Pete Dye

29th December 2015

I originally wrote this article to commemorate Pete Dye’s 90th birthday in December 2015.
Pete Dye died on 16th January 2020 aged 94.

Here are 18 things you should know about Pete Dye, one of the most innovative and visionary golf course architects of all time: –

1. Paul (“Pete”) B. Dye Jr. was born on 29th December 1925 in Urbana, Ohio in the United States.  Named after his father he was known as “P.D.”, which became “Pede” before ending up as “Pete”.

2. His father Paul (“Pink”) F. Dye got into golf before Pete was born, building a 9-hole course on 60 acres of family farm land in 1922.  He called it the Urbana Country Club.  As a youngster Pete helped maintain it and played it whenever time allowed.

3. He became a very competent elite amateur golfer playing in both State and National Championships.  He played in five U.S. Amateurs, the 1957 U.S. Open and importantly, given his subsequent career, the British Amateur (see 7. below).

4. After time in the army he studied at Rollins College in Florida.  He met his wife Alice O’Neal here in 1946 and they subsequently married in 1950, moving back to Alice’s home town of Indianapolis in Indiana.  Pete and Alice both started out working in the insurance industry.

5. In the late 1950’s Pete and Alice, who was also a very good amateur golfer, decided to move into golf course architecture as partners. Alice has always stayed in the background but those that know them say her contribution, often just organising Pete, has been significant.  Prior to this Dye had become Greens Committee Chairman at the Country Club of Indianapolis and become very hands on.

Pete Dye and Alice

Alice and Pete Dye in 2009 (© Ken May)

6. Their first official design, the 9-hole El Dorado Club in Indianapolis, was completed in 1961.  It criss-crossed a creek at the heart of the property 13 times !  The Dye’s first 18-hole course was built in 1962 and is now known as Maple Creek Golf & Country Club, also in Indiana.

7. In 1963 Pete, aged 38, qualified for the British Amateur at St. Andrews.  He won his Round 1 (v. R.B. Bayliss, South Staffs, 3&2) and Round 2 (v. D. Marr, Royal & Ancient, 1 hole) matches before losing in Round 3 (v. Dr. FWG Deighton,  Royal & Ancient, 4&3). Alice and he took the opportunity to tour the great Scottish links on this trip, playing and studying around 30 courses.  As a result they started to formulate their own “target golf” design style with wide, undulating fairways, deep pot bunkers (often featuring railway sleepers), small greens and risk / reward par 4’s.

8. Shortly afterwards in 1964 Dye came to national prominence in the United States when, armed with his new knowledge, he started work on Crooked Stick Golf Club in Carmel, Indiana.  John Daly won the 1991 PGA Championship here many years later.

9. On a roll and with golf course development booming he soon added to his collection with, amongst others, the Harbour Town Golf Links on Hilton Head Island (1969), Teeth of the Dog in the Dominican Republic, P.G.A. West in Palm Springs, California, Blackwolf Run in Wisconsin, The Ocean Course on Kiawah Island and Whistling Straits in Wisconsin being most notable.

10. Designed in the early 1980’s his most famous course is unquestionably the Stadium Course at T.P.C. Sawgrass situated near Jacksonville in Florida.  The 17th hole with it’s island green is one of the most distinctive and talked about holes in all of golf.

Pete Dye 17 Sawgrass

17th hole, Stadium Course, T.P.C. Sawgrass (© PGA Tour)

11. Pete Dye does not do contracts.  He does not produce detailed drawings either. It is said he simply walks the land until a course routing and holes come into his head.  In this regard he is very much in the mould of the old architecture greats, like Ross and MacKenzie.

12. To date around 50 United States Golf Association and Professional Golf Association championships have been staged on Dye-designed courses.  You can then add all of the P.G.A. Tour events staged at Harbour Town Golf Links and T.P.C. Sawgrass to fully understand his contribution to the game.

13. He has apprenticed many of the best architects working in the game today.  Bill Coore, Tom Doak, Jack Nicklaus and Greg Norman studied under or worked very closely with Dye to name just four.

14. Pete and Alice’s two boys, Perry and Paul Burke (“P.B.”), also work in the family business.  The sons have now created over 100 courses themselves.  Pete’s brother Roy (“Andy”, who died in 1994) and subsequently his children Andy, Matt and Cynthia Dye McGarey were / are all architects in their own right too.

15. Dye’s biography entitled ‘Bury Me In A Pot Bunker’ (1999) was written in collaboration with Mark Shaw.

Pete Dye Pot Bunker Book

‘Bury Me In A Pot Bunker’ by Pete Dye and Mark Shaw

16. Joel Zuckerman wrote ‘Pete Dye Golf Course – Fifty Years Of Visionary Design’ (2008). This 300 page book runs through the family’s best 75 courses and the story behind these developments.

17. Pete Dye has received many awards during his illustrious career.  The American Society of Golf Architects gave him the Donald Ross Award in 1995.  In 2003 he was awarded the Old Tom Morris Award, the highest honour given by the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America.  In 2004 he received the P.G.A. Distinguished Service Award, the highest honour of the P.G.A. of America.  In 2005 he became just the sixth person to receive the P.G.A. Tour Lifetime Achievement Award.

18. Dye was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in November 2008.  He was the fifth golf course architect to be honoured after Donald Ross (1977), Robert Trent Jones Snr (1987), Alistair MacKenzie (2005) and Charles Blair (C.B.) Macdonald (2007).  Albert (A.W.) Tillinghast (2015) has recently increased this select group to six.


Copyright © 2015, Mark Eley. All rights reserved.

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