast.

Posted by: Rick Parnham


This year’s family holiday trip to the sunny south took us to one of Florida’s oldest and most historic golf locales; the Mission Inn. Located a little northwest of Orlando in Howey-in-the Hills, the Spanish Colonial style resort features two championship golf courses. Dating back to 1916, the resort has grown from its beginnings being used by a northern land developer trying to lure people to the area, while he aimed to create a burgeoning agricultural center in Central Florida. Following many renovations and rebrandings, the resort and original golf course were purchased in 1964 by Nick Beucher, who transformed it into the special destination locale it is now known to be.


Our visit had us on El Campeon for an early morning round. This centenarian golf experience is one hard to match in the state. Originally designed by George O’Neil and opened in 1917 as the Chain-O-Lakes Country Club, the course was one of the few in Florida to have grass greens instead of the more utilized oiled sand putting surfaces of that era. The historic design follows the rolling hills and lakes of the landscape. It has some of the most atypical elevation changes found in the state with nearly 100 ft of change over the round; some of which you find on single holes. Now stretching to a beastly 7000 yards from the tips this is no pushover golf experience. The routing is traditionally designed, droping and climbing over the dramatic terrain and presents tree lined fairways that show their age with many of the beautiful live oaks sharing their boughs to your lines of approach. These shot making corridors are accentuated with many lowland water holes that remind you that you really are in Florida.


Number 15 an Exacting Short Hole


The round opens with a risk / reward par 5 that sets the tone from the first drive of the day. The gentle dogleg right is framed by tall trees and protected by a pond right of the green. The second is relatively accessible par 3 that ends the opening handshake of the round. The next seven holes take their toll on your scorecard with challenging tight fairways filled with unaccustomed elevation changes leading to plateaued green sites, some requiring a couple extra clubs to have a chance with your approach. The 4th is your first encounter with the steep hill that is the canvas for a number of holes on the routing. This severe uphill hole and the three that  follow are a step back in time when architects used what Mother Nature provided in crafting their design. Numbers 4-7 are each round wreckers in their own right, but played in sequence, you may wish to catch your breath after this shot making extravaganza. However, your respite is short lived as the par 3 8th awaits. This exacting short hole is all carry to a buttress-fronted green resembling an island. Dramatically sloped and well protected by water and surrounding bunkers, conquering this hole takes nerves of steel and a little luck sprinkled in for good measure.


The inward side plays over 200 yards longer than the outward holes and features three superb par 5 holes. The dogleg right 10th is the first of the trio you encounter and what a beauty it is. Bending around a lake that runs from tee to green, you must take note of the sentinel tree at the curve, for it will dictate your best option for a second shot. The 14th is the most likely chance to reach in two, but your steep downhill drive must be accurately threaded between the trees on the left and pond on the right. The multi-tiered green is ringed by deep nasty bunkers making the approach a delicate one. The 16th hole is a visual beauty and an exacting par 4 that features an island green completely encircled by sand and water. The final par 5 hole is the round’s penultimate challenge. Your drive must navigate the the pair of nasty bunkers on the left of the landing area, but also avoid being pushed too far right into the trees. Your second shot must contend with a sentinel tree in the left center of the approach area short of a collection bunker and pond short of the green. Heavily sloped from back to front, the green provides the final challenge on the number one handicap hole. The final hole is a beautifully designed cape-style wrapped around a lake and demanding precision off the tee. The safer route takes dead aim at the pair of fairway bunkers on the left backstopping the dogleg. The carry is longer than it seems to cut the corner and stay dry.


The Challenging Finish of a Most Memorable Round


For more than 100 years, El Campeon has played host to many notable golfers through the decades. Now part of the like of fine host courses for the NCAA championships and most recently the location for the Latin America PGA Qualifer, the routing is a stern test for even these most accomplished golfers. It is a member of The Florida Historic Golf Trail, a collection of noteworthy and celebrated courses from past eras. The layout and its sister course Los Colinas are available for public play, but should also be considered as a stay and play option with a booking at the luxury Mission Inn. It is fitting that being a short drive from Orlando and Walt’s wonderful cast of characters at Disney, that El Campeon left a most memorable impression akin to of one their blockbusters; Beauty and The Beast.






























Historic Roots Back to 1917












El Campeon: Par 72

Tees Yards Rating Slope
Middle (M)
Middle (L)
Forward (M)
Forward (L)













Daunting Number 17






















Mission Inn

10400 FL-48,

Howey-In-The-Hills, FL