Pete Dye | Top 100 Golf Courses

The Dyes married and brought two sons, Perry Dye and Paul Burke Dye , into the world after moving to Alice’s hometown of Indianapolis in Indiana, where they were both ga…

Pete’s golfing prowess was also rather impressive, captaining the college golf team in his youth before going on to qualify for the US Open in 1957. He won the Indiana State Amateur the following year, took part in The Amateur Championship in 1963 and participated in five US Amateurs.

Alice was a good player who would become a great one (winning nine Indiana Women’s Amateur titles, eleven Indianapolis City Championships and a couple of US Senior Women’s Amateur Championships) and her competitive female perspective certainly played a big part in Pete’s design decisions down the years.

Dye attended the Asheville School in North Carolina with his brother Andy before entering the US Army aged 18, enlisting with the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg. World War II ended while he was still in training, allowing him to relocate to Florida and enrol at Rollins College where he met his wife, Alice Holliday O’Neal , a junior pre-med student.

Three years before Pete was born, Pink designed and built a 6-hole course on sixty acres of farmland belonging to his wife’s family and when he got older, his son Paul (who was known as P.D. which eventually lapsed into Pete) would help out with routine maintenance while he was still a young boy.

Born the son of Paul Francis (“Pink”) and Elizabeth Dye in 1925, Pete more than likely inherited his work ethic from his father who was, at various times, a politician, bar owner, insurance agent and postmaster in his hometown of Urbana in Champaign County, Ohio.

Born the son of Paul Francis (“Pink”) and Elizabeth Dye in 1925, Pete more than likely inherited his work ethic from his father who was, at various times, a politician, bar owner, insurance agent and postmaster in his hometown of Urbana in Champaign County, Ohio.

Three years before Pete was born, Pink designed and built a 6-hole course on sixty acres of farmland belonging to his wife’s family and when he got older, his son Paul (who was known as P.D. which eventually lapsed into Pete) would help out with routine maintenance while he was still a young boy.

Dye attended the Asheville School in North Carolina with his brother Andy before entering the US Army aged 18, enlisting with the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg. World War II ended while he was still in training, allowing him to relocate to Florida and enrol at Rollins College where he met his wife, Alice Holliday O’Neal, a junior pre-med student.

Alice was a good player who would become a great one (winning nine Indiana Women’s Amateur titles, eleven Indianapolis City Championships and a couple of US Senior Women’s Amateur Championships) and her competitive female perspective certainly played a big part in Pete’s design decisions down the years.

Pete’s golfing prowess was also rather impressive, captaining the college golf team in his youth before going on to qualify for the US Open in 1957. He won the Indiana State Amateur the following year, took part in The Amateur Championship in 1963 and participated in five US Amateurs.

The Dyes married and brought two sons, Perry Dye and Paul Burke Dye, into the world after moving to Alice’s hometown of Indianapolis in Indiana, where they were both gainfully employed in insurance – Alice with Connecticut Mutual and Pete as a salesman for his father’s firm, Northwestern Mutual.

Nonetheless, Pete still hankered after a career in the world of golf. As greens committee chairman at the Country Club of Indianapolis, he used the club’s grounds to experiment with the turf, pesticide and fungicide topics that he was studying in classes at the Purdue University School of Agronomy.

In 1963, Alice joined Pete when he played in The Amateur at the St Andrews Old Course (which he termed “a goat ranch” after his first round, incidentally) and they visited more than thirty courses during what turned out to be a very productive study trip – indeed, pot bunkers, wooden bulkheads and diminutive greens would become trademark design features for the Dyes in times to come.

After producing ten courses and revising around a dozen others, the course at Crooked Stick in Carmel, Indiana, was heavily influenced by what the Dyes had seen in Great Britain the previous year. It was this layout that really put them on the golfing map when it opened to critical acclaim.

TPC Sawgrass at Ponte Vedra, Harbour Town on Hilton Head Island (in collaboration with Jack Nicklaus) and The Golf Club in New Albany, Ohio soon followed, with Teeth of the Dog at Casa de Campo in the Dominican Republic attracting much attention on the world stage. Dozens of others have since appeared across thirty seven US states and more than twenty different countries.

Of course, they’re not all Pete Dye designs because sons Perry and P.B. work in the family business, as did his late brother Andy and his children Andy, Matt (also now deceased) and Cynthia.

A number of prominent architects worked for Pete Dye down the years, people like Dan Blankenship, Bill Coore, Brian Curley, Tom Doak, Tim Liddy, Lee Schmidt, Bobby Weed and Rod Whitman, and without a doubt each and every one of them are better at their craft for having worked with the old master.

As one commentator writes: “Pete’s courses will live on for generations, challenging, intriguing, befuddling, exasperating, and delighting golfers long after he himself is gone. But those who’ve known, worked with, and befriended the man throughout his career are quick to point out that Pete Dye is as unique as the course’s he’s produced.”

After a long battle with dementia, Pete died in January 2020 but his golf course legacies will live on. Indeed, the design baton was passed on to the next Dye generations a while before his passing.

