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January 2020

‘Course Within a Course’ Opens at Mission Inn Resort & Club

By Sally J. Sportsman

The adage “Don’t do business with family” certainly doesn’t apply at Mission Inn Resort & Club in Howey-in-the-Hills, Florida. Three generations of the Beucher family continue to harmonize in preserving and expanding the venerable year-round resort, located about 40 miles northwest of Orlando. The latest example of the family’s vision is El Dorado, an 18-hole executive, or short, golf course that opened last fall and was created by placing additional tees within the already-existing Las Colinas golf course. El Dorado already has proven a success with resort guests and members.

“We listened to our customers,” says Bud Beucher, co-owner, vice president and general manager of Mission Inn. “They were telling us that as they age, the passage of time and sports injuries are forcing them to make the decision to give up the game.”

“We decided that by creating an executive golf course on property, we could provide them with the chance to continue playing. We’ve also found that it gives guests an opportunity to play an additional 18 holes, after playing our two full-length courses, without the stress, pressure and time of a full-on championship golf experience.”

Many golf resorts are constructing executive courses to complement their championship layouts. Most of the short courses are built completely separately from the existing courses. El Dorado at Mission Inn is an exception. Placing new tee boxes within the already-existing 18 holes of the Las Colinas golf course formed the new option. Golf course superintendent Danny Parks oversaw the work.

“We wanted to make sure that guests would have a playing experience on El Dorado that would be enjoyable, have some level of challenge to it and be safe,” Beucher says.

When contemplating how to build El Dorado, according to Beucher, the family considered creating it on separate ground, but ultimately decided to place it within the confines of Las Colinas.

“We are conservative people,” Beucher says, “and the decision was easily made. Let’s put our toe in the water first, we thought. Let’s build these tees first and see what the reaction is. If possible, we can go the next step and build (a separate) nine or 18 holes. We have 1,000 acres here.”

The El Dorado executive course cost about $50,000 to build, says Beucher, including materials and labor: moving some sprinkler heads, dirt and sod; adding yardage markers; and printing scorecards.

The par-58 executive course, which plays to 3,063 yards and has its own scorecard, is popular with a variety of resort guests, including juniors, seniors, hickory club players, families, corporate outings, charity fundraising groups and golfers seeking quick-game options. As guests play El Dorado’s 14 par-3 holes and four par-4 holes, they enjoy the rolling hills of Las Colinas, a feature that’s rather rare in Florida. Green fees to play El Dorado vary by time of day and day of the week.
So far, Beucher says, all signs are positive.

“We don’t have any separate measure for revenue; it’s intuitive based on the pro shop experience,” Beucher says. “We think we will get incremental gains.”

Beucher notes that 50 percent of Mission Inn resort guests are repeat visitors and 25 percent are referrals. He anticipates that the new executive course will help enhance these numbers. Resort guests enjoy taking lessons at the facility’s golf schools, and El Dorado will be a good tool for playing lessons.
Rounds played at the resort increased during 2018, with the trend expected to continue.
“We saw a 17.8 percent increase in the number of rounds played during the first half of 2018,” Beucher says. “By projection, if we pick up three or four percent more as a result of El Dorado, that’s a lot of rounds.”

 

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