RTJ II Previews Under-Construction Course in Laredo

By: Steve Habel

Jones, Jr. at Press Conference
with Laredo Mayor Raul Salinas

It's really big news these days when a new golf course is under the blade in the United States. So when Robert Trent Jones, Jr. previewed his nearly halfway-finished track in Laredo April 12-13 on a bluff overlooking the Rio Grande River in South Texas, the anticipation was nearly off the charts.

The 15th hole as Seen from the Tee

To Jones's credit, the course he and his team have routed in the soft sand and scrub brush is more than a little impressive.

To be called the Max A. Mandel Municipal Golf Course when it opens for earnest play next spring, the track occupies 270 acres just across the Rio Grande from Mexico. The site features two deep arroyos, a variety of mesquite trees and river vega flora, and seven of the holes on the course have been shaped to include vistas of the river below.

The course is being constructed by Landscapes Unlimited and will be managed by Boerne, Texas-based Foresight Golf.

The Rio Grande Below the Future Clubhouse Site

Perhaps the most impressive hole that has already been shaped is the 140-yard par-3 15th, whose green is perched some 60 feet above the river on a natural ledge.

Jones, Jr. lauded Laredo city officials for providing his team with the latitude to let its "imagination roam free across a rare piece of land that exuded the rugged essence of this storied region.

"We have created a golf experience that we hope will be a source of great pride and satisfaction for the public," he added. "We believe the City of Laredo's inaugural public golf course is destined to be regarded as one of the best public golf courses in Texas."

Jones, Jr.'s design firm has designed 273 courses in 44 countries on six continents. The architect's reputation for honoring the cultural, geographical and historical aspects of each project coupled with a sensitive respect for the environment were important aspects that helped the firm gain the commission to build this course.

More than 120 design firms showed early interest in the project, and 30 of the top names in the business were given chances to present course-design ideas to the city of Laredo. The entire project - including roads, clubhouse, golf course and maintenance facilities - has a $6.6 million budget.

"The City expects the Max A. Mandel Municipal Golf Course to put Laredo on the map as a golf destination for tourists and the business community," said Horacio De Leon Jr., Assistant City Manager and project manager for the golf course. "Hopefully, this will be the start for several more courses, which ultimately would position Laredo as the next great golf mecca."

The course is named in honor of one of Laredo's most prominent citizens. The late Max A. Mandel was a successful bank executive whose 45 years of service to the community is legendary. His vision helped put the city of Laredo on a strong economic foundation. The course sits on Mandel's farm, named Las Islitas (Spanish for "little islands"), and the Mandel family donated 390 acres of land, $1 million for the construction of the course and irrigation water rights to Laredo in honor of Max's business acumen, philanthropic spirit and civic legacy.

The par-72 course will feature five sets of tees, with yardages ranging from 7,069 from the tips to 4,897 from the forward tees. A provision has been made for competitive tournament tees to be extended to 7,297 yards, and dedicated "juniors" teeing areas are being incorporated into each hole for family play.

Steve Habel is one of Cybergolf's national correspondents, contributing news stories, features, equipment and book reviews and personality profiles from his base in Central Texas. He is also the managing editor for Texas CEO Magazine and works as a contributing editor for Horns Illustrated magazine, a publication focusing on University of Texas sports. He also writes a blog (www.shotoverthegreen.blogspot.com), which features news on golf and the Longhorns, and another (www.checkinginandplayingthrough.blogspot.com) on his many travels, which took him across the nation and to 105 different golf course in 2009. Habel is a member of the Golf Writers Association of America and the Texas Golf Writers Association.