The “Champion” course at Mission Inn was one of a wave that welcomed the first crowds from Florida’s tourism boom when it was designed during 1919 by the relatively unknown Midwesterner George O’Neil.
One must wonder if Herbert Strong had visited the golf resort before heading to Ponte Vedra, based on El Campeón's frightening island installation at No. 16: Players will make their second shot to a constructed island just off of the fairway, to a green with a sand “safety net” that loops around the putting surface.
If that got your heart-rate up, the club sells the next hole as having more obstacles than some entire courses.” Although that may be a bit of a stretch, “The Devil’s Favorite” will not be an easy score. The first 500 yards of fairway are lined by both bunkers and trees, ending in one massive sand hazard that stands as protection for those who may have sent their second too far. That said, few will be happy to make their final approach to the green, out of the hazard and over around 50 yards of lake.
A golf course with a mandatory cart policy will never rate above a 4 for me. A golf course built in 1918 (well before golf carts existed) stating the reason for the mandatory policy is that the golf course is "very hilly" will have to be exceptional to even reach that cap.
Despite this major flaw, the golf course rates at its cap of 4.
Considering the re-route of the golf course when the center of operations moved to accommodate the second course, one can understand the more subdued nature of the opening stretch. The parallel climbs on the 5th and 13th feature the rarely-as-well-done-as-this two-shot uphill holes. While the subsequent tumble down the 6th and 14th offer a go at two in some terrain dominating three-shot holes.
The closing stretch makes superior use of the terrain shared with the opening stretch and the quirky 16th and 17th (I love the tree, contrary to the other reviews here) offer a much needed bit of whimsy to the round that, at the point, began to suffer from its vintage. The 18th is a good modern take on the prototypical bite-off-as-much-as-you-can-chew tee shot.
The one-shot holes appeal to both the modern sensibility of water as hazard and the combination of shorter and long approaches from the perfectly controlled lie of the tee.
Overall the golf course as a whole exceeds the sum of the parts but it's not without a few things that show its age. Whether or not this is a bug or a feature is up to the golfer to decide. Eliminate the cart policy and I'd be back in a heartbeat.
Great old-time Florida golf. Good challenge. Terrific 36 hole facility.
Excellent course, with an unusual UK feel and holes with undulating terrain, about 1 hour from Disney area which we were staying in, but well worth the visit. Condition and layout ranks this course currently as my No 1 none UK course.
El Campeon is a fun atypical Florida course. I received conflicting original opening dates, so I will say that it is old. Having said that, it has been redesigned and tweaked to a yardage over 7k from the tips. The first hole is an interesting par 5. Reachable, but first you must carry a creek and the green is protected with water on both sides. The 2nd is a pretty par 3 with water left and right and multiple bunkers but does have a throat short of the elevated green. The 3rd is a long par 4. You should favor the left side so as to not be blocked out. The 4th has a long carry over water. You will then have an uphill approach to a blind green. I know this is Florida, and relatively flat, but I took one extra club and ended up short. The 5th and 6th are kind of benign. The 5th slopes hard right to left and the 6th has well placed fairway bunkers on both sides. The 450 yard par 7th is a golf holes golf hole. A creek bisects the fairway at an angle connecting water hazards on the left and right. A drive down the right side is the preferred. The 8th is the classic Florida par 3 over water. (boring)
The 10th starts with a bang. Par 5 dogleg right with water all the way down the right side. You must navigate around a large oak tree that protects the dogleg and a bunker on the left elbow. If you go left, it is safer, albeit much longer. Right is great, but now you must carry the water.. Good hole. The par 3 12th is a long and well protected with bunkers. My advice is to take an extra club. The 13th is acute par 4 starting on an island tee. The landing area has bunkers on both sides and the green is elevated. This hole is parallel to the 4th. I did learn my lesson and took 2 extra clubs and was rewarded with an insta-birdie. The 14th is a nice par 5 dogleg right. It is downhill with water right that should not come into play on the drive. This green is well protected with bunkers. Almost compulsory in Florida the 15th is the opposite hand par 3 of the 8th. The 16th is the shortest par 4 and has an island green. This green has a bunker that wraps almost entirely around its circumference. Pick your approach distance preference off the tee. The 17th is the signature hole and called the Devils Delight. The number 1 handicap is a double dogleg that is well bunkered. The twist, however, is the large oak tree that is standing as a sentinel. Oh, I forgot to mention the water in front of the green. Super golf hole. The 18th is not a walk in the park either. Long par 4 with water all the way down the right side.
El Campeon is a hidden gem that most folks have never heard of. Only about 45 minutes from the hustle and bustle of Orlando, I highly recommend the course and the resort.
This course is excellent apart from one aspect - a huge tree in the middle of the par 5, (560 yards) 17th hole. This in my view spoils what is a brilliantly designed hole that is sufficiently strategic not to need this gimmick. It is appreciated that the tree is the course's USP and I'm sure it was very quaint all those years ago when it was planted (or not chopped down!) and a much smaller obstacle. 8 of us (all single figures) played it a couple of weeks ago and the optimum lay up was a topped 3 iron, that went under and past the tree and just short of the pond that protects the front of the green complex. If they take the tree back to its smaller self, it would be a positive move. That said, El C, is a top Florida course, which we all thoroughly enjoyed.
There are two decent courses at the Mission Inn resort and El Campeon (The Champion) is the older and better than Las Colinas (The Hills) here. As I mentioned in my review of Las Colinas (2nd Feb ’15) the resort is about 45 minutes north west of Orlando and worth the trip.
The course starts well; a short par-5 crossing water to a slim fairway with trees either side – more water on both sides of the green give a tough start to the course. The 4th hole may split opinion; a 400+ yard hole over water to a sloping fairway and then a big uphill shot to a green that is not in view – not my favourite hole if I am honest. There follows a couple of up and down par-4’s at the 5th and 6th but it is from the 7th that the course comes alive. This a big hole at 450 yards crossing water on the approach with a slight left turn to the green – best hole so far. There is more water on the par-3 8th, plenty of it in fact, all of the way to the green on the right side and then butting up to the green.
The back nine is a delight to play; the par-5 10th sets the scene – It is the longest hole on the course at 569 yards, with water all of the way to the hole on the right with a well-positioned bunker on the left corner of the dog-leg. The 13th hole is a par-4 at 340 yards with a tee shot crossing the same lake as the tee shot on the 4th hole – this hole is much better though; shorter obviously but with great bunker protection in the fairway. The 14th is a joy to play; another par-5 this at 532 yards and downhill invites a big drive – water off of the tee to the right at about 320 yards needs attention probably for most players on the second shot rather than from the tee – a cleverly bunkered green completes a great hole. The 16th another beauty of a par-4, this with an island green making the approach one of the toughest on the course. The penultimate hole on The Champion course is the stand-out, the very best without a doubt; here we have a long par-5 at 556 yards (SI-1) that has a double twist in the fairway, strong bunkering about half-way to the hole, then an oak tree and a huge bunker protecting the approach to the green area. After negotiating all of this, there is then a shot of about 70 yards across water to a green that slopes from back to front – the hole is named, “Devil’s Delight” and is one of the best holes in and around the Orlando area. The round ends on a high note too; another with water in play (13 water holes on the course) – a par-4 (SI-3) at 420 yards with the drive needing to be up the left-side to attack the green the best way.
This is a good golf course that probably does not have as many visitors as it deserves – off course facilities at the resort are of high quality too.