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Big win for 'Johnny Golfer': Texas A&M unveils new-and-improved Campus Course

Texas A&M
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KUALA LUMPUR, MALAYSIA - OCTOBER 12: General view of the 17th green during day three of the Sime Darby LPGA at Kuala Lumpur Golf & Country Club on October 12, 2013 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. (Photo by Stanley Chou/Getty Images)  - 

COLLEGE STATION, Texas -- For a day at least, the spotlight at Texas A&M wasn't on Johnny Football, aka Johnny Manziel, but on something almost as rare as winning a Heisman Trophy – a new campus golf course.

Last weekend, Texas A&M unveiled its new Campus Course, a par-71, 7,008-yard gem designed by one of its very own, Jeff Blume, a 1989 landscape architecture graduate.

Blume, who is based in the Houston area and worked with Robert von Hagge before opening his own firm in 1997, has quietly built a solid reputation as a designer. He puts this project near the top of his list of accomplishments, not only because his legacy will live on 'hallowed ground,' but because of the quality of the course.

Former Texas A&M and Houston Oiler quarterback Bucky Richardson pretty much spoke for everyone who played it for the first time last weekend when he said, 'The golf course is a huge upgrade in every way. The Campus Course is something we can all be very proud of.'

Indeed it is. It replaces the flat 6,800-yard Ralph Plummer design that had been there since 1952. With very little top soil on the old course, growing grass was problematic. It had seen its day and then some.

So in came Blume and Houston businessman Robert Steele and Sterling Golf, which is a partner with the university on the $5 million course. They didn't cut any corners. In addition to a state of the art irrigation system, the course also got six inches of sand-capping, and it showed. In the little more than a year after the old course was shut down, the new Campus Course at Texas A&M grew in quickly, especially the Mini-Verde greens, which were fast and true, and, of course, a little firm.

As for the rest of it, Blume, who scouted out the classic courses in the Northeast for the project, gave it an early American look. There are 158 bunkers on the course, many of them clustered in the style of Charles B. Macdonald or Donald Ross.

'You don't have very much of that in Texas,' said Blume, whose credits also include the much-heralded Grand Pines at Bentwater in the Houston area as well as Sterling Country Club.

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The project was initially deemed a remodeling job, but even though a few holes seem similar to the old course, it's essentially a brand new routing. More than 200,000 cubic yards of earth were moved, creating slopes and undulation that wasn't there before. The greens are on the large side, and there are number of water hazards, including a stream that runs directly through the course. Best of all, to the west, golfers have the backdrop of the Texas A&M campus, including Kyle Field, where Johnny Football and Co. have been lighting up the scoreboard regularly for the past two years.

At $40-$60 on weekends for outsiders, it's also a good value, while students and faculty will play it for a fraction of that price. In an era where new courses are rare, and on-campus courses are even more so, score one for the Aggies. They got another big victory last weekend.