Generations of hospitality at one of the earliest golf courses in Florida.
Nearly 50 years ago, Mission Inn Resort & Club was nothing more than a vision and dream in the mind of Nick Beucher, a mid-western businessman with a sense of adventure. In 1964, he purchased what was then known as the Floridan Country Club. But, for the full story, we need to travel back in time nearly 100 years when citrus groves covered Central Florida and cowboys roamed Mexico.
Early History of Howey-in-the-Hills
The resort traces its history back to 1916, when William J. Howey purchased 60,000 acres of real estate in Central Florida, with the intent of creating the largest horticultural empire in the world. With an ideal climate and rich soil, Howey envisioned investors buying acreage from him and then contracting with his company to clear the land, plant citrus trees, harvest and ship the fruit. Howey would then return the profits to the owners.
In order to boost sales and create incentive for additional growth, Howey set out to build a golf course to complement his inn. In 1917, Chicago’s George O’Neil was hired to design the course and soon after the Florida Chain-o-Lakes Country Club opened. Boasting rare tee to green elevations of 85 feet, towering forests, and sparkling spring-fed lakes the course was widely acclaimed as Florida’s finest.
In the mid-1920’s the course was enhanced. However, soon after the stock market crashed, the Great Depression ensued, and one of the worst freezes in Florida history combined to end Howey’s dreams of a citrus empire.
Enter… Nick Beucher
Meanwhile, in 1936, Illinois native Nick Beucher began his sales career with the Morton Salt Company in Chicago’s western suburbs. Beucher was named top salesman of the year four years running, but his career was interrupted when he broke his leg in a local rodeo. After recuperating, he decided to fulfill a lifelong dream of riding across Mexico on horseback. In 1939, at the age of 21, Nick and a friend saddled up and spent 39 days riding nearly 1,400 miles.
Twenty-five years later, Beucher was a husband, father, and successful businessman buying and selling cattle by-products, including meat and hides. In 1964, he saw an ad in the Wall Street Journal and bought what was then known as the Floridan Country Club in Howey-in-the-Hills. Both the course and clubhouse were badly neglected and in need of repairs.