Review of Mission Inn Resort El Campeon Golf Course
Mission Inn Resort & Club in Howie in the Hills Florida is home to lots of interesting history, beautiful landscaping, friendly service, good golf stay and play packages, plenty of fun amenities, and some excellent food. Best of all are the two 18 hole golf courses, each of the courses has it's own unique personality and characteristics:
- El Campeon was built in 1917 and is characterized by some unusual tee to green elevation changes of up to 85 feet, towering forests, and is regarded as the tougher of the two courses by three or four strokes
- Las Colinas is the newer of the two courses and has more of a troon or resort look and feel with a little bit wider fairways, rolling hills, and larger and more forgiving greens – read our review of Mission Inn Resort's Las Colinas Course to learn more
The "Champion," El Campeon.was designed by George O'Neil of Chicago in 1917 and further enhanced in 1926 by Charles E. Clarke of Troon, Scotland. In 2010, new Ultra Dwarf Bermuda greens were completed and ready for play. Some of what makes playing El Campeon both fun and challenging includes:
- unique elevation changes of up to 85 feet – like #4 which is a significant 405 yard uphill climb to the green and #5 which has a dramatically elevated tee box and a 450 downhill shot to a green surrounded by 4 bunkers
- water on 13 holes – you'll have a couple of intimidating carries over the lake, need to avoid water running from tee to green on #10 and #18, and you've got to nail your approach shot to two peninsula greens and an island green that is also surrounded by a pure white sand bunker
- 57 bunkers – the bunkers range from some long monsters to several pot sized bunkers with some deep faces that need to be avoided
- challenging green complexes – most of the greens are raised, guarded and have slope and subtle breaks that can surprise you
- tree lined fairways – accuracy off the tee is demanded to hit the fairways that range from tight to ample
- risk reward opportunities – you'll be tempted to try and carry more of the lake or fly some trees and bunkers to shorten the hole for a potential birdie
El Campeon has some outstanding holes that we won't soon forget. For example:
- #8 is a demanding 190 yard par 3 with a shot from an elevated tee box that needs to carry the lake to a green with water in front, two bunkers, and a couple tiers
- the signature 17th hole, known affectionately as Devil's Delight, is stunning and requires accuracy from tee to green – a 556 yard par 5 double dog leg that heads slightly downhill to a fairway that ends with a bunker and lake and a tree in the middle of the fairway about 120 yards from the green that will potentially block your shot over the lake to the green
- #10 and #18 both have fairly tight fairways that turn around a lake and offer excellent risk reward shots off the tee box to try and make them birdie opportunities
Because of all that, it's not surprising that El Campeon was ranked in the top 10 of Florida's 1,400+ courses and voted the #1 Golf Course in Florida in 2009.
The fairways range from tight to ample, all are tree lined, and several have some significant ups and downs. When we played they were in very good shape with a playable rough.
The greens at El Campeon were small to average size and all had some slope and subtle breaks. Most were showing some weather stress damage – normally they are in very good shape and run around a 9.5.
The bunkers were all sizes and shapes, the lips were manageable, and the sand ranged from perfect with fine fluffy white sand to thin and hard packed.
Bottom line – a very fun and demanding 18 holes that you should go out of your way to play. The Stay & Play at Mission Inn Resort is very good – read our review to learn more (this review is still being worked one – come back in a couple days)
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Service is good, the pro shop is huge and stocked with everything you need to look good and score well, and the practice range and putting green are adequate. Nickers, next to the pro shop, has an excellent bar area and some great food.