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|Golf at Mission Inn Resort & Club is the main draw in Howey-in-the-Hills, Fla. (Courtesy of Mission Inn Resort)|
At 7,230 yards, it's a lot longer than most in the Sunshine State, where the length is usually around 6,700 yards from the tips with water coming into play on every hole. So don't bother bringing five different lob wedges to Las Colinas. Bring the big sticks, and be prepared to bomb away.
"This isn't Florida golf," is the typical refrain you hear at Las Colinas.
Five minutes in the pro shop prior to a recent round, there were similar comments.
"You won't see anything like this anywhere in Florida."
"It's different. Wait until you see the hills."
"People like it here because it's long and not too hard, but there's nothing else like it in Orlando."
Las Colinas was built in 1992 as the second track at Mission Inn Resort & Club to go with the shorter El Campeon Course. Las Colinas is the longer of the two courses, but most at the resort say it's the most playable.
That is, if you bring the driver and can bend a 3-wood on a long approach.
There are four par 5s, but they aren't reachable in two, especially considering the tight fairways. Hitting the ball into the rough isn't deadly; the rough isn't really that rough, and there isn't a lot of water that comes into play on the course, but the greens are tight and the few bunkers surrounding the greens can be steep and difficult.
The par 4s are long from the tips and usually require a long iron or even a fairway wood to reach the green. There aren't a lot of trees, and water only really comes into play on five holes, so the only defense the course has are its blind shots. That's rare for Florida golfers who aren't used to dealing with changes in elevation and the length.
After two fairly simple holes to start the round, No. 3 is a 445-yard par 4 that is extremely tight. It's the longest par 4 on the front nine and sets the tone for the rest of the round.
Tight fairways, flat greens, long approaches.
Things get tricky on the back nine. After a docile par-4 10th, there's the par-3 11th, which is a 196-yard carry over water. Then there are back-to-back par 5s, including the 13th, a 584-yard hole that is tight with a bunker right on the left of the landing area.
Howey-in-the-Hills is about an hour's drive from the Orlando International Airport.
"I like to come here once a year and play here and stay here away from the Orlando crowds," said Bob Boldown of Birmingham, Ala. "The food here is great, the accommodations are fine and we have no interest in Disney World."
Mission Inn Resort & Club is also a great facility for golf lessons. It is home to the Gary Gilchrist Golf Academy. For more than two decades Gilchrist has been working with golfers. He can schedule you for a personal lesson or make you a part of a class. But if you plan on spending a few days at the resort, a few hours with Gilchrist is a great way to expand the experience. For serious junior golfers, the academy offers full-time boarding and non-boarding programs along with a post-graduate program.
If you want the typical Florida golf experience, you're in the wrong place. You will see a lot more cows than happy mice and ducks, but the golf courses at Mission Inn Resort & Club are in excellent shape and the academy is second to none. This is for pure golfers who aren't into the neon lifestyle of Disney and Orlando.
September 20, 2011
Jeff Berlinicke is a golf writer based in Tampa, Fla. He writes for multiple publications including the Tampa Tribune, Golf Fitness Magazine, and the Associated Press. He has also received multiple honors from the Florida Press Association.
Any opinions expressed above are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of the management.
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