'Hole' Other Course For Campus Fun

July 17, 2002

Any good golfer would be happy with a birdie but understandably annoyed with a squirrel -- just one of the hazards to avoid in "campus golf."
The game, which sprang from the imaginations of Jon Rolph and Nick Martineau, 2001 graduates, is played on an elaborate 18-hole, par-70 course that crisscrosses the Baylor grounds. On any sunny afternoon, you'll find groups of three to eight players on the course swinging away at tennis balls with 5, 6 or 7 irons.
"It's a great game -- definitely addictive," says Casey Smith, a junior communications specialist major who was a campus golf rookie last spring.
Rolph and Martineau, both Phi Kappa Chis, are credited with bringing campus golf to Baylor in summer 1999 after hearing about the game being played on other campuses. They laid out the course, which begins on the Armstrong Browning Library lawn and ends on the steps of Waco Hall. Every "hole" carries a par, and spectators can see tennis balls rebounding off the Judge Baylor statue, hitting the steps of Pat Neff, soaring over the fountain (hopefully) and zigzagging between Sid Richardson and Marrs McLean science buildings. A "hole" is completed when a designated target is hit.
"It's free, it's competitive and it's great to be with your friends," says Rolph, who spent the past year in Washington, D.C., with the National Student Leadership Forum. "Plus, it's the most beautiful course in the world."
New players to the game are invited, and the rules and progression of the course are shared orally, to "preserve the purity of the game," Smith says. "Kind of like Homer and the 'Odyssey,'" chimes in another campus golf rookie, Kevin MacDonald, a junior business major.
This particular course is the purview of the Phi Chis, although there are other groups that play different courses on campus. Each spring, the fraternity holds the Phi Chi Classic, a tournament in which as many as 30 players sign up to try their luck. No trophy or prize is awarded, but bragging rights count for a lot. The first Big 12 campus golf game occurred in fall 2001 at the University of Kansas, with Baylor winning on the 18th hole, Rolph says.
As on any good course, there are hazards. Squirrels, always plentiful at Baylor, like to chase the tennis balls. Passersby, trying to be helpful, pick up the balls and throw them back to the players. Others, not as helpful, hurl the ball as far away as possible -- and the rule is, you have to play the ball where it lands. Dozens of student government election signs sprout up around campus in April, creating a veritable obstacle course. Errant shots cause the occasional car alarm to sound. And then, there's the fountain.
"One of funniest things I ever saw was a guy whose ball landed in the fountain," says Preston Miller, a junior business major. "He's standing in the fountain, the ball's floating on the water, and he's hacking away at it and just getting soaked."
Even on a bad day, Tiger Woods wouldn't have such problems. But, then, this is campus golf, and boys just want to have fun. No one seems to mind. Not the passing students or faculty members who duck their heads at the call of "Fore!" Not the groundskeepers, who have rooted out more than a few tennis balls from the prickly campus hedges. 
And certainly not Judge Baylor, who never could have imagined his stony countenance would be part of a par-4 hole.