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Review of Mission Inn Resort & Club

On a fabulous golfing vacation to Florida, we thoroughly enjoyed our stay at Mission Inn Resort & Club in Howey-in-the-Hills, Florida - here is our review of Mission Inn Resort & Club which from our perspective is one of the best golf resorts in Florida.

Courtyard at Mission InnMarina at Mission Inn ResortOne of the golf holes at Mission Inn Resort

Waterfalls at Mission Inn ResortFrom the minute we approached the entrance to Mission Inn Resort & Club and noticed the Spanish architecture and mission bell we knew that we were in for a special treat. Secluded in the country with it's gently rolling terrain just outside of Howey-in-the-Hills (yes, that is the actual name of a Florida Mission Inn Resort & Clubtown but that's a whole other article!), the Resort is nestled on 1100 acres of impeccably maintained grounds with spring fed lakes; a beautiful landscaped waterfall cascading into a pond; a stunning array of colorful native fauna with pinks, reds, yellows, and whites; swaying palm trees; two award winning golf courses; a wide range of amenities; a spa; excellent dining options; comfortable lodging; and country friendly service from a staff that seems to have been around the Resort for ages. And it's not surprising that Mission Inn Resort & Club has won a number of well deserved awards and accolades (enough to fill a couple pages!), some of which include:

  • Award of Excellence and Golden Links Award by Corporate & Incentive Travel
  • Top 100 Courses from Links Magazine
  • Silver Medal Resort by Golf Magazine
  • Top 10 Courses in Florida by Florida Golf News
  • Top 25 Courses in Florida by Golfweek
  • Top 10 Courses in Florida by Florida Golf News

Located about 35 minutes from Orlando, Mission Inn Resort & Club is family owned and has been for more than 50 years.  The Resort traces its historyMission Inn Resort & Club back nearly 100 years to the days when William J. Howey purchased 60,000 acres with the intent of creating the largest horticultural empire in the world. The Spanish architecture at Mission Inn Resort comes form the current owners trip in 1939 when he rode 1400 miles covering the length of Mexico on horseback! Today, Mission Inn has 190 guest rooms, suites, and villas; three restaurants, two lounges, and a poolside bar; 30.000 square feet of meeting space; a spa, 36 holes of golf, a marina, and lots of other fun amenities.


Golf At Mission Inn Resort & Club

View from La Hacienda RestaurantShortly after checking in and depositing our bags in our room, we immediately headed to La Hacienda to load up on some carbs from their scrumptious lunch buffet. The patio of La Hacienda overlooks the beautifully landscaped 17th hole of El Campeon and as I devoured my lunch I planned my strategy on how I would easily par this hole - a 556 yard par 5 which is a very challenging hole with a double dog leg and a downhill shot to the green over a pond. As we set on the patio, we heard a several kr-plunks and curses as fellow golfers missed the green. Over dessert I visualized my approach shot clearing the pond and landing 6 inches from the pin! Which of course didn't happen - but the dessert was outstanding!

Our first round of golf at Mission Inn on El Campeon was a blast, although it cost me a few golf balls thanks to El Campeon golf coursewater on 13 holes including the island green with water as well as a white sand bunker surrounding the green. I contributed two of my golf balls to the pond monster on #17 which meant lunch was better than my strategy to par this hole! Built in 1917, El Campeon is one of the south's oldest golf courses and combines a unique combination of unusual elevation changes of more than 85 feet, rolling fairways, undulating greens, strategically placed bunkers, several doglegs, and more. What a fun and demanding, but fair 18 holes. Read our review of El Campeon to learn more about this 18 and why we loved it. By the way, El Campeon was voted the "#1 Florida Golf Course" in 2009 by the National Golf Course Owners Association!

To wear off some of the calories from stuffing myself on the excellent lunch buffet I walked a large part of the El Campeon and the elevation changes and rolling fairways helped burn some fat but I more than made up for it by having to buy the first few rounds of drinks in the bar at Nickers to pay off my golfing bets. Worse yet, as we were walking to the bar, we passed through Nickers' dining area and I was quickly overwhelmed with the aromas as well as the size and variety of choices from the buffet. Which meant I ordered and paid for the first round of drinks and then immediately headed to the buffet. Wow - it took five trips to sample just some of what they were offering. I waddled back to the car and then up the steps to our room where I was a little concerned about fitting through the door and not breaking the bed. But it was well worth it and I swore I would wake up early, eat fruit for breakfast, and jog to the fitness center before our next round of golf - of course none of that happened expect for the next round of golf!

