Geeked on Golf

COURSE WORK AT KAMPEN

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The third edition of this season’s Upping My Dye-Q series takes a look into the multi-dimensional Kampen Course at Purdue University’s Birck Boilermaker Golf Complex

As an alum of the University of Illinois, it is not easy to give praise to Purdue. The simple truth, however, is that the golf geeks in West Lafayette have a facility at their disposal that is tough to beat. The Birck Boilermaker Golf Complex sits within earshot of the football stadium and is home to two Pete Dye golf courses. Each course occupies land with distinct character and each has its own style. Architect and long-time Dye collaborator Tim Liddy served as the project lead on the creation of the Kampen Course, which is not just a fun and challenging test of golf. It is also a classroom for the University’s turf students and a laboratory for some of its environmental sciences majors. Multiple dimensions of thoughtful value-added are the theme here.

Pete’s Par-4s

Although Kampen is strong from start to finish, the brains of the course are contained in its par-4s. They embody Pete Dye’s commitment to strategic golf, while delivering strong variety. Beginning with the two-dimensional view, the four pars vary in length, direction and shape.

On most, but not all, flanking hazards on one side of the fairway give an initial indication of the question posed to players. Is there a reward for flirting with the hazard? The answer is typically in the affirmative, as the greens are set at angles to the fairway. The degree of advantage gained is impacted by the size of the putting surface and composition of the surrounds, which differ from hole to hole. The seemingly straightforward scenario presented by each hole becomes more complex the closer one gets to the green. Dye and Liddy deceive and confuse players to knock them out of their comfort zones.

Baked into the layout of these two-shotters is a nod to old school golf—the switchback. On several holes, ball strikers who are able to work the ball in both directions may steer away from the hazards without sacrificing birdie looks. Rare today is the player who can hit a draw off the tee and then fade an approach into the green, or vice versa. The opportunities are there at Kampen, but only for those possessing the ability to see and hit the shots.

Moving beyond paper and out onto the course adds a third dimension that is visually appealing and, at times, intimidating. The land is adjacent to Celery Bog Nature Area, a large wetland that harbors hundreds of species of wildlife. Liddy and his team drew upon this prairie-to-wetland transition location to deliver an aesthetic that skews toward naturalized by Pete Dye standards. The shaping of bunkers and green surrounds has a sophistication that further enhances Kampen’s beauty, as evidenced in the gallery of four pars below.

Click on any gallery image below to enlarge with captions

The site does have some movement, and it is used to great effect to lend additional complexity to the par-4s. Landing areas and putting surfaces are not always visible, demanding confident selection of lines based on cues from the horizon. On three holes (#1, 12, 15), Dye and Liddy force average length players to choose between the ideal approach angle and visibility by building Alps style mounding to obscure the view from half the fairway. This is a brainy golf course where the designers have presented a game of chess, not checkers. There is no “right” way to play Kampen’s two shotters. Trial and error over time will reveal the best plan of attack for each player.

The Outliers

Although there are consistent strategic themes throughout, two of the four pars stand apart from the bunch, and in doing so, point to yet another dimension of the design. The 7th is a short four featuring fairways that wrap around both sides of a central waste bunker. The horseshoe green has a pronounced central spine that makes being wrong-sided on the approach or recovery a real challenge.

The layout of the 7th serves another purpose beyond confounding players though. “That double fairway was created to allow testing for turf school,” explained Liddy. One interesting example of the many ways that the Purdue Turfgrass Science program uses the facility. Under the direction of Superintendent Jim Scott, students get hands-on experience by maintaining the Birck Boilermaker courses. The environment of learning and experimenting does nothing to diminish the conditions, however. Quite the opposite—these students provide players with stellar surfaces.

The 14th is the only par-4 that employs water as its primary hazard. A wetland runs along the left, allowing players to shorten the hole significantly by cutting across. Long on the approach is the only completely safe bailout but leaves a tricky recovery from a short grass runoff to a gently rippled green.

Here again, there is more than meets the eye with this water hole. The Kampen Course was envisioned and built with scientific study as one of its objectives. Specifically, Zachary Reicher and his team of researchers wanted to know if a golf course with managed wetlands could filter contaminants contained in stormwater runoff from neighboring developments before the water reached the ecologically sensitive Celery Bog. According to Reicher’s report, “Samplers were located to track the progress of water as it enters the east edge of the courses, through the wetland system, and exits the far northwest edge of the course.” Water samples were collected during and after storm events over a period of several years, and the team of scientists concluded, “…created wetlands are improving the quality of water as it moves through the system.” Quite the benefit beyond birdies and bogies.

Kampen proves what can be accomplished when smart people put their heads together with the goal of maximizing the value of land use. Pete Dye, Tim Liddy, and the staff and faculty at Purdue brought to life a course that simultaneously and seamlessly adds value to players, the university and the community at large. Dye’s designs have been renowned for making players’ heads hurt. Trying to comprehend the multi-dimensional complexity of what was achieved at Kampen goes well beyond a headache to a completely blown mind.

Copyright 2019 – Jason Way, GeekedOnGolf

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