There have been numerous tributes written about Pete Dye since he died earlier this month. I remember the first Pete Dye course I played. It was Harbour Town in Hilton Head. Built with Jack Nicklaus for the Heritage Classic, the first event was won, memorably by Arnold Palmer in 1969. Later, he had built TPC Sawgrass and went swimming with Jerry Pate after his memorable victory in the 1982 Players Championship.
Like many golfers, I never met Pete Dye but it seems like we all knew him. Even if we’d never played one of his creations we aspired to because of the unique challenges his golf courses present. Mr. Dye famously asked on his American Express commercials about why golfers want to punish themselves, and he figured out a way to punish us that kept us coming back for more. Maybe it was the challenge. Maybe it was the chance to play where the pros played. Maybe it was simply to see the visual drama his golf courses all exhibit in a most unique way. Forced carry hazards, railroad ties and undulating greens are just a few of the tricks Pete and his golf course architect wife, Alice cooked up for us. His courses are as visually intimidating as any in the game.
Having had the privilege of appraising several of his layouts over the years, I can say with confidence that his name and skills added to the value of the project. There aren’t many Pete Dye courses that don’t command a premium green or membership fee and outperform their competition when it comes to rounds or membership.
After Arnold Palmer died, Rocco Mediate was quoted as saying that “it seemed like he’d always be around forever”. The same was true of Pete Dye. He kept designing courses into his 90’s and by all accounts still doing great work. It’s hard to believe that there won’t be any more futuristic Pete Dye courses developed and one can only hope that his work will be preserved much as the work of the masters of the Golden Age of golf course architecture. Yes, he punished golfers, but his courses are almost always FUN to play.
The more we watched golf on TV or when privileged to play one of Pete Dye’s layouts, one just figured he’d go on forever, punishing generations of golfers as they (we) gladly paid princely sums for green fees and lost more golf balls than we care to admit. Rest in Peace Mr. Dye. You’ve helped make golf a better game and impacted our culture like few others. You will be around forever, chuckling along with Mrs. Dye at that great grille room in the sky.