After the drinks and all that good food at Nickers the night before, I wasn't sure I was ready to play Las Colinas which was recently honored as Golf hole at Las Colinas one of the Top 25 Men's Toughest Courses in Central Florida! After learning that, I downed a couple Advils and bought two extra sleeves of golf balls at the pro shop which didn't take long to give back to the course's forests and lakes. Las Colinas was given 4 Stars and named "Best Places to Play" by Golf Digest, nominated as "Best New Resort Course" by Golf Digest in 1992, and was a recipient of the "Top Fairways" recognition by Golf for Women. This 18 has more of an inland links style layout with wide-open fairways, gentle rolling hills, and large undulating greens. Water on 10 holes, 56 bunkers, forced carries, blind shots, dog legs, and some very challenging approach shots that force you to deploy your best course management and club selection skills if you want to score well. I loved Los Colinas but I couldn't find those skills or my lost golf balls, so again I was buying Alligator at Mission Inn drinks in Nickers. At least I could look forward to a great dinner! Read our review of Las Colinas to learn more about this 18.

Both courses are home to fantastic conditions from tee to cup, excellent service, a well stocked pro shop, good practice facilities where I wish I had spend more time, and a couple alligators that are very protective of the golf balls that I quickly decided to donate to their lake and protective custody! Check out the Mission Inn Resort's Stay & Play Packages which can include accommodations, buffet breakfast, advance tee times, green and cart fees for 18 holes of each day's stay, and daily range balls, club cleaning, storage and bag tag.


Mission Inn Resort & Club Dining

When you stay at Mission Inn you should be prepared to consume some great food and you might consider starting an exercise regimen when you get back home. Mission Inn is home to some delicious and overwhelming buffets for breakfast, Sunday brunch, lunch, and dinner! I love buffets and some would say I am the "Buffet King" and Mission Inn Resort has some of the best I've sampled. I must have gained 10 pounds but it was well worth it. The Sunday brunch buffet at La Hacienda was unbelievable - all the typical breakfast stuff (eggs, sausage, hash browns, grits, etc.), an antipasto station, smoked fish and shellfish, a carving station with prime rib and Virginia baked ham, soups, entrees (like Rosemary Pork Loin, Chicken Dijoinaise, or Poached Salmon - all of which change weekly), and a wide assortment of desserts from pie to cake to ice cream with all of the toppings. My mouth is watering just thinking about it!

Buffet at Mission Inn Resort

The lunch buffet at La Hacienda was equally impressive with a wide selection of salads, everything you need to make a great deli sandwich, several hot entrees (vegetables plus a delicious chicken and a creative beef dish), and a large dessert table. But my favorite was the dinner buffet at Nickers, some of which included:

  • a salad table loaded with typical salad fixings plus pasta, crab, vegetable, and tuna salads and a cSalmon before I started eating itouple soups to choose from
  • a wide selection of house made fresh sushi and a delicious smoked salmon - the picture on the right may look like an armadillo but it's the smoked salmon covered with cucumbers
  • several choices for vegetables
  • a carving station with rare prime rib that was delicious
  • a pasta station with an Alfredo or a Marinara sauce
  • a wide range of dessert choices

Nickers which is adjacent to the pro shop and overlooks the first hole of Las Colinas serves lunch, dinner, and a Sunday Brunch. If you're not into the buffet, the Nickers' dinner menu serves appetizers, soups and salads, and a variety of entrees ranging from fish & chips to pasta to grilled Atlantic salmon to ribs, steaks, and chicken pot pies. The bar at Nickers is a great place to spend some time thinking about how you'll play better next time.

In the same complex as the Inn and swimming pool are two other great choices for dining. The El Conquistador is available for a candlelight gourmet dinner and they offer everything from a Prix Fix Dinner to great appetizers like a Sesame Crusted Blue Fin Ahi Tuna, soups (the Lobster Bisque was one of the best we've had), salads (great Caesar), and light items (Angus Burger, Langoustine Lobster Roll, Pizza, and more) or regular entrees like New York Strip with a variety of sauces, Lobster Tail, Duck, Lamb Shank, Chicken Oscar (wow, excellent), and several seafood choices. And the deserts Dessert Table at El Conquistador buffetwere to die for. Again I waddled back to our room and immediately fell asleep and had dreams of getting up and having to lift weights, use the stair master, and run on the treadmill for hours to try and get rid of some of the calories - a horrible nightmare!

