With a new clubhouse, Max A. Mandel Municipal Golf Course in Laredo really is the Max
LAREDO, Texas -- "Lonesome Dove" novelist Larry McMurtry certainly didn't see this coming, and neither did anyone else 30 years ago. But here it is. Max A. Mandel Municipal Golf Course, one of the finest municipal golf courses in Texas, now has a 9,000-square-foot clubhouse to match.
The Max, as they call it, is a 7,069-yard par 72 that certainly puts Laredo on the golf map. The course now culminates with a new stucco-style clubhouse. The two-story structure is not only spacious, but also features outside balconies on the second floor affording panoramic views of the course and the Rio Grande and Mexico on the other side.
On the day of the re-grand opening that coincided with the ribbon cutting of the new clubhouse, one city official after another proudly recounted how this 10-year project came about. They spoke of what it meant to the community, how because of the course, they could develop young golf talent to compete with big brother San Antonio two hours north, and how this course was one of the finest municipal golf courses ever built.
The mayor was there, and so were media members from both sides of the border. They even brought in Hall of Famer Nancy Lopez, who seemed to adopt Laredo and the golf course much the way Laredo adopted her.
The new Laredo
The new golf course coincides with the new image the city of Laredo is trying to promote. Often maligned because of the troubles on the other side of the border, city officials maintain that Laredo is safe, offering a diverse culture, hundreds of restaurants and hotels, museums and plenty of culture. Visitors may be surprised to know that this major port to Mexico has more than 300,000 people now, and while it seems like it's in the middle of nowhere, it's actually fairly accessible from San Antonio, just 168 miles to the north.
The new golf course is all part of Laredo's evolution from the Old West town featured in McMurtry's novels, which include "The Streets of Laredo." The course is named for Max A. Mandel, a revered businessman who was proud of his city's heritage. Mandel died in 2002 at age 87, but his widow, Roslyn, donated 390 acres from a farm they owned as well as $1 million a few years later to get things started. Mr. Mandel enjoyed frequent walks along the river and often would comment that the site would be perfect for a golf course.
With additional funds from the city, Robert Trent Jones Jr. was hired to design the golf course around the arroyos and mesquite trees, an old gravel quarry, farmland and the Rio Grande. The result is a course that the community has embraced on all levels, especially junior and college golf. Nearby Texas A&M International's golf teams are also calling the Max home. And since the course opened in 2012, sans clubhouse, it has received rave reviews from local and national magazines alike.
Course to the Max
There are five sets of tees at the Max, ranging from 4,759 yards to 7,069 yards. There's also room for additional tees to get another 200 yards out of the course for high-level tournament play. But most of all, the course really is playable for all level of players.
Fairways are generous, for the most part, and the greens are fairly large as well, averaging 6,500 yards.
The course features a great variety of holes, short and long par 4s, short and long par 5s and four unique par 3s that range from 138 yards to 210 yards from the back tees. There are double fairways, a few semi-blind tee shots and several vantage points where you can see the Rio Grande.
The toughest hole is the 451-yard par-4 fifth hole, which features an uphill tee shot through a chute of trees, followed by a risk-reward 315-yard par 4. There's a 600-yard par 5 and a couple of reachable par 5s. And the finishing hole is a long par 4 that plays over a couple of arroyos to a green perched in front of the new clubhouse.
Max A. Mandel Municipal Golf Course: The verdict
At first glance, it might seem the Max is a little too out of the way to play. And while it might not be enough to warrant a trip to Laredo for those who live in different parts of the country, golfers who visit San Antonio or Austin may want to consider the side trip. For outsiders, green fees are in the $40-$60 range (residents pay less) and there are special rates for seniors, juniors and even nine holes.
With 10 acres of practice area, including a grass range, short game area and practice bunker, golfers should make a day of it at the course. There's also home-style cooking in the clubhouse, a large golf shop and plenty of outdoor seating to enjoy the views. While the summers are hot, the fall, winter and spring are ideal times to play the course. Winter is almost non-existent in Laredo, which is along the latitude as south Florida.
Perhaps the course's only shortcoming was the choice of TifDwarf Bermuda on the greens instead of one of the newer ultradwarf bermudas. Undoubtedly chosen for lower initial and maintenance costs, the TifDwarf is certainly adequate, but much grainier than the likes of Mini-Verde, Champion or TifEagle, which might have been more fitting of a course of this quality.
September 9, 2013