The Kampen course at the 36-hole Purdue University Birck Boilermaker Golf Complex was known as the North course when it debuted in 1996.
A Pete Dye design, the Kampen (named in honor of Purdue supporter, Emerson Kampen) is one of the nation’s top collegiate courses, which measures more than 7,400 yards from the tips. It has hosted a number of important tournaments down the years, including the 2004 Indiana Open, won by Purdue University’s Lee Williamson, who now plays on the Web.com Tour.
The facility’s second course, the South, was originally fashioned by Bill Diddel in 1934 and was later renamed Ackerman Hills before undergoing a complete remodel by Pete Dye in 2016 – the new course was re-branded Ackerman-Allen upon reopening.
“Ever grateful, ever true.” Purdue University is a special place to me, one where I spent nearly seven years of my life. The golf courses at Birck Boilermaker Golf Complex played a huge part in that experience. When choosing a college, I unashamedly considered the quality of the institution’s golf course(s), and at that time, Kampen flashy and brand new, and I’ve always loved Pete Dye’s courses, so it was a pretty big selling point. (In addition, I fell immediately in love with its Bill Diddel-designed sister course, Ackerman Hills, which I now list as one of my favorites of all time; I have yet to play its Dye-designed replacement, Ackerman-Allen.) With large, deep bunkers, long grass, and wetlands galore, the Kampen course didn’t look like it belonged in north central Indiana; it belonged on some alien planet.
By the course/slope ratings from the back tees (76.5/146), Kampen is the toughest course I’ve ever played. Even from the 6,000-yard men’s tees, the slope rating is 130! The routing is chock full of 470+ yard par fours, nearly all of which are “Dye template” holes where the optimal approach angle to the greens is provided by playing as close to the troublesome areas as possible off the tees. The troublesome areas are plenty and often mere feet off the edges of the lush bentgrass fairways. Despite this brutality, the rolling landscape and hole routings are varied enough to make for an extremely enjoyable round.
The course begins innocently enough with a medium par four and a short par three adjacent to a pond before sending the player across Lindberg Road for the first time to face one of the nastiest par fours anywhere. The third sets the tone for the rest of the day – it’s a dogleg right around a deep, nasty bunker with a fairway that slopes right-to-left and a huge, mounded green. Playing cautiously, it’s a relatively easy bogey, but a very difficult par no matter how you play it. #4 is the only truly reachable par five on the course (depending on wind direction) from the back tees and it’s frankly awesome; the green sits atop a knob and is surrounded by both bunkers and a collection swale. After another par three and crossing the road, the massive sixth hole awaits. It’s a boomerang-shaped par five around the southern end of the wetland area named the Celery Bog, requiring three good shots to reach the green in regulation. #7 is a very unique hole that I haven’t seen anywhere else: it’s a short par four with a horseshoe-shaped dual fairway and green complex that gives the player the option to play it either as a dogleg left or right around the same trench-shaped bunker. After another medium length par four, the outward nine ends on a brutally long dogleg left par four with a semi-blind tee shot and another enormous green that’s over 50 yards deep.
The back nine begins with a long double-dogleg par five, but the real fun begins when the player crosses the road again to face a stretch of some of the best holes on the course. #11 is a long, straight par four with one of the narrowest driving areas on the course and an approach over a waste area. #12 is yet another massive par four, this one a downhill dogleg right around a 15 foot deep bunker that is probably the most cavernous on the course. #13 is a devilish par three against a man-made pond overlooking the Celery Bog to the left – it’s very easy to bail out long and right from the intimidation factor alone, which can leave a difficult downhill chip shot. #14 plays as a short dogleg left over and around the same pond, with another green fronted by water on three sides. #15 is quite possibly my favorite par four on the course; from the back tees, the player is given the option of laying up short of a massive mound, leading to a blind second, or attempting to drive the ball farther up the hill which provides a much easier second shot. The last three holes finish typically into the prevailing summertime wind: #16 is a beast of a par five, playing downhill to a massively scaled green complex and surrounding hazards, #17 is the classic long Dye par three along a pond with railroad ties, and #18 is another nearly 500-yard par four with a green that’s nearly impossible to hold under the typical firm and fast conditions.
Kampen has rightfully taken its place among the top collegiate courses in the nation; among those I’ve played (Michigan, Virginia Tech, Illinois, Missouri, Maryland, Duke, North Carolina, and Rutgers) it’s arguably the best of the bunch with only Alister Mackenzie’s Ann Arbor, Michigan masterpiece on the same level. It’s hosted many a Big Ten or NCAA Championship, various Indiana Golf Association championships, and the annual Lafayette City Championship. Frankly, it’s one of my favorite Pete Dye designs because it has a little bit of everything: big greens, small greens, flat holes, hilly holes, water hazards, bunkers, rough, and just enough lush fairway grass to keep you coming back for more. It’s an absolute must-play if you’re living or visiting anywhere nearby. With the Ackerman-Allen course onsite now as well, it is quite possibly one of the most underrated golf destinations in the Midwest and certainly the best 36-hole university golf complex in the United States.
Played 121 times between June 16, 1999 and November 1, 2014