Pete Dye, who died January 9th at the age of 94, touched everybody in the world of golf - from pros to amateurs and especially those of us who write about his courses at Golf Advisor. Our staff reflects on their memories of the architecture legend.
Quintessential, modest Dye
The 2004 grand opening of the Eagle Eye Golf Club in Bath, Mich., was quite the party. A few big-shot politicians from nearby Lansing, Michigan's state capital, and Michigan State University's biggest celebrity, basketball coach Tom Izzo, were among the hundreds of people in attendance to celebrate the work of architect Chris Lutzke. Perhaps the most influential person in the large banquet hall had slipped out a side door, however. I found Pete Dye sitting on the patio overlooking the course, petting his dog. It was classic Dye. Friendly and down-to-earth, he wanted none of the credit for Eagle Eye, even though it was a replica hole of his famous "island green" that was the talk of the day's VIP round.
Dye was there to support Lutzke, one of the many talented designers he had mentored in his career, including Bill Coore, Lee Schmidt, Bobby Weed, Tim Liddy, Tom Doak and more.
"Some of mine (course designs) are pretty bad," Dye told me on the patio. "This one is good. It's got a lot of ambiance. It has a great look. This course is good enough for a major championship."
Two of my favorite Dye courses did host majors. Whenever people ask me about my favorite courses - out of 1,000 and counting - I include the Straits course at Whistling Straits, host of three PGA Championships and the upcoming Ryder Cup. It's such a beautiful walk when the sun's out, and plenty playable, despite all those bunkers, as long as the wind isn't up. The Ocean course at Kiawah Island (host of the 2012 and 2021 PGAs) and Teeth of the Dog at Casa de Campo are the two other most memorable Dye routings I've played. Then there's Radrick Farms, a private course in Ann Arbor owned by the University of Michigan. That it was one of his first 18-hole routing speaks to his brilliance. It's a gem, too. - Jason Scott Deegan
A lasting impact
Even though I never had the honor of meeting him, Pete Dye is part of the reason I have a job writing about golf courses.
Back in 2004, Dye was recruited by architecture expert and author Bradley Klein to design a course for the town of Bloomfield, Wintonbury Hills Golf Course. Dye's design fee: a dollar. Klein was under the weather for Opening Day, so he invited a high-schooler whom he'd traded notes with on GolfClubAtlas.com and whom he knew had a keen interest in golf courses. That high schooler was me, and that day began a mentorship in golf and golf writing that continues to this day. Brad recommended me for the job that turned into the one I have here at Golf Advisor. But if Pete Dye hadn't built Wintonbury Hills, I probably wouldn't be typing these words and getting paid for the pleasure.
Living in Florida now, I'm glad to still be close to Dye's work. One of my favorite golf courses to play is the Dye Course at PGA Village, about 30 minutes south of my home. During the summer when green fees are reasonable (often less than $60), I'll head down and gladly pay to play through the varied, engaging layout cut through the swampland not unlike what Dye tackled at TPC Sawgrass. The Dye Course is tough but eminently playable, and a complete examination of one's game. It's a happy place in golf for me. - Tim Gavrich
A master builder and mentor
At the grand opening for the Pete Dye Course at French Lick in 2008, our group was playing the new course in golf carts, while up ahead, the 82-year-old architect was hoofing his brawny new design with a bag slung over his shoulder. At a meet-and-greet, I mentioned I'd heard he'd donated his services to Purdue for a new course and why hadn't he done the same for my Alma Mater's marginal course in Bloomington. "They didn't ask," he simply said.
I'd cross paths with him a couple other times over the next decade - he was onsite at TPC Sawgrass the first time I played the Stadium and he observed from the back tee of the 4th hole as I missed another fairway badly - I didn't hit many that day.
I don't have a problem admitting it at this point: Pete Dye is and will forever be in my head. When you have a reliable two-way miss and a propensity for the risky play, you're not going to shoot your handicap on his courses very often.
So I can't say his design style is my favorite, but I applaud such audaciousness in his portfolio as the 13th hole at Blackwolf Run, a dogleg par-3, so to speak. But ultimately it's his reputation as a builder and mentor that is second to none without question. Developers with less-than-desirable sites for golf would rely on Dye to create something out of nothing, and he'd achieve it again and again. In the case of Dominican Republic's Casa de Campo, he essentially created a new economy. Couple that with the influence he's had on such marquee names as Tom Doak and Bill Coore, who applied their learnings under him into their own distinct styles, and consider the fact virtually every living architect you talk to will reference Pete Dye as a huge influence. Even if a designer doesn't lay out railroad ties and island greens, there is still assuredly Dye staples in their building process.
When athletes die, we're left with memories or highlights of their triumphs in the arena. Golf course architects leave us living and evolving works we can steward and enjoy for generations to come. I particularly enjoy his older stuff, which showed a level of comparative restraint versus to the boom years of both checkbooks and pro-golf distance gains. My Top 3:
- Brandon Tucker