Mission Inn Resort - El Campeon Course Review

Texas Outside Rating: 8.9

Golf - Resort Public Course · 18 Holes · Par 72
Howey-in-the-Hills, FL

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Mission Inn Resort - El Campeon Course Review

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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Course Slope & Ratings

Tee Box Yardage Rating Slope
Black 7,001 73.8 136
Blue 6,242 70.3 131
White 5,624 67.4 121
Gold 6,601 72.0 135
Red 4,811 68.2 129

Course Information

Course Architect:
George O'Neil
Greens Type:
Ultra Dwarf Bermuda
Greens Condition
Greens Difficulty
Fairway Condition
Bunker Condition
Beware of water on 13 holes and the 57 sand traps.

Texas Outside Rating

Overall Rating:
8.9 out of 10
Fun to Play:
Front Nine Rating:
Back Nine Rating:


Approximate Weekend
$45.00 to $95.00

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.



Here's How Texas Outside Determines the Scorecard Rating

The Texas Outside rating scale ranges from 1 to 10 – a perfect 10 course would be something like this:  links along a cliff overlooking the Pacific ocean and bordered by tall trees; lush fairways on rolling hills with lots of natural hazards; water (which is crystal clear) on most of the holes; immaculate greens (but they are undulating and tough); lots of variety and character (each hole is completely different and includes blind shots, elevation changes, doglegs, and significant challenges); perfectly manicured traps with the whitest and prettiest sand you’ve ever seen; a nice club house with great food and a 19th hole; a GPS; plenty of beverage carts or your own cooler and ice; and it only costs $40 bucks! What this means is that you probably won’t find any 10s in Texas – try Cabo San Lucas, Pebble Beach, or some of the Hawaii courses! 
Texas Outside rates courses on the following:

  • Beauty – tall trees, rolling hills, beautiful houses, waterfalls, and similar stuff would score high; a 1 would be flat, bushes or cactus instead of trees, and some grass but mostly weeds
  • Difficulty – a straight, 300 yard par 4 with no traps or hazards, no out of bounds or water would probably get a 1; if it is a 460 yard par 4 over two ravines, with water along one side, natural hazards on the other, strategically placed traps or that dreaded tree right in the middle of the fairway, we are talking a 10. 
  • Variety – what would you give a course where all the holes looked and played exactly the same (“I thought we just played that hole!”); were side-by-side, which is good for finding or dodging other people’s balls, but not much fun; and you can see the flag from every tee box?  That’s right, it gets a 1.
  • Fun Scale – a 10 is where you walk off the course and say “now that was fun” and you can’t wait to get back, or you immediately turn around and play another 18 holes
  • Value – a 5 is $50 to $60, a 10 is $20 to $30, and 1 is $200 or so – of course all of this is dependent upon how you liked the course.  For example, if a run down, boring municipal course, with six players on each hole was only $10; it would still get a value rating of 1.
  • Condition – this one’s pretty easy – what condition are the fairways. A 10 commands very lush perfectly manicured fairways, compared to a 1, which has fire ants, weeds, and more dirt than grass!
  • Condition of Greens and Difficulty – very hard to read greens with lots of undulation and tough pin placement, rate very high on the difficulty scale.  Condition is self-explanatory.  

All of the above determines the overall score for the golf course.  In other words, we like courses that are pretty, fun, very challenging with a lot of variety, and fairways and greens in excellent condition – all for $40.  We also tend to play the courses that are affordable for the masses, which means in the $30 to $80 range. We rate hard and we haven’t found a 10 in Texas yet – don’t worry we haven’t given up and we’re still looking.