The Memory Remains At Mission Inn Golf and Tennis Resort

By Elaine Gallant, Contributor

ORLANDO, FL - Can you imagine being so inspired by a journey that 25 years later you build a resort to rekindle the memory?

Well, that's exactly what Nick Beucher did in 1964 when he purchasedthe abandoned Floridan Country Club originally built in 1924 by William J. Howey. His inspirational journey? A 39-day, southbound trek taken with a friend in 1939 that covered 1,400 miles on horseback from Del Rio, Texas to well past Mexico City.

Today, Beucher's still family-owned Mission Inn Golf and Tennis Resort resembles much of what he saw. The "mission inn-style" posadas are roofed with Mexican red-clay barrel tiles. The verandas are wide and canopied. And the open courtyards featuring brightly colored fountains are draped with hanging bougainvillea.

The resort, nestled in an expansive, hilly countryside of pine, oak and cypress tree hammocks, actually captures the seclusion of a 625-acre, private estate. Because of its surroundings and attention to detail, Mission Inn has received numerous awards including the Mobil Four-Star Resort award 17 years in a row.

Winding throughout the property are two 18-hole, championship golf courses: the venerable El Campeon, built in 1926 by Charles E. Clarke of Troon, Scotland, and the more forgiving Las Colinas, added in 1992 by former PGA Tour Player, Gary Koch. Both courses, like the resort, have garnered numerous national and international awards.

By far, El Campeon, Florida's third oldest course, is what most players seek and the one that leaves the most lasting memory. At 6,923 yards - mostly up hill and down - its 85-foot elevation changes require demanding tee shots and daring approaches to often double and triple-tiered greens. Options abound with numerous lakes and several island greens providing the kind of scenery that's sure to impress.

Particularly striking is Devil's Delight, the 538-yard, par 5 signature hole at number 17 with its double dogleg, right then left. It requires a strategically placed tee shot leaving your second to face El Diablo himself, a sprawling, fiend of an oak tree blocking your view of a green cut-off by a beachfront bunker and water canal. Here, prayers are often followed by swears.

Redemption, if any, can be found on Las Colinas, the 6,822-yard, par 71 course that's been honored as "Top Fairways" by Golf for Women Magazine and as one of the 100 most "women-friendly" courses nationwide. It's main feature? Water on 16 of its 18 holes. Also there's home construction in and around the course that's favorably altered a hole or two, like the new par 4 number 3 with a shorter distance and added features to the green.

Alligator Alley, the number 12, par 5 signature hole at 493 yards, is also short - just enough to tease you into using your woods all the way home for that rare eagle opportunity. But be warned - while Las Colinas as a whole is considered more forgiving, number 12 is the exception to the rule.

Your complete golf experience includes a fully stocked pro shop, a Bill Skelley School of Golf and a practice range. But if that's not enough, perhaps a private lesson with John Viera, Jr., the resort's veteran 15-year head pro and director of golf, is in order. Or, you might just want to sit back and enjoy Nicker's, the resort's clubhouse restaurant for lunch or dinner.

On the outside chance that you might prefer a different sport, head over to the tennis garden where there are six Har-Tru (clay) courts, and in a separate area, two Laykold (hard) courts. Here you'll find Cesar Villarroel, one of Bolivia's superstars and former Davis Cup players, offering group and private lessons.

Head back to the resort and you'll discover a heated swimming pool, a whirlpool, exercise room, shuffleboard, hot air balloon rides and bicycle rentals. Additionally, one of the most relaxing of all the activities you'll find is the boating on Lake Harris - one of five local lakes on the Oklawaha Chain connected via an intercoastal waterway to the Atlantic Ocean.

During the day, you can rent bass and pontoon boats with or without a guide. There are powerboat charters, boat slip rentals with water and electrical hook-ups and a shuttle to the resort. Come evening, an event that's particularly charming, is the happy hour cruise with Captain Jeff Gosnell aboard the 1930's La Reina river yacht. At sunset, the memory is worthy of a lifetime.

Mission Inn Golf and Tennis Resort offers 132 deluxe hotel rooms, 38 club suites, nine one or two-bedroom suites and eight villas. It features two other restaurants besides Nicker's, the finer El Conquistador for dinner and the casual La Hacienda for breakfast, lunch and Sunday Champagne brunch. The resort is located only 40 minutes northwest from Orlando off Florida's Turnpike North at exit 285 to S.R. 19 North. For resort day rates and packages call (800)-874-9053 or (352)-324-3101. For golf tee times from Orlando call (407) 886-6000 or if outside Orlando, (352) 324-3885.

El Campeon

Blue Tees 6,923 yds. 73.6/133
White Tees 6,235 yds. 70.9/128
Gold Tees 5,608 yds. 67.6/119
Red Tees 4,811 yds. 67.3/118

Las Colinas

Blue Tees 6,822 yds. 73.0/131
White Tees 6,141 yds. 69.8/124
Gold Tees 5,597 yds. 65.7/113
Red Tees 4,610 yds 67.3/110

Mission Inn Golf and Tennis Resort

10400 County Road 48
Howey-in-the-Hills, FL 34737
Phone: (352)-324-3101
Toll free: 800-874-9053

Elaine GallantElaine Gallant, Contributor

Elaine Gallant is a freelance writer specializing in golf, tennis, and travel. Her many experiences with travel and golf have taken her around the Untied States, Europe, Greece, the Caribbean, Mexico, Hawaiian Islands, Australia and points in between.

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