Mission Resort + Club is Historic & Still Popular

Mission Resort + Club, a highly acclaimed travel destination noted for its two championship golf courses and top-shelf amenities, continues to attract golfers and business guests particularly from cold-weather climates.

HOWIE-IN-THE-HILLS, Florida – “Spring Break” is about to burst the winter doldrums that have ensnared New Englanders. Now is prime time for golfers to escape to the clement climes of Howey-in-the-Hills to revel in the two 18-hole layouts and the world-class facilities of the Mission Resort + Club, one of the Sunshine State’s most historic and popular resorts.

The Golf Writers Association of America recently held its championship here, just before the PGA Merchandise Show took place in nearby Orlando We were all treated to a superb experience, and we were introduced to the new owners of Mission Resort + Club, who are committed to making an already exceptional property even better.


First and foremost are the two championship golf courses: El Campéon (The Champion) and Las Colinas (The Hills). Both courses are rated highly and recognized as “Best Places to Play” in North America by Golf Digest. Then there’s the imposing hotel with its distinctive Spanish Colonial architecture and its 176 luxurious guestrooms, suites and villas with four restaurants, two lounges, and a poolside bar.

El Campeon No. 16

Recreational amenities include tennis and pickleball, jogging and bicycling trails, volleyball courts, outdoor pool and hydro-spa, fitness center, and a marina offering fishing, powerboats, and eco-touring. The Spa provides an extensive menu of treatments, and more than 30,000 square feet indoor and outdoor event space is available for meetings, banquets, holiday parties, weddings, and special occasions.


Taking center stage, naturally, are the 36 holes of signature golf, and the two courses are, naturally, complementary. In 1917, Howey commissioned Chicago architect George O’Neil — a contemporary of Donald Ross, C.B. Macdonald, Alister MacKenzie and Seth Reynor — to design a challenging golf course for his guests. O’Neil built one of the state’s most praised courses, Florida Chain-O’-Lakes CC, and he said upon completion, “This will be America’s most famous course in a very short while.”

The hyperbole notwithstanding, O’Neil’s masterpiece has endured the test of time and remains among the nation’s better resort courses. In keeping with his Spanish motif, Beucher renamed the course El Campeón and modernized the venerable layout. Recently, the course has been named to the list of “Best Resort Courses” in the nation by Golfweek, debuting at 98 on the list of the Top 100 in the magazine’s “Ultimate Guide to Golf Course Living and Great Escapes.” It has also been ranked 29th in the “Top Public Courses in Florida” by Golf Digest and is featured as one of 60 on the Florida Historic Golf Trail.

Las Colinas par-3 2nd, a lovely hole but fraught with water and sand.

What makes El Campeón memorable is its classic design, towering forests, ubiquitous lakes and creeks, peninsular greens, numerous dazzling white bunkers, and its—rare for Florida—sharp elevation of 85 feet from tee to green on a number of holes. The par is 72 (35-37) with six sets of tees that range from 7015 yards to 4811. The Ultra Dwarf Bermuda greens, relatively large with subtle undulations, putt true and Stimp around 10. Teeing it up on El Campeón is a treat not to be missed.


Las Colinas is a more modern creation, ranked 68th to El Campeón’s 29th by Golf Digest and one of the “Best Courses You Can Play” by Golfweek. It is appropriately named, for the wide fairways roll over gentle rises and cut through native forest and tropical vegetation. Originally designed in 1992 by pro golfer and sportscaster Gary Koch and then totally renovated in 2007 by well-known architect Ron Garl, Las Colinas meanders throughout the residential area of Mission Resort + Golf.

With six sets of tees that start at 4827 yards and end at the tips with 7139 and a par of 71 (35-36), the layout plays a little easier than El Campeón and reminds one more of a North Carolina track than a Florida venue. The Tifdwarf Bermuda greens also roll nicely and tend to be a little larger than El Campeón’s.


The practice area at Mission Resort + Golf is a great place to shake off that winter rust. It features a 30,000 square-foot driving range, practice bunkers, target greens, and a huge putting green.

