Pete Dye with Mark Shaw
RATING: Eagle – Birdie – Par – Bogey – Double Bogey
This book was published in 1999. Pete Dye has now passed on but the legacy of the golf courses he built will likely keep him on a shortlist of the greatest golf course designers in the history of the game.
Pete and his wife Alice were both accomplished amateur golfers before deciding to enter the world of golf course design. Alice was the more successful of the two with multiple Indiana State Amateur titles and two U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur championships. As a golf course designer, she became her husband’s most trusted collaborator. Given her contributions to some of their most iconic designs, it seems like she may have not been given the requisite credit for her work. At the time, golf course design was entirely male-dominated and developers often needed a marquee name such as Pete Dyes to arrange bank financing for their projects.
Each of the 18 chapters describes the details surrounding both the inspirations and construction of his most famous creations. These notable courses include Harbour Town Golf Links, Crooked Stick, Oak Tree, The Stadium Course at TPC, Whistling Straits and the Ocean Course at Kiawah.
The subject of golf course architecture can often be quite dry and arcane. This book, however, was written in a concise, entertaining, and clear descriptive manner. Even those without a deep knowledge of golf course design or history will have heard of at least a handful of Dye’s courses. Many of these designs were considered radical and controversial early in their existence. Tour players complained vigorously and even lobbied against their use in certain tournaments.
Pete had his stumbles early on and recounted those failures with relish. He and Alice traveled to Scotland and toured other well-known and established courses to glean what they could. They eventually established some trademarks of the courses they built. Most notably, the use of small greens, equal representation of left to right and right to left shaped holes, a variety of extremely challenging holes along with some holes that provided a “breather” for golfers. He held an initial disdain for forced carries but came around to a belief that they can be used on par 3’s because he knew what distance the shot would be played from and they provide incredible memories for the average golfer. He was also known for reinforcing water hazards and bunkers with railroad ties, which was an idea picked up at Prestwick from his first tour of courses in Scotland.
This book will leave the reader with a greater understanding of what it takes to build a golf course and the choices that a designer must consider given that each unique piece of land presents both significant opportunities and challenges. You will also gain an appreciation for the author/designer’s fearlessness, eccentricities, stubbornness, and great vision.