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Discover the Mission Resort + Club two distinctive golf courses, of which its most historic—“El Campeón”—features a listing on the Florida Historic Golf Trail.

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Mission Resort + Club golf heritage dates back to the 1910s.


The Traveling Golfer Interviews Peggy Beucher-Clark

Discover the fascinating past that the Mission Resort + Club enjoys with the sport of golf.


In 1916, an aspiring horticulturalist named William J. Howey acquired around 60,000 acres of densely wooded land just outside of Orlando, Florida. Not yet the popular vacation destination it is today, the greater region surrounding the city was then prime real estate for growing various tropical crops. Citrus fruit in particular ranked among the most cultivated produce at the time, with local farmers often making considerable profits. Howey thus decided to establish his own agricultural operation near Orlando, hoping that it could even become a national brand. He subsequently cleared his massive estate of all vegetation and started constructing a series of commercial buildings to help run the business. However, Howey also began contemplating ways to gain additional investors and soon developed a few recreational attractions to gain their attention. Perhaps the most noteworthy of Howey’s creations was an inn known as the “Floridan Hotel” (no longer standing), as well as an accompanying golf facility called the “Chain-O-Lakes Country Club.” (The latter’s name was derived from the local network of lakes that proliferated across the area.) Designed by Chicago-based golf course architect George O’Neil, the country club was the more stunning of the two. Indeed, many golfers in Florida hailed the country club’s 18-hole golf course to be one of the best in the whole state, due to its spring-fed ponds, verdant scenery, and tee-to-green elevations of 85 feet. Following months of hard work, the much-anticipated Florida Chain-O-Lakes Country Club finally opened to great acclaim.

Dozens of enthusiastic golfers soon began to play rounds of golf at the establishment, making the country club one of the most visited social gathering spots in the greater Orlando area. The success ultimately prompted Howey to thoroughly renovate the golf course on-site only after a couple of years. To accomplish this goal, Howey hired the Scottish golf course architect Charles E. Clarke in 1926. Affectionately known as “Captain” by contemporaries, Clarke proceeded to redesign several of the holes to provide a more challenging, yet memorable experience. Despite the incredible popularity of the country club, Howey nonetheless lost control over it once the Great Depression forced him into bankruptcy during the 1930s. But the Chain-O-Lakes Country Club managed to weather the financial fallout, continuing to entertain all kinds of amateur golfers for some time. Then in 1964, an entrepreneurial businessperson named Nick Beucher bought the historic golf complex, which was now known as the “Floridan Country Club.” Recognizing its amazing historic character, Beucher invested extensively toward restoring its undulating greens and fairways. The revitalized golf course then became the central fixture of a much larger resort compound that Beucher debuted as the “Mission Inn Resort & Club.” True to its reputation, the renovated golf course remained one of the finest—and most difficult—in Florida for many decades thereafter. Interest in the course grew so great that the Beucher family decided to construct a second course in 1992. Designed by Gary Koch, the new course differed from its historic sibling with its gentle topography and open fairways.

However, the new course was just as beautiful as the other, featuring the same verdant landscaping that originally made the site one of Florida’s finest for golf nearly a century prior. Koch’s new course is now known as “Las Colinas,” while its historic neighbor is referred to as “El Campeón.” Both courses have continued to rate highly among Florida’s most elite destinations for golf, earning praise from renowned publications like GolfAdvisor, Golf Digest, and Sports Illustrated. In fact, El Campeón has even been given a coveted listing in the state-sponsored Florida Historic Golf Trail! The two have also hosted many tournaments in recent years, such as eight Florida State High School Championships and over 20 NCAA Championships. Furthermore, the two facilities have acted as the location of numerous qualifiers for the U.S. Open, U.S. Amateur, and the PGA Latinoamérica/Canadian Tours. The resort has even hosted its own exclusive professional contest since 2020, too—the Epson Tour's annual Inova Mission Resort + Club Championship! Each course’s enduring appeal has stemmed from their distinctive architecture, with the historic El Campeón offering the same iconic elevation changes that have tested golfers for generations. Epitomizing this trait is its signature penultimate hole—a par-five double dogleg that has more obstacles than most other courses throughout the country. On the other hand, Las Colinas requires proper shot placement in spite of its more welcoming design. Perhaps the best example is its par-five 12th hole, which extends for nearly 500 yards along a densely forested fairway. Cultural heritage travelers are thus certain to enjoy a memorable round of golf on either El Campeón or Las Colinas when visiting the legendary Mission Resort + Club.

  • About the Location +

    Located along the shoreline of picturesque Little Lake Harris, the quaint town of Howey-in-the-Hills is only a half-hour drive from the major metropolis of Orlando, Florida. Like Howey-in-the-Hills, the history of Orlando is very fascinating, as well. The city itself first emerged during the mid-19th century, although the Timucua and Seminole people inhabited the space for generations prior. (The same is true for the greater Orlando metropolitan area, including the modern-site of Howey-in-the-Hills.) However, Orlando was then just a small community that had materialized around a remote U.S. Army base known as “Fort Gatlin.” Residents had even originally called the nascent village “Jernigan” after the region’s first Euro-American settler, Aaron Jernigan. Growth stayed stagnant for the next several years, too, with just a handful of families settling in the town. But the settlement finally rose in prominence once state legislators opted to place a county courthouse downtown during the 1850s. Renaming the municipality as “Orlando” in 1857, local officials began reconstructing its street grid to accommodate its newfound political significance. The name “Orlando” itself was derived from Orlando Reeves, a U.S. soldier who was killed while fighting in the earlier Seminole Wars.

