Living in Orlando likely seems dreamy to the millions who visit throughout the year. But daily life can get frantic and finding a place to escape and recharge is a necessity ever so often. Turns out, in less than an hour you can travel to the quaint town of Howey-in-the-Hills and discover Mission Inn Resort and all it has to offer – for recreation, relaxation and more.
Before Central Florida was, well, much of anything, an entrepreneur name William Howey began buying up land with the vision of finding investors to transform the area into orange groves. After building an inn, he decided a golf course would be the ideal enticement to lure investors south, and in 1917 the Florida Chain-o-Lakes Country Club opened. The course, now known as El Campeon, doesn’t have oiled sand greens and horse drawn golf carts any longer, but does still reflect much of the original course architecture.
Jumping ahead to 1964 introduces us to the current stewards of Mission Inn – the Beucher family. Upon seeing an ad in the Wall Street Journal, Nick Beucher bought the neglected property, then known as the Florida Country Club, and began transforming it in the image of Spanish Colonial architecture with a fitting new name. More than family owned, Mission Inn is family operated and you’re likely to encounter one of them during your visit.
From the hustling golf cart crew to the attentive wait staff, every employee I encountered was friendly and courteous – in a truly genuine way. Everyone seemed to be engaged in their tasks and focused on making sure the resort is in top shape and the guest completely at ease. The Mission Inn staff exude top notch service with a friendly vibe.
Mission Inn has two championship golf courses worthy of that moniker, having hosted over 20 consecutive years of NCAA Championships as well as state high school championships and numerous U.S. Open and worldwide tour qualifiers. The aforementioned El Campeon (The Champion) is revered as a shot maker’s course whose layout takes several holes right up to many of the resort’s buildings. It was fun to sit on my room’s patio (see above photo) and observe golfers trying to conquer the steep terrain, mature trees and abundant water.
Las Colinas (The Hills) is more of a classic resort course with generous fairways, yet offers plenty of challenges [full review HERE]. Meandering through a mostly natural setting with a great diversity of holes, the dense trees of Las Colinas create a sense of isolation – a wonderful golf escape.
Both courses share a 10 acre driving range, a 10,000 sq. ft. putting green and a substantial bunker/chipping area, making the practice facilities at Mission Inn tough to beat. And if you’re smart enough to be staying at the resort, the practice green’s size and number of holes makes for a wonderful spot for a friendly putting competition before the sun sets on a great day of golf.
Opening the door to Spa Marbella, part of the expansive clubhouse complex, was sensory bliss. There’s just something about the quintessential spa aroma and relaxing music that seems to be an invitation to leave your troubles at the front desk. To alleviate some pains of aging and stresses of life, I opted for a Valencia massage that left me invigorated for a day on the golf course. My lovely wife is more into aromatherapy and thoroughly enjoyed the deeply relaxing Sweet Dreams treatment.
Although golf seems omnipresent around the Mission Inn property, plenty of other outdoor activities are available to fill your days. I expected the easy to spot pool and tennis courts (6 clay), but I was amazed to discover the resort also has a marina and shooting range. Located on Lake Harris, Marina del Rey was worth a visit just for the beautiful scenery, but I could see the attraction of fishing or a relaxing pontoon boat ride.
For me, part of the allure of a true resort is not having to leave the property – especially for memorable food and drink. Mission Inn definitely hit the mark with wonderful food, outstanding service and great venues. Highlighted by its Colonial Spanish architecture, Plaza de las Palmas offers a beautiful outdoor gathering place and gateway to three restaurants. Relaxing with a pre-dinner cocktail and soaking in the last few rays of sunshine, I was truly impressed hearing a guest be advised that they are more than welcome to order off the menu from any of the restaurants – even sitting outside on the patio.
As a golf trip for buddies, respite from theme park chaos, or just a much needed getaway, Mission Inn Resort is worthy destination. Surrounded by nature, the 1,100 acres that comprise the Mission Inn property make it feel like an indulgent private oasis. Add in the attentive staff and delightful food and I’m already looking forward to another visit.