Mission Inn’s El Campeon Course Centennial celebration has begun! We are so very excited to share this time with you, our members and guests, as we honor our 1917 course. We are very proud of El Campeon, a classic course designed in 1917 that continues to bring golfing challenges and compliments from golfers from around the world.
El Campeon, “The Champion” was built during the Golden Age of Golf Course Architecture. Mr. WJ Howey hired George O’Neil to design a world-class golf course originally to be called the Bougainvillea Links as a complement to Mr. Howey’s Hotel Bougainvillea. George was a prominent professional player, instructor and designer who lived in Chicago. O’Neil was quoted “The Bougainvillea Links will be America’s most famous course in a very short while.” As a golf professional, his students included Charlie Chaplin, John D. Rockefeller, Warren G. Harding and top amateur Charles “Chick” Evans. He wrote weekly golf articles for The Chicago Tribune. The course, at the grand opening, was called Florida Chain-O’-Lakes Country Club. O’Neil’s course featured grass greens (instead of oiled and sanded greens common in the first two decades of the 20th century) and was one of only two regulation courses of 6,300 yards in Florida. O’Neil staked his reputation as a foremost golf expert and architect. O’Neil was credited for his design work on many golf courses throughout the country including El Conquistador in Valparaiso, Florida, The Greenbrier in West Virginia, Pasadena Country Club in California, Crystal Lake, Barrington Hills, and Beverly Club in Chicago.
The name was changed during the years to Floridan Country Club which it was called when Nick Beucher purchased the course in 1964. When the Inn was built in 1972, it was renamed Mission Inn Resort. By 1992, the second 18-hole course opened as Las Colinas, “The Hills” and the 1917 course was named El Campeon “The Champion”. We originally thought that El Campeon was built by Captain Charles Clarke of Troon based on an article in the Howey Tribune in 1926. In 2008, we gained possession of a 1917 original yardage book for the Florida Chain-O’-Lakes Country Club as well as a scrapbook from George O’Neil’s family. The yardage book is a twelve page book with photos and descriptions of each of the 18 holes. This information gave great insight into the course and we cherish this historical book and scrapbook.
We will continue to share stories and memories of El Campeon as we celebrate 100 years of championship golf. As we progress through the year, we have special events planned. You will notice the banners on the resort property, signage, and commemorative items with a special Centennial logo including balls, tees, shirts, hats, and more. We can’t forget that Las Colinas is celebrating its 25th Anniversary! All in all, a great year to be a member or guest of Mission Inn Resort.