'Pete Dye Golf Courses' by Joel Zuckerman

By: Jeff Shelley


The timing of author Joel Zuckerman's massive four-color biography of Pete Dye is nigh perfect; the man known far and wide for his "Dye-abolical" course designs was inducted into golf's Hall of Fame in November 2008.

Though he was a pretty fair player in his day, Dye, with his new seat in the pantheon of golf, joins a truly elite group. Robert Trent Jones Sr., Alister MacKenzie and Donald Ross, and now Dye, are the Hall's only inductees because of their major contributions to course architecture.

Zuckerman, a contributor to Cybergolf, gives Dye his due in this oversized tome, one that exalts 75 of the courses that the architect and his team, including his wife of 58 years, Alice, have built.

Zuckerman writes with chutzpah, too. This isn't a Dyed-in-the-wool paean to Pete. It's more of a thoughtful, engaging guide to the stories behind the courses: from the developers that hired Dye to the myriad issues facing each project based on site selection and design interpretation. The author takes great care - including interviews of many key participants - to elucidate the myriad steps Dye takes in creating a masterpiece, while recognizing that each new course offers its own special set of challenges.

Over the decades, Dye's designs have unnerved many of the game's top players. In a recent Golf Digest article entitled "Golf's Wisest Man," Jaime Diaz fondly writes: "Because of the ire that has been heaped his way by tour players angry at the diverse challenge Dye has had the impudence to throw before them at courses such as Sawgrass, PGA West and Whistling Straits, the architect at 82 is commonly seen as a mad scientist. Think of a revenge-driven eccentric who, after completing a menacing mosaic of railroad ties, pot bunkers, island greens and fescue, stands back and cries, Frankenstein-like, 'It's alive!' "

Diaz adds: "Dye has funneled all his Zelig-like experience, knowledge, curiosity and energy into the singular ability that makes his courses the best places to measure the true parameters - factoring in constantly advancing equipment - of the modern professional game."

In that same article, Tiger Woods, now a budding golf architect, comments: "The way Pete gets on a property and feels it is pretty impressive. His courses built for tournaments are hard, but there's a good reason behind everything. We've talked for hours. To get his opinion has been invaluable."

Zuckerman writes in the Introduction: "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 courses he's produced. Forever the iconoclast, it's no wonder his resume is chock-full of innovative course designs."

Dye has repeatedly shown an uncanny ability to transmogrify a seemingly benign piece of dirt into a disconcerting arena for golf. Yet the legend had a modest start, owing to his father Paul "Pink" Dye, who talked his wife and Pete's mother Elizabeth into allowing him to convert 60 acres of Ohio farmland into a golf course, Urbana Country Club, in the early 1920s. Lacking the funds to hire a "name" architect, Pink designed and built the nine-hole track himself. So at a very young age, Pete got his hands dirty mowing greens and running sprinklers, literally learning golf course design and maintenance from the ground up.

Such deep roots in a sport is analogous to John Wooden - the great UCLA coach - developing an affinity for basketball as a youngster shooting hoops in his native Indiana; or Pele easily dribbling a frayed soccer ball around the other boys on a dusty lot in Três Corações, Brazil. Such is the aptitude of genius, a label for which Pete Dye unquestionably qualifies.

Just take a look at his portfolio, which originates in the early 1960s and is still expanding. Other than those mentioned above, Dye's courses include: Crooked Stick, Harbour Town, Casa de Campo, Amelia Island Plantation, Oak Tree, Firethorn, the Ocean Course on Kiawah Island, Bulle Rock, and Colleton River Plantation. You don't really need to know where these courses are located because they're so iconic. He's designed and built public, private, resort and ultra-private tracks, leaving his indelible mark across the U.S. and abroad.

In addition to those crafted by Pete and Alice Dye, the book details courses designed by other Dye family members, including sons Perry and P.B., and brother Roy's children, Andy, Matt and Cynthia Dye McGarey. The book pays homage to the folks who learned from the master, a virtual Who's Who of prolific modern architects: Jack Nicklaus, Greg Norman, Bobby Weed, Bill Coore, Tim Liddy, Lee Schmidt, Brian Curley, Tom Doak and John Harbottle, all of whom have forged, thanks to Dye's influence, their own successful careers in a very difficult-to-penetrate field.

The book contains wonderful odes to Dye by Nicklaus, Norman and Arnold Palmer, as well as a thorough index and exceptional photographs throughout.

In sum, Zuckerman has created the definitive guide to all things Pete Dye, one worthy of a prominent place on the coffee table in every golfer's library.

"Pete Dye Golf Courses: Fifty Years of Visionary Design," by Joel Zuckerman, Abrams, 304 pages, $50, ISBN 978-0-8109-7289-6.


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