Designed by Robert Trent Jones II, Max A. Mandel Municipal Golf Course opened to rave reviews in 2013. Known as "Max", the course cuts through the sandy terrain on over 270 acres of rugged south Texas landscape with the style and beauty of a ballet folklorico dance. The course leverages the natural gently rolling terrain which is home to two deep arroyos that will come into play on six holes and the Rio Grande River that lines 4 of the holes with a beautiful view of the river and into Mexico. Contributing to the beauty of this course are the 100 year old mesquite trees and other desert flora that litter the landscape and line many of the fairways. Combine the scenic beauty with excellent conditions from tee box to the cup, a layout that is fair but challenging, greens that are near perfect, and reasonable rates plus excellent friendly service, the result is a memorable and fun round of golf.
The Max is owned by the City of Laredo and managed by Landscapes Unlimited who has done a great job since taking over in 2015. Proof of that is evident in the conditions of the Max, the high level of quality service, and the attention to detail. All of which has helped the Max achieve some significant recognition and well deserved awards and accolades, some of which include:
- #15 in Golf.com's list of the Best Courses in Texas
- Best New Courses of 2013" - Golf Digest
- Top 100 Courses You Can Play - Golf Magazine
- Best Municipal Courses in the US - Golfweek
- Listed on Texas Outside's Best of Texas Golf Courses
The Max has 5 sets of tee boxes with yardages ranging from 4769 to 7220 yards. The fairways are wide and forgiving with no surprises and the rough is wide and playable, but the greens can add quite a few extra strokes to your round - spend some time on the putting green and remember that the greens will break toward the Rio Grande River.
Robert Trend Jones sculpted a fantastic layout that offers a little of everything that keeps us coming back for another round - dog legs left and right, risk reward opportunities, some minor ups and downs, trees and arroyos to contend with, and very demanding green complexes. Some of our favorite holes included:
- #4 is fun - a short 315 yard let-er-rip and go for the green par 4 with a carry over a small arroyo off the tee box, a slight dog left along a somewhat tight fairway, and a green with a bunker on the left front and a steep drop off the left side
- #7 requires some precise shots - its a 608 yard par 5 with a fairway that is straight off the tee box, then goes left, and back right around a bunker leading to the green - watch out for the bunker in the middle of the fairway on your approach shot - you might have a great risk reward on your second shot to try to cut the corner
- #10 is a 553 par 5 that requires a decision off the tee box - take the risky shorter route left with trees, mounding, valleys, and bunkers or go right to a wider landing zone but a much longer second shot
- #17 is a 593 par 5 that takes a 90 degree turn right around a lake - a good risk reward opportunity for long hitters to try and carry more the lake to get closer to the pin or for some us to put some golf balls in the lake
- #18 is a beautiful hole - a 426 yard par 4 with a huge wide open landing zone followed by a challenging shot over an arroyo to a green with a front and back bunker - or you can take the right side along a tight fairway lined on the left with huge mounds and swales and valleys - you might also find a lot of hecklers with cold drinks watching your approach from the patio at the clubhouse
Part of the joy of playing the Max are the conditions which are very good from tee to cup. The Max fairways were in excellent condition and I felt guilty taking a divot. The fairways are ample with a wide playable rough (also in perfect condition) and the ball tends to sit on top of the dense grass. Miss the rough and you're lost in the native tall grass and brush.
To score well on the Max you need to know how to read the greens which is not that easy. There is plenty of slope and contour, tiers and ridges, and lots of unexpected subtle breaks. The good news is that the greens are in very good condition (a couple had some weather damage), run smooth, hold the ball well, and ran at a good speed of around 9 or so. The greens at the Max are a variety of shapes and sizes and range from 27 to 42 yards deep. Pin placement can be challenging.
The bunkers range from average size to a couple huge monsters. The sand is good on the front nine but the back need needs some work which is in the planning stages. The faces range from a few inches to very steep which can be troublesome.
Bottom line - one of the best courses in Texas and you need to go out of your way to play the Max - excellent conditions, near perfect greens, a fun layout, top notch service, very affordable rates, and a great clubhouse with a bar and grill with very good food.