Playing on The Edge at The MAX
LAREDO, Texas – The Max A. Mandel Municipal Golf Course is situated on 270 acres of South Texas mesquite laden land along the banks of the Rio Grande River. The municipal course named after the late Max A. Mandel, whose family donated the land and helped fund the project, is on The Edge. The Edge of the US – Mexican Border.
It was a project over ten years in the making. Current Assistant City Manager, Horacio De Leon had envisioned the project when he was the city’s Parks Director. De Leon wanted Laredo to build a World-Class golf facility that the residents would be proud of and could afford to play.
After many years of dreaming about the project, everything started to fall into place in 2007. Land was donated, money had been raised with a municipal bond program and new golf course construction in the United States had essentially stopped, and De Leon realized that this was the time to make his dream become a reality.
Recognizing that golf course design and management wasn’t in the city’s repertoire, Foresight Golf was brought in to assist and help the city reach their goal. Today, Landscapes Unlimited is the current operator and course management company running the day to day operations.
After reviewing proposals from twenty-six golf course architects, including one recommended to De Leon on a phone call with former President George H. Bush, Robert Trent Jones II was chosen. According to De Leon, the RTJ II team offered a good plan, a challenging course and a championship course, but also one a novice can enjoy.
The MAX, as it has become known, is a par-72 layout situated along a mile of Rio Grande Riverfront and has four holes (eight, nine, fifteen and sixteen) that play right above the river. With an abundance of risk reward holes and some wide fairways, The MAX, delivers exactly what De Leon and the city wanted, a course enjoyable for players of all abilities.
Following the typical design philosophies of RTJ II, whose courses are known for the playability for the average golfer with sufficient difficulty from the tips to challenge the world’s best players, The MAX has five sets of tees, allowing you to tee it up anywhere from 5,000 yards to nearly 7,300 yards from the tips. The variety of elevation changes and the always-present wind can make this course a challenge from whatever set of tees you play.
RTJ II is confident the course will appeal to a wide range of players. “We have a great variety of holes and elevation changes with some really wide fairways and have given the golfer lots of options. If anything, we’re saying, ‘Let’s have some fun here.’”
Additionally Jones commented, “If you hit a bad shot, you might want to bring a passport. You can hit a driver right across the river.”
The MAX is more than just a golf course, it is giving the people of south-Texas a new opportunity to enjoy the game so many of us take for granted. Before The MAX opened there were only two courses in Laredo, the private Country Club of Laredo and the city’s other municipal course, Casa Blanca. The people of Laredo didn’t have many opportunities to play or learn the game, but now with The MAX all of that is changing.
Head Golf Professional Jorge Flores and his staff offer free clinics, with clubs, to teach anyone who wants to learn the game. After completing the golf school, graduates are then able to have unlimited use of the range for only twenty-five dollars a month (for four months) and still have use of the clubs. With programs like this maybe the reason the course is called The MAX, is because the club is giving The MAX to rejuvenate the game in a region where golf has not been a sport enjoyed by many.
Before and after your round you can enjoy the beautiful 9,000 square foot clubhouse that was opened in August of 2013 by LPGA legend Nancy Lopez. A fully stocked golf shop is available with all the latest in golf equipment (including rental clubs) and fairway fashions to help you hit it further and look good doing it!
For a spectacular golf event, or for some other very special occasion, the second story banquet and conference room of the clubhouse has unparalleled and spectacular views of both the Rio Grande River, Mexico and the Golf Course.
Combine all of that with the great food served up fresh by Chef Gracie Carillo and you’ve got it all in one place.
What I Remember the Most About Playing The MAX
Just a sampling of some of the holes that made the biggest impression on me.
Number 1 (Par 4, 454 yards) – Relax While You Can
A good starting hole, nothing too challenging to get you warmed up for your round. But like I said relax and enjoy it while you can because they all won’t be this easy.
Number 5 (Par 4, 451 yards) – The Windy Green Monster
Better be warmed up by now, because this is the Number 1 Handicap hole on the course with good reason. A blind tee shot up the hill, usually into the wind. Best played over the bunker on the right side to give you a good approach to the green that is tucked into a small tree lined pocket.
Number 8 (Par 4, 462 yards) – The View
This long par 4, requires a strong tee shot over the bunker on the left side to give you the best approach to a green flanked by two deep greenside bunkers. Don’t let the view of the clubhouse or the river distract your shots.
Number 9 (Par 3, 210 yards) – Into The Wind
The front nine closes with a testy long par 3 into the wind. With a green situated on an exposed bluff high above the Rio Grande, tee shots will easily get blown back towards you or the river where they will find their way bouncing down the embankment towards the river.
Number 10 (Par 5, 553 yards) – Up and Over
The back nine opens with a par 5. RTJ II did a good job of keeping everything natural here. Mesquite trees dot the fairway with an enormous arroyo along the left side and protruding through the middle of the fairway. A well placed tee shot past the large Mesquite tree in the middle of the fairway leaves you the best approach. Overly aggressive play will result in second shots coming to rest in a fairway area presenting awkward and uneven lies. This is a challenging hole, but very enjoyable.
The MAX Final Four: It is as much fun as March Madness.
Number 15 (Par 3, 138 yards)– Enjoy it While You Can
Don’t let this short par 3 fool you, it may be short but it plays directly into the wind. The green is directly above the Rio Grande and gives you an incredible view of the river.
Number 16 (Par 4, 422 yards) – Welcome to Mexico
Across the cart path from the teeing grounds at number 16, you get another incredible view of the Rio Grande and the challenge to hit a ball to Mexico. It’s further than it looks but if you can’t resist the challenge, grip it and rip it across the river, you can make it.
Number 17 (par 5, 593 yards) – The Water Hole
The only water on the course (the river is always beside the course). A hard dog-leg right, par 5, that gives you the opportunity to cut the corner and shorten the hole. Let the Big Dog Hunt and Go For It!
Number 18 (Par 4, 426 yards) – The Come Back Hole
A Great finishing hole! You will either play it well and want to come back and do it again or play it poorly and need to come back to do it again. A challenging par 4 with a deep arroyo coming into the fairway from the left side. Don’t get greedy here; even a great drive leaves a long approach over another section of the arroyo and a large bunker protecting the elevated green. Lay-up and you can be Happy, Happy Happy. Bogey is your friend on eighteen!
Awards and Accolades
Golf Digest named The MAX as a “Best New Course of 2013,” and GOLF Magazine named it as the “Best New U.S. Course You Can Play.” The MAX also was listed in 2013 as one of the “Best Municipal Courses in the U.S.” by Golfweek magazine and debuted at #40. There are more than 2,000 municipal golf courses in the nation, but only four other Texas courses made the list. For tee times or additional information about The Max, call (956) 726-2000 or visit www.themaxlaredo.com.