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Mission Inn – Championship Golf Off the Beaten Path


The Central Florida area is home to a world-class golf resort that features an outstanding full-service spa, 4 restaurants and 2 top-notch golf courses. It’s the perfect location for a guy’s golf vacation, a girls’ spa weekend or a romantic getaway with that special someone. I’m talking about Mission Inn, located in the not-so-well-known town of Howey-in-the-Hills, about 35 miles from Orlando.

Mission Inn features 176 rooms; everything from studio units to 3-bedroom suites. The distinctive Spanish Colonial architecture can be found in any of three buildings, aptly named: San Miguel, San Diego and San Angel. Each room is tastefully appointed with large, flat screen TVs, coffeemakers and well-equipped work areas.

Also on property is the Spa Marbella, where guests can refresh, invigorate and recharge their bodies. Guests can choose from a vast array of spa services including facials, manicures, pedicures, massages and waxes as well as a number of body treatments. Services are available for both men and women from highly skilled professional massage therapists. It’s a great way to unwind after your round, no matter how bad you played!

very great golf resort needs great dining and Mission Inn doesn’t disappoint. La Margarita Lounge is open daily and overlooks the Plaza de Las Palmas courtyard. Grab your favorite libation at the bar or chill out by the firepit on the adjacent second floor patio deck. During the season, you’ll find live entrainment at La Margarita, as well as a tapas menu that includes such tantalizing dishes as tenderloin bruschetta, jumbo shrimp, calamari and wings. Entrees are also available, everything from casual pizza and pasta dishes to your favorite choice of steak or seafood options. Be sure to check out the nightly specials too.

If your stay includes a Saturday night, don’t miss the Sushi, Crab Legs and Prime Rib buffet at Nicker’s which also features Executive Chef Danny Connolly’s signature pasta dishes. There is no way you can leave this buffet and still be hungry!

La Hacienda Restaurant serves breakfast and lunch buffets and overlooks El Campeon’s signature 17th hole. The daily breakfast buffet is a great way to start your day and offers golfers one less thing to worry about: what to eat for breakfast. This buffet has it all, including made-to-order omelets, fluffy pancakes, Belgian waffles, breakfast meats, potatoes, cereals, fresh fruits, and a variety of juices, plus much, much more. Guests can also order off of the menu.

El Conquistador overlooks the Plaza de la Fontana, and is the resort’s flagship restaurant. El Conquistador offers an elegant menu and diverse wine list designed to create a memorable dining experience for those special occasions. Chef Billy Connolly and his culinary staff create unique dishes such as Tipsy Lobster Mac & Cheese, Smokey Moody Bleu Chicken Pasta and Bacon Whiskey Jam Braised Short Ribs. They offer an extensive wine list that will satisfy even the most discriminating palate.

All of this is well and good, but the one thing that sets Mission Inn apart from other resorts is the golf; two championship golf courses that will delight and challenge golfers of all abilities. Las Colinas – Spanish for “the hills” – is known for its sweeping fairways and, of course, rolling hills. This inland links design features wide-open fairways, gentle rolling hills and large greens that feature quite a bit of undulation. The course’s signature hole is Number 12, a par 5, 493-yard hole affectionately dubbed “Alligator Alley.” This hole is 100% risk/reward from the start. You can lay back short of the pine tree on the left and make it a three-shot hole or pull out driver off the tee and go for the narrowest part of the fairway in hopes of getting on in two. The tree that overhangs the right edge of the bunker and green only complicates matters should you hit a poor approach shot. Inaccuracy with either of the above choices can lead to a big number. This is the make-or-break hole of the entire round.

The El Campeon course is the older and more popular of the two. It’s roots date back to 1917 when it was designed by Chicago-based golf course architect George O’Neil and enhanced by Charles E. Clark of Troon, Scotland in 1926. The course is best known for its steep hills and the need for precision shot making if you want to score well. El Campeon boasts over 85 feet of elevation change which is something rare in this part of Florida. The course’s signature hole is number 17, a long sweeping double dogleg that plays 556 yards from the back tees. If you can avoid the fairway bunkers on the left side and hanging oaks on the right with your tee shot, then you’re off to a great start. At this point it might be wise to drive up and survey what you have left. You’ll find a large historic live oak tree in the middle of the fairway, just waiting to screw up what you think is a great layup shot. You’ll need to leave yourself a manageable distance to the green as your approach shot plays over a large pond to a green that slopes severely from back to front. Is there any wonder this hole is named “Devil’s Delight?” Par or better will give you something to brag about shortly!

Mission Inn also features an excellent practice facility, complete with an oversize driving range, massive putting green and chipping area complete with bunkers. Three on-site golf schools call Mission Inn home. There are also knowledgeable professionals on staff to help lower your score as well and something you won’t find at other golf resorts – a strength and conditioning coach.

If golf isn’t your thing, there are plenty of other activities at Mission Inn including hiking trails, bass fishing, trap and skeet shooting, tennis and volleyball. Of course, you can always just relax poolside.  The resort is also an ideal location to celebrate a wedding or host a corporate meeting or incentive trip. And, since it’s only a short drive to the theme parks and other attractions that Orlando has to offer, it’s a great place to launch all of your vacation activities from.

Whatever the reason for your visit, you’ll enjoy all that Mission Inn has to offer. For more information, visit the Mission Inn website at www.missioninnresort.com.

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David Theoret
The Golfin' Guy reviews golf courses, resorts, equipment, apparel, shoes and training aids. Our articles go out to over 50 online golf publications.