Next to El Conquistador is La Margarita which is a more casual setting in the bar area. A lot of the menu items from El Conquistador are available in La Margarita plus it has a lighter sports bar type menu selections. La Hacienda is just below El Conquistador and it has inside or outdoor patio seating that overlooks the beautiful 17th hole and they serve breakfast, lunch, and that sprawling Sunday brunch that I mentioned above. And Monday thru Friday, La Hacienda has a huge buffet that changes nightly from BBQ, to Italian, to Field & Stream, to Season's Harvest, and to Chef's Selection. The scrumptious buffet has multiple tables loaded with soups, salads, sandwich making/bar, hot entrees, fresh vegetables, and a table loaded with delicious desserts which is well worth the price of the entire buffet. If you're not into buffets, then you can order off the menu and choose between salads, burgers, sandwiches, wraps, and more.


Mission Inn Resort Amenities

It may sound like Mission Inn is all about delicious sprawling buffets and two excellent golf courses, but it offers you lots of other fun things to enjoy during your stay. To help you wear off some of the calories from all that good food, you can:

  • check out a bike to ride any of the several trails around the lake, which are also great for a walk to enjoy nature and the colorful landscaping or a brisk run
  • bring your tennis racquet and take advantage of the eight tennis courts
  • play some volleyball or shuffleboard or try the challenge course or shoot some hoops
  • swim some laps in the pool which also has a hot tub and my favorite - a tiki bar, outdoor grill, and lounge chairs
  • try your hand at skeet shooting which won't wear off many calories but sure is fun
  • spend several hours in the state-of-the-art fitness center which is loaded with strength, free weight, and cardio equipment to burn calories - I seemed to find every excuse possible to avoid this place and went home several pounds heavier

Tennis courtsPool area at Mission Inn ResortFitness center

If none of that suits your fancy, then Mission Inn Resort has several shops including the pro shop where you can spend some money to not only look good on the course but hopefully play better with that new equipment. There is also a game room with pool tables, poker tables, and juke box where you might win some of that shopping money back. After a tense game of pool or 36 holes of golf or a tough week at work, you need to visit Spa Marbella. The Spa is over 6200 square feet and has 5 private treatment rooms, 2 steam rooms, private men's and women's lounges, 3 manicure stations, 2 pedicure stations, an exclusive Couples Suite (for facials, massages, and more), and a wide variety of services.

Spa entranceGame room

MarinaThe Resort's Marina del Rey is on Lake Harris which is the largest of an eight lake chain and is perfect for fishing, sailing, boating, picnics, or team building. You can rent pontoon boats or fishing boats and try to catch some big bass or just sit on the bank and enjoy the sunset.

For special events and functions like corporate events, reunions, or weddings, Mission Inn Resort has over 30,000 square feet of function space, all of the equipment you might require, plus catering and other services.


Mission Inn Resort Accommodations

After all that golf, fine dining, and exercise you're going to really enjoy that cozy bed at Mission Inn Resort.

We stayed in one of the King Deluxe hotel rooms on the first floor that overlooked one of the golf holes on El Campeon. Our room was a typical resort hotel room with a screened-in patio that was perfect for coffee in the morning or a cocktail watching fellow golfers miss their approach shots and putts. The room had everything you would expect - coffee maker, TV, comfy bed, work desk, and an overstuffed chair.

The King Club or Club Suites are larger and include either a king or two queen beds plus a couch and coffee table a work desk or table and two overstuffed chairs, TV, screened balcony or bay window, and bathroom.

The Deluxe hotel and Club suite accommodations all have views of the golf course or tennis courts from private screened balconies or bay windows. If you want something with more room for work or meetings, the Executive Suites have a living/parlor area with a wet bar, separate bedroom with a full bathroom with a Jacuzzi tub plus a screened balcony, and a separate office with work desk, overstuffed chairs, and a bathroom with a shower. One and two bedroom Penthouse Suites that are perfect for your family, friends, or golfing buddies. For example, the two bedroom Penthouse Suite has a family room, dining room, full kitchen, two bathrooms, and an office.

Bottom line - Mission Inn Resort & Club is fantastic and perfect for a golfing or family vacation or a special event. The amenities are excellent and will keep you busy for a couple days. The two award winning golf courses are fun, demanding, and in great condition. And the food and service are some of the best! Enjoy!