A major attraction at the course is the wide range of instruction available from its golf academies, where having fun and sticking to a process are given equal emphasis. Bryan Mulry, PGA Director of Golf, and Nicole Lymon, Assistant Head Golf Professional, offer tailor-made lessons from one hour up to comprehensive multi-day programs. These lessons can be delivered in either a private or group setting and include topics such as equipment assessment, personal instruction, and digital swing analysis.


“Have fun with what you are doing, and you will have fun with others,” said Mulry, who in early 2023 was appointed as Head PGA Professional before being promoted to Director of Golf soon after. “So, we try to create a fun environment that’s not stressful, because stress comes from being under-prepared and the more prepared you are, you can get through those learning moments.”


When it’s time to refuel in between rounds, Mission Resort + Golf offers four top-notch restaurants. La Hacienda gets the wake-up call for breakfast and a sumptuous weekend buffet and is also open for lunch. The Champagne Sunday Brunch is a tradition. Nickers—the name is a combination of the resort founder and the traditional plus-fours garb—is located at the clubhouse and serves pub fare for lunch and dinner and sports a number of TV’s for the games du jour. For the haute cuisine, the wine list, and the full dining experience, El Conquistador will satisfy even the most finicky appetites. La Margarita is a great place for pizza or steaks and to relax with al fresco dining and your favorite beverage. La Chiquita Cabana Pool Bar and Grill provides outside snacks and drinks throughout the day.


What else can make your day? Well, you can certainly enjoy these four, if you make the time! The El Corredor Fitness Center offers strength, cardio, and free-weight Cybex equipment. The Marina del Rey is the resort’s nautical center and is located on bass-filled Lake Harris, the largest in an eight-lake chain that surrounds Howey-in-the-Hills. It provides 56 slips, where guests can fish, powerboat, and sail. The tennis facility, under the direction of Cesar Villarroel, Level One certified USPTA & USPTR teacher, provides six Har-Tru clay courts and two Laykold all-weather courts, each lighted for evening practice and play. Finally, you can relax your mind, rejuvenate your body, and renew your spirit at the full-service Spa.


W.J. Howey, a native of Illinois, purchased 60,000 acres of Lake County in 1916 and became a real-estate developer and a citrus magnate. He chose the present site of the Mission Inn, the highest hills on the state’s entire peninsula—nicknamed “the Alps of Florida” — as his headquarters, hence the name of the town, Howey-in-the-Hills. He soon established an inland playground, complete with The Floridan Hotel, a golf course, and an array of outdoor activities. His citrus empire and holiday retreat were immediate successes until the adverse effects of The Great Depression combined with his early death in 1938 short circuited his long-range plans.


The hotel, golf course, and other amenities fell on hard times until, in 1964, Nick Beucher, a commodities trader from Chicago, bought the 168-acre property. In the ensuing decades, with his wife and six children at his side, his vision of what the newly named Mission Inn Resort & Club should become turned W.J. Howey’s initial idea into 1100 acres of today’s acclaimed resort. Beucher died in 2005, but his children continued in his footsteps until January of 2023.

Then, Mississippi-based and family-owned MMI Hospitality Group added the facility, modifying the name to Mission Resort + Club, to its robust portfolio of award-winning hotels, resorts, and restaurants across the Southeast. MMI is private investment partnership founded in 1956 by Earle Jones and Mike Sturdivant, former Harvard Business School roommates. Their first venture was to own and operate the world’s 13th Holiday Inn, and the two families have continued to co-invest in hospitality-centric companies ever since.

More importantly, the new owners of the old Mission Inn have maintained the allure of one of Florida’s most iconic venues and redefined the “mission” of the resort to keep guests happy and coming back for more!


As a caddie, greenkeeper, and Ouimet Scholar from Marshfield Country Club on Boston’s South Shore, Leigh developed his love for the game at an early age. The BA from Amherst College and MA from Dartmouth prepared him for his 36-year career in education, most of it teaching Advanced Placement English and coaching varsity golf. In 1986, a sabbatical from teaching students to writing stories for “Golf World” magazine prepared him for his second career in golf journalism. Leigh is a low-handicap golfer who has won the Golf Writers Association of America’s championship seven times. He is currently a member of Southers Marsh Golf Club in Plymouth, MA, and PGA Golf Club in Port St. Lucie, FL.

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