PAUL “PETE” DYE
Renowned golf architect
The following is based on a telephone conversation with Pete Dye by John Godley on January 15, 2007 when Pete was speaking from his home in Delray Beach, Florida.
Pete Dye has been one of the most influential golf course architects of the last 50 years. Ten of his courses are in the current Golf Digest list of the 100 best courses in America (see below). In 2005 he because only the 6th person to receive the PGA Lifetime Achievement Award. Before he attended Rollins College he served in the 82nd Airborne Division during WW II. During the 1950’s he was a leading amateur golfer, finishing ahead of both Palmer and Nicklaus in the ’57 US Open. At age 81 he carries an 8 handicap. This background gives him a unique perspective on many of the leading figures in golf during the last half century, including those who were Yale graduates. In the interview, Pete talks about his brother Roy, Yale Class of 1950, golf team member and golf course designer as well as other Yale friends, Jess Sweetser, Ed Meister, Herb Wind, Mark McCormack, Charlie Fraser, and Herb Kohler.
Brother Roy Dye graduated from the Asheville School and served in the Marine Corp before he entered Yale in 1946. He majored in chemical engineering and worked for Monsanto before he joined Pete in 1970. Roy was a good golfer, [a 3-4 handicap] who played on the Yale team. He did some of his best design work in Mexico and Arizona. Now, 3 of his 8 children are in the course design business. Pete played the Yale golf course once after Roy had graduated, because it had been designed by Seth Raynor, “one of the best in the business”.
Ed Meister was “a really good amateur player” and Pete “knew him well.” He pointed out that Ed had lost to Palmer in the semi-final of the 1954 US Amateur and had been a member of the Walker Cup team. He was also a good businessman “in the fertilizer business in Ohio.”
Pete was also well acquainted with another Walker Cup player and Captain, Jess Sweetser.
Charles Fraser’s father was a logger, who turned the southern part of Hilton Head Island over to him for development. He developed Sea Pines Plantation for which “he was a great salesman”. Pete was called in to design a course that had been “routed by Mr. Cobb before he died”. Jack Nicklaus was hired by Fraser as a consultant, “but was never paid for his services”. The original routing called for the 18th hole to parallel the present 10th hole i.e. 10th tee and 18th green by the clubhouse. But, all the soil from dredging for the marina needed to be disposed of, so Pete used it to create the 17th hole. The 18th is in its present location, along Calibogie Sound with the green next to the marina, because there was so much fill left over. The course, Harbour Town Golf Links, was completed just in time for the first Heritage Classic PGA tournament. Pete was “putting sand in the bunkers on the 18th when the first group to tee off was on the 14th hole on opening day”. Charlie Fraser “knew so little about golf that he was [at the same time] out removing ‘those ugly red and yellow stakes’”.
Herb Kohler “wanted to be an actor, but when his father died he came to run the foundry”. The dormitory across the street was converted into a 5 star hotel, The American Club. When it was decided that they wanted their own golf course, Herb came to Pete when he was working at Oak Tree. Pete couldn’t understand how a town of 1,500 [Kohler, Wisconsin] could support a golf course. He ended by designing 4 courses. Herb knew “zero about golf and they battled continuously”. Now Herb is an ardent golfer and a student of the game. He is “enamored of the game and the people in it”. Herb is “the most competitive man I have ever met. He would rather lose an arm than $20 in a match. He works his handicap so that he doesn’t lose.”
Mark McCormack was a “good amateur player” when Pete first met him in 1964. He was considering becoming a professional. Pete told him to “forget it, you have no chance”. As they say, the rest is history.
Herb Wind was a friend of Pete for more than 40 years. When he built the Teeth of the Dog Course at Casa de Campo in the Dominican Republic, Herb spent 2 weeks with Pete and Alice and then wrote a two-part article for Golf Digest. When they took their first trip to Scotland in 1963, it was Herb who insisted that they go north to Dornock “along a single lane road where sheep had the right of way”. That trip influenced his whole design career.
Ten Courses designed by Pete Dye which rank in the Golf Digest Top 100 U.S. Courses, 2006
- Whistling Straits (Straits), Haven, Wisconsin
- The Honors Course, Ooltewah, Tennessee
- The Ocean Course, Kiawah Island, South Carolina
- The Golf Club, New Albany, Ohio
- Blackwolf Run (River), Kohler, Wisconsin
- Long Cove Club, Hilton Head Island, South Carolina
- Crooked Stick Golf Club, Carmel, Indiana
- Pete Dye Golf Club, Bridgeport, West Virginia
- TPC at Sawgrass (Stadium), Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida
- Harbour Town Golf Links, Hilton Head Island, South Carolina