El Campeon celebrates 100th anniversary in style at the Mission Inn & Resort in Florida
HOWEY-IN-THE-HILLS, Fla. -- More than 85 feet of elevation change give the El Campeon course at Mission Inn Resort & Club something most Florida courses lack -- hills and valleys and wonderfully natural rolling terrain.
The historic course, designed by Chicago-based course architect George O'Neil in 1917 -- with further enhancements by Charles E. Clarke of Troon, Scotland, in 1926 -- is celebrating its 100th anniversary in 2017. It's still kept in great shape, another reason to make the trek to this family-run resort 50 miles northwest of the Orlando International Airport.
One of the highest points in the state is nearby, so this is as dramatic as the landscape gets in Florida. Once golfers reach the fourth tee, the game is on. This par 4 is side-by-side with the par-4 13th hole, each climbing a hill over a pond to an elevated green. The fifth and six play parallel in opposite directions -- both starting with an elevated tee falling into a valley before climbing again to the green. The 457-yard seventh hole might be the hardest par 4 on the course, followed by the hardest par 3, the 190-yard eighth hole over a pond.
The back nine feels like a watery obstacle course with one strong hole after another. The 15th, a 142-yard par 3, and the 16th, a 364-yard par 4, finish at peninsula greens. Then comes the quirky and cool 17th hole, nicknamed "The Devil's Delight," a twisting, double-dogleg par 5. Even if you par that one, the pressure's still on with a bite-off-as-much-as-you-can-chew tee shot over water on the 18th hole.
Golf Advisor users love El Campeon, ranking the course second nationally in 2015 and 13th in 2016. You probably will, too.