    This development nearly came to an abrupt end when the American Civil War erupted, as the Union naval blockade of Florida greatly reduced the commerce Orlando enjoyed with neighboring coastal towns. Nevertheless, Orlando subsequently underwent a period of prosperity that lasted for decades in the years following the conflict. Often remembered as the city’s “golden age,” Orlando saw its economy expand rapidly thanks to the emergence of the famous Floridian citrus industry in the surrounding countryside. Dozens of people established their own fruit groves on the periphery of the city’s borders, making the area one of the prime locations for citrus cultivation. Numerous other operations opened as a result, such as juice refineries, packaging plants, and shipping companies. Great wealth flowed into Orlando in turn, which helped enlarge its size considerably. Unfortunately for the city though, the dominant era of Orlando’s citrus industry came to a close when a damaging cold front overtook the region amid the winter of 1894—1895. (Historical sources have since remembered this time as the “Great Freeze.”) Many private farmers never recovered from the weather event and relocated to communities elsewhere in Florida. In their wake arrived a few business tycoons, who gradually consolidated the remaining farms under their control.

    With only a handful of large citrus farms left in operation, movement to Orlando had slowed yet again by the beginning of the 20th century. But the mounting popularity of land speculation in Florida managed to reverse the city’s sagging economic fortunes. Real estate magnates had started to gradually acquire large tracts of wilderness, which they cleared to build a variety of commercial and residential structures. Orlando became one of the most active areas for this construction, in part due to its tranquil climate and proximity to numerous lakes. The community thus turned into a popular holiday destination, with many upscale hotels and resorts dotting its skyline. (Other areas nearby, such as Howey-in-the-Hills, were affected by this economic activity, too.) Although the outbreak of the Great Depression temporarily blunted this transformation, Orlando nonetheless continued to be a major travel hotspot for the rest of the century. Perhaps the greatest event affirming Orlando’s status within the tourism industry was the decision of The Walt Disney Company to debut its Walt Disney World entertainment complex nearby in 1971. Walt Disney World soon gained an renowned international reputation for its extensive services, eventually becoming the most visited vacation compound in the world during the early 21st century.

    Orlando itself has remained one of Florida’s most exciting places to visit, entertaining countless guests from across the globe every year. In fact, some 74 million people travel to Orlando annually, leading to many people identifying the city as the top tourist destination in the whole United States. Central to this enduring legacy are the celebrated theme parks that reside in Walt Disney World, as well as its comparatively newer competitor, Universal Orlando. However, the city boasts a number of other outstanding amusement facilities, such as SeaWorld Orlando, Legoland, and Fun Sport America. Even though some of those locations are historic in their own right, more conventional cultural heritage attractions exist within Orlando, as well. Among the best historic sites in Orlando include the Harry P. Leu Gardens, Lake Eola Park, the Orlando Museum of Art, and the Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art. But many more places to explore are situated right outside the city, too, such as the Central Florida Zoo & Botanical Gardens in Sanford and the historic Howey Mansion complex in Howey-in-the-Hills. Cultural heritage travelers are certain to experience a memorable trip when visiting the greater Orlando area as such.

  • About the Architect +

    George O’Neil: While the historic El Campeón course was the brainchild of the industrious William J. Howey, its specific design was the result of landscape architect George O’Neil’s imagination. Originally from the Chicago area, O’Neil was one of the nation’s foremost golfers at the time of El Campeón’s debut during World War I. He specifically rose in prominence serving as an accomplished golf instructor, with many considering his professional insight to be invaluable. In fact, numerous high-profile figures eventually sought out O’Neil for lessons, such as John D. Rockefeller, Charlie Chaplin, and even future U.S. President Warren G. Harding! Several legendary golfers also conferred with O’Neil for insight, including Harry Vardon and Chick Evans. His diverse knowledge about the sport gradually elevated his public profile to the point where a few country clubs hired him on as their primary golf course architect. In addition to earning a commission to construct William J. Howey’s Chain-O-Lakes Country Club, O’Neil had also gained the contract for other magnificent facilities like the South Bend Country Club in Indiana and the Beverly Country Club in his own hometown of Chicago. One area in particular where O’Neil seemed to have a significant presence was the American Southwest, namely Southern California. Indeed, O’Neil had spent many of his winters vacationing in the region and became acquainted with several of its influential golfers. The experience eventually produced work at some of California’s most celebrated golfing venues, such as the Pasadena Golf Club and the Mountain Meadows Golf Club.

    Gary Koch: A native of Tampa, Florida, Gary Koch has been a fixture in professional golf for nearly half a century. He first began competing as an amateur regularly during his teenage years, eventually winning the U.S. Junior Amateur in 1970. His talents earned him a prestigious scholarship to the University of Florida, where he ranked as a three-time All-American. The highlight of Koch’s time at the school was his part in helping the collegiate Florida Gator’s men’s golf team win two Southeastern Conference (SEC) championships, as well as a single NCAA Championship title. Koch subsequently pursued a career as a professional golfer upon graduating, ultimately winning six official competitions on the PGA Tour over the next two decades. Perhaps his greatest achievement was when he earned two first-place finishes at the San Diego Open and the Bay Hill Classic, respectively, in 1984. As Koch’s playing career progressed, so did his interest in other endeavors within the world of professional golf. He specifically started sportscasting games during the 1990s, working first for ESPN before becoming a longtime member of NBC Sports. However, Koch also began offering his particular insights into golf course architecture, helping to design celebrated venues like the Mystic Dunes Golf Course, the Bardmoor Golf and Tennis Club, and of course, Las Colinas at Mission Resort + Club. Koch has since maintained his venerable reputation within the golfing industry, going on to obtain the Payne Steward Award for his contributions in 2023. (Koch has also earned three more professional titles while playing on the PGA Tour Champions’ Legends of Golf tournament.)

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