Tranquil Mission Resort + Club offers an abundance of attractions for the resort’s LPGA player ambassador Kiira Riihijärvi
An atmosphere of tranquility, a beautiful location, a wide selection of championship golf and resort amenities, “super-friendly staff,” and the feeling that time is standing still.
These are just some of the reasons why Finnish LPGA Tour professional Kiira Riihijärvi loves to visit central Florida’s Mission Resort + Club, where she has been a player ambassador for the past year.
“I really love coming to this place and I feel like the energy here is very calm,” said Riihijärvi, who will compete on the LPGA Tour this year for a second consecutive season.
“Time moves a little slower here, in a good way. It’s so quiet. The staff is always super-friendly, and I always feel very welcome. If I ever have any needs, people are willing and wanting to help me out, so I really love coming here.”
A luxury destination resort that is just a 35-minute drive northwest of Orlando or an 80-minute drive northeast of Tampa, Mission Resort + Club is home to two championship golf courses, six Har-Tru Green Clay tennis courts, two Laykold all-weather courts, and four pickleball courts, along with beach tennis courts for both singles and doubles.
Nestled among the rolling hills of Lake County, the resort is an MMI Hotel Group property that also offers an abundance of attractions for romantic couples, vacationers, hikers, cyclists, eco-tourists, boaters, and anglers.
“There is so much to do here,” said Riihijärvi, who played collegiate golf at the University of Tampa. “I have played pickleball here. I love all the restaurants, and I have experienced the spa and a massage, which was incredible.
“I usually always have breakfast at La Hacienda, and it’s always good. I like that they have a buffet but also, I can order stuff, so I can get pancakes because I really like pancakes! And I have dinner upstairs at El Conquistador and they have an incredible dish there of Lobster Fingers! They’re really very good. I’ve seen what Mission Resort has to offer and I very much enjoy it.”
Riihijärvi said she was thrilled to get out on the pickleball courts on her most recent visit.
“I played a little bit of tennis when I was younger, but I am not very good at all,” Riihijärvi said with a grin. “Pickleball is much nicer because it is a lot easier! And I can play pickleball! The court is smaller, and you usually play foursomes, so you don’t have to run as much.
“I feel like the difference between a really good pickleball player and a really bad pickleball player is a little bit closer than between a really bad tennis player and a really good tennis player. Pickleball you can kind of pick up a lot quicker than tennis, so I really like it. I haven’t been able to play in Tampa because all the courts there are full all the time, so I very much enjoyed it when I got to play it here.”
Pickleball has been the fastest-growing participatory sport in the United States for the last three years.
Regarding the golfing options at Mission Resort + Club, Riihijärvi could not be happier. The resort is home to two championship golf courses, which are wonderfully complementary.
El Campeón (The Champion) layout, built in 1917 by George O’Neil, is one of the oldest courses in the South with a classic design featuring unusually sharp elevation changes in the typically flat Central Florida terrain. It has hosted multiple high school, college, and state professional tournaments.
In contrast, Las Colinas (The Hills) was created in 1992 by PGA Tour winner Gary Koch, and it lives up to its name with wide fairways rolling over gentle rises. Both courses at Mission Resort + Club feature undulating greens surrounded by tropical vegetation and incorporate large water hazards on many holes.
“I have played them both, but I have played El Campion more times than I have played Las Colinas,” said Riihijärvi. “Las Colinas has always been busy when I have tried to play on it because I think it’s more of a members’ course, and it’s a little more forgiving than El Campeón. I love both courses.
Riihijärvi knows the El Campeón layout especially well.
“It’s a very special course, mainly because of its greens and its elevation changes,” said Riihijärvi. “There are a few really tough greens on holes No. 4, 5, and 6. They have a lot of movement, and you have to be very careful where you place the ball when you are putting. If you are putting downhill, you’ve got to be careful because it can really run away from you!
“The other thing that I really like about El Campeón is that it’s so different, it’s a very memorable golf course, which you don’t get a lot of in Florida. It has elevation and all the holes are different. There’s not a lot of repetition with the holes, and I really like that. Plus, there are a couple of holes that could eat your lunch if you are not prepared! Like No. 17 with its tree.”
The par-five 17th is the course’s signature hole and features a long double dogleg.
“That tree is in a tough spot because you can’t get over it and you can’t get inside of it,” said Riihijärvi. “It’s a very tricky hole, and I don’t think they are ever going to move that tree! But, overall, El Campeón is a fun course. It’s a different course and it’s definitely tough.”