Quote:

From Pete Dye in Bury Me In A Pot
Bunker
: “During our initial trip to Scotland,
Alice and I found out that most of the time the designer of the great
Scottish courses was also involved in the building. This reinforced
our feeling that it was difficult for a contractor to take a set of
plans and implement the vision that we had for the details of the
course.

We knew the only way to build the
specific type of greens, fairways, tees and hazards we had in mind
was for us to be intimately involved in the construction of our
courses. That way, we would always have the opportunity to improvise
and change things while shaping was in progress.

The new direction I intended to take
would incorporate many of the design features Alice and I collected
during our exploratory trip to Scotland. Not all would prove
successful, but my new understanding of the use of small greens, wide
fairways, contrasting grass mixes, pot bunkers, railroad ties and
blind holes would affect all our future designs.”


Extracts:

Keith Cutten in The Evolution of Golf Course Design has this to say about the architect: “Pete Dye continued to design golf courses well into his early nineties. His body of work exceeds ninety designs, which represents a smaller output than his contemporaries. Two main reasons account for this anomaly: Dye’s on-site presence throughout the construction of a project; and his passion to personally shape golf course features, utilizing various forms of construction equipment.”

Alice Dye commented as follows in Secrets of the Great Golf Course Architects by Michael Patrick Shiels: “Pete and I were members of the Country Club of Indianapolis and, as greens chairman, Pete finally killed most of the fairway grasses. He decided what he really wanted to do was build golf courses.”

Tom Doak's Little Red Book of Golf Course Architecture: "I owe my whole career to Pete and Alice Dye and their sons, Perry and P.B. They allowed me to watch and learn and they never held anything back. But it's more than that. Pete's enthusiasm for the work of golf course construction is the same example I try to set for everyone around me, and his battle of wits with great players was a master class in design."


Comments:

Jack Nicklaus writes: “What Pete Dye has done for the game of golf is something for which we should all be thankful. He changed the way we think about golf course design, and how design works…Because of the attention that Pete Dye-designed courses have brought to the game, there are lots of people who are now able to make a living at golf course design. Me included.”

Arnold Palmer mentions one of Dye’s early designs: “I’ll always have special memories of Harbour Town, on the southern tip of Hilton Head, where I was fortunate to be the inaugural champion at what was then known as the Heritage Classic… It was one of the most interesting of his designs and one I’ve enjoyed very much… I wish there were more courses like Harbour Town, which has never relied on length as a deterrent to scoring.”

Greg Norman was also fulsome in his praise for Dye’s work: “The most amazing thing I have witnessed about Pete is his ability to create a golf course without a set of plans. He loves to see his courses evolve as the construction progresses, which allows his genius to resonate across the entire property… It’s as if he’s painting a masterpiece without having any directions to follow.”

Bill Coore commented
when Pete passed away in 2020: “He and Alice had made such an
amazing team in life and golf. I would say that Pete Dye was one of
the most influential golf architects in the history of the
profession. Pete was the only golf architect that changed the face of
golf twice, first with Harbour Town, an old-world design with
characteristics totally opposite to contemporary golf architecture
then in vogue. Then, he and Alice redirected golf architecture again
with the creation of TPC Sawgrass, a course that would dictate the
direction and style of golf architecture around the world for the
next two decades. Personally, I can say Pete Dye was one of the most
influential people in my life.”

Forrest Richardson
also paid tribute to Pete after he died: “I remember distinctly
reading an article and seeing pictures of what he did at the Golf
Club in Ohio, and I was mesmerized by what he had done. When I
started playing golf courses, I felt that every hole looked the same,
but when I saw Pete’s work, I realized they didn’t have to be
like that. At Long Cove, for example, you come to a hole and it
doesn’t look anything like the ones that came before it, and that
energizes the golfer.”

Bobby Weed, a former
associate of Pete Dye, had this to say on his demise: “I first met
Pete in the 1970s at Amelia Island Plantation. That was the start of
a 45-year relationship. We built Long Cove together in 1981, and I’ve
been building golf courses ever since. I can hardly approve a feature
without feeling Pete’s influence. How many designers could that be
said about?As much as a legacy as his courses will be, the impact he
had on those fortunate to work with him may be more enduring.”

Bruce Charlton from
Robert Trent Jones II also paid his respects on Pete’s passing:
“Pete inspired us all to think outside the box. He really enjoyed
making the best players in the world struggle. I told him to his face
that I had played holes of his where – in the same hole – I
thought he was an absolute genius and a lunatic! What I admired most
about Pete is that he didn’t really have much of an ego; he was
just as happy working on a golf course in a housing development as he
was on a big tournament site, as long as the client didn’t restrict
his creativity.”

Pete Dye says goodbye


Bibliography:

Bury Me In A Pot Bunker: Golf through the Eyes of the Game’s Most Challenging Course Designer (1994) by Pete Dye with Mark Shaw.

From Birdies to Bunkers: Discover how Golf can bring Love, Humor and Success into your Life (2004) by Alice Dye with Mark Shaw.

Dye Golf Courses: Fifty Years of Visionary Design (2008) by Joel Zuckerman contains appreciations from three of the greatest golfers turned architects who have ever lived.