Thursday, February 15, 2018
While just about everybody on the planet seems to have visited Orlando for one reason or another-- whether for a family theme park vacation, convention or sports event-- the lucky ones are those who venture 30 minutes or so northwest to Lake County.
With its rolling hills, pristine lakes and charming towns like Mount Dora, Tavares and Eustis, it's a great place for a reprieve from the bustling and hectic theme park corridor. Don't worry, you can get to Orlando and its theme parks, restaurants and other attractions from here rather quickly via the Florida Turnpike.
For golfers and other travelers who want a nice slice of the Lake County good life, Mission Inn Resort & Club, a family-owned, classic Old Florida Resort located in the town of Howey-in-the-Hills is a superb choice.
Recently, I talked with longtime friend Drew Toth, Mission Inn's director of sales and marketing, about the property's $3.5 million enhancement program completed last month.
"We're really excited about the new look and feel in our guest rooms and other parts of the resort," says Toth. "We've got the perfect blend of a relaxed, classic Florida resort and the latest amenities."
With its distinctive Spanish Colonial style architecture, Mission Inn looks more northern California than central Florida. One of only a few family-owned resorts in the U.S., Mission Inn has been owned by the Beucher family for more than fifty years. The Beuchers throw their heart and soul into the resort and it shows from the friendly, attentive service to the impeccably maintained golf courses to the superb cuisine served in its restaurants.
Mission Inn has two golf courses, three restaurants, two lounges, a poolside bar and a wealth of amenities (see below).
I've played golf and stayed at Mission Inn several times through the years and I can attest to the decided "new look and feel" of the resort's 176 guest rooms and popular common areas.
Toth and I had our conversation at Nicker's Restaurant at the golf clubhouse, which has been updated with new carpet with earth tone colors. Other areas that received the carpet makeover were the golf pro shop, Club Room and Champions Room. New carpet, buffet areas and counter tops highlight the enhancements at La Hacienda, the resort's main dining room, and The Grand Ballroom was refurbished.
For the Guru, what really sets apart a historic, classic hotel is the time and attention to detail in refurbishing the guest rooms. I absolutely, positively love what they done with the rooms. The refurbished and enhanced guest rooms at Mission Inn are impressive on many levels.
More than $20,000 was spent on each room highlighted by appointments like an earth tones color scheme of soft beige, brown and white and custom furniture with polished hardwood nightstands, dressers and desks. Ah, but no great hotel is complete without exceptional bedding and the new rooms have Stearns and Foster mattress sets. Other added amenities include new lighting, bath area make-up mirrors and mahagony doors with an innovative key card lock.
Among the amenities in a Mission Inn guest room are:
--Marble and granite bathrooms
--King or two double beds
--Screened balcony with views of golf, tennis or lakes
--Flat screen T.V.
--In-room music/movies service
--Gilchrist & Soames bath products
To be sure, Mission Inn's two golf courses take full advantage of Lake County's engaging, rolling and un-Florida like terrain.
El Campeon--Originally opened in 1917 and later redesigned by Scotsman Charles E. Clarke in 1926, this legendary layout is one of Florida's finest. Hey, if you don't believe the Guru, Golf Advisor rates it #9 in it's "Top 25 U.S. Courses" and they named it the #1 "Golf Course in Florida" in 2015. El Campeon, with the highest elevation changes in Florida, is the antithesis of the typical flat-as-a-pancake Florida course. Characterized by roller-coaster-like fairways framed with oak and cypress trees and two peninsula greens, one island green, and one island tee, the course has natural hillside contours with tee-to-green elevations up to 85 feet. It's just flat out fun (and challenging) to play El Campeon.
Las Colinas--Designed by Champions Tour player and NBC broadcaster Gary Koch and Lakeland, Florida architect Ron Garl, Las Colinas is a wonderfully scenic way to spend four hours or so. It has spacious, open fairways on most holes, large undulating greens, exceptional bunkering and some sort of water as a hazard or feature on just about every hole.
You've got to be the most dedicated coach potato in the world if you can't find find something to do at Mission Inn, which has a dizzying array of activities. Just listing them all is a herculean task:
--8 tennis courts
--Spa Marbella (6,200 square feet)
--Outdoor pool and hydro-spa
--On-site 55-slip marina for fishing, sailing and boating on Lake Harris
--On-site trap and skeet shooting
--Adventure and scenic bicycling
--Historical and educational eco-adventure trails
--Adventure challenge courses
--Gary Anderson's Schematic Golf Academy
--Bird Golf Academy
--Volleyball on sand courts
OTHER THINGS I LIKE
--The 30,000 square-foot driving range and 10,000 square-foot putting green
--The scenic courtyards on the property and covered walkways that connect the property's guest rooms, restaurants and meeting rooms.
--The Sunday brunches at La Hacienda and the Saturday Night prime rib and seafood buffet at Nicker's
--The margaritas at La Margarita Lounge and frosty beers at Nicker's
--All sorts of event space (indoor and outdoor) for parties, weddings and meetings. (30,000 square feet)
--The tennis center under the direction of Cesar Villarroel
--Easy access to Mount Dora, Tavares, Renninger's Antique Center and the Yalaha German Bakery
For more information, click www.MissionInnResort.com or call 800-874-9053
Tuesday, February 6, 2018
Every time I travel with my clubs on an airline I'm always a bit anxious when I place them on the luggage conveyor belt.
Quite honestly, I never know if they'll end up damaged, temporarily delayed or even get to my destination at all. Most of the time it works out, but I still get a queasy feeling when I turn them over to airline employees who don't give a rat's ass about handling my clubs with care.
That said, I travel with my clubs less and less these days on international trips. Frankly, I don't want to pay for substandard service and care anymore. I've also had some fairly good rounds of golf with rental clubs, too.
Here are my 5 reasons why I choose to rent:
1. Hassle-Free and Time Saving
You don't have to waste time meticulously packing your clubs and lugging them through airports. Better still, you won't have to search endlessly for the oversize luggage carousel to retrieve your clubs or worry about customs rummaging through your bag.
2. Avoid Costly Baggage Fees and Damage To Your Clubs
Some of the airline fees for golf clubs are obscene. Don't these airlines make enough money by saving on their lousy food, measly bags of peanuts and cramped seats. Ever since they discovered how extra fees are an amazingly easy way to gouge their passengers, airlines have no problem charging for just about anything. They practically want you to get a home equity loan just so they'll take your clubs on a flight.
3. Rental Clubs Are Generally Excellent, Quality Clubs
Years ago, rental clubs were typically some dusty set the golf pro brought from his garage for the odd golfer that didn't bring his own clubs. Not anymore. Many of today's golf club rentals are high-quality, premium brands. For instance, Sweet Spot Club Hire in Australia, has premium men's and women's Callaway and TaylorMade sets for all skill levels--from scratch players to newbies.
4. Great Chance to Try Out a Different Set of Clubs
I'm a huge blame-it-on-my-clubs guy, so I'm always open to different sticks. With rentals you can take them for a test drive on 18 holes instead of hitting them into a net off synthetic turf at a golf store. Worse still, is the demo day at your golf course where the sales guy puts on the hard sell like an annoying car salesman.
5. You Actually Might Play Better
Who knows, your own clubs might be holding you back. Renting clubs is a great way to find out if maybe it's time to shelve the old sticks that have consistently produced double and triple bogeys and lots of heartache.