Pete Dye Interview Part 3

JAY FLEMMA: Let’s talk a little bit about PGA Dye Course. What are some of your favorite holes there and why?

PETE DYE: I never look at a golf course like liking the different holes because in my mind, I like the sequence of the play, and how it goes up and down, from long to short to medium, and this and that.

JAY FLEMMA: You mean the routing

PETE DYE: Yeah, the routing. So you look at the whole picture, the routing, the tempo of the golf course, and its playability. In other words, if the other golf courses have three good holes, and the rest seem bad, hell, it doesn’t make any difference what you have. So, I don’t think that the PGA, I don’t think there’s a bad hole out there. In fact, I think the contouring around the greens, it’s as good as I’ve ever seen. It used to be a flat piece of ground. And the greens at Kiawah, I fought ‘em and fought ‘em and fought ‘em and those aren’t too bad either. And also the play up there in Port St. Lucie is still fifteen minutes faster then the other golf courses.

JAY FLEMMA: Why is that?

PETE DYE: Well one of the things is when we built that golf course, I came up with that gravel from the DOT and we threw it down and so they can drive carts all to hell down there. Probably too much and that’s a problem for golf too, but that gets them around fast. And then I kept working on the rough, keep moving it back and keep it so a guy could find his golf ball.

JAY FLEMMA: So a little wider and a little more forgiving generally?

PETE DYE: Well, the fairways are not that forgiving, but when you get outside the fairway, what we’ve done is cut down in the woods so you can find a ball in there and keep going. That’s the main thing. They’ve let that go a little bit but they’re now in the process of trying to get it all cleaned back up, so they can keep people moving around. But that’s fun to build a golf course like that, because it’s a reasonable cost, and just like at Virginia Tech – that’s a reasonable cost, and The Fort is still a reasonable cost, so that’s still okay. Most of them, like Whistling Straits, that goes all out of whack, that’s just crazy.

JAY FLEMMA: You mean price wise?

PETE DYE: Price wise, yeah. Absolutely

JAY FLEMMA: Okay. Lets talk a little bit about Tom Doak.

PETE DYE: I haven’t been out to play any of his courses, but just last night some guys I know told me how much they love Bandon Dunes. And now I hear he put a golf course out there in Palm Springs with greens of five feet elevation change. I couldn’t believe it.

JAY FLEMMA: Tell us about working with Doak.

PETE DYE: Tom Doak started working for me picking up sticks at Long Cove. He was good at that…picking up sticks. And then if I remember correctly, the next time I saw Tom, he was working for my son, Perry and he was learning to run a bulldozer down at River Bend or something like that in Colorado. And I helped Tom get his scholarship over seas is all I can remember. But he worked for me there at Long Cove as a stick picker when we were building it.

JAY FLEMMA: So what can you tell me more about his career as he’s moved on?

PETE DYE: Well he’s done really fine. And he’s got to be a hell of a salesman. He’s done good. That Bandon Dunes or Pacific Dunes is a real success.

JAY FLEMMA: Okay. You once played golf against Dan Maples in a tempest in Bermuda at the ASGCA tournament, do you remember that, playing him in a rainstorm?

PETE DYE: I probably do. Danny’s a good player.

JAY FLEMMA: He said you edged him out in extra holes.

PETE DYE: Danny was a good player, nice guy too.

JAY FLEMMA: Have you played many of his courses?

PETE DYE: I played that Pit course of his in his town, that’s quite a course.

JAY FLEMMA: In what respect?

PETE DYE: Well, you know, once you get in the sand dunes and all that stuff, you just do so many things that you can’t do many other places.

JAY FLEMMA: Like what?

PETE DYE: Well hell, all of the great courses I’ve ever heard of in the world, are built on sand. I mean, I have yet to hit a sand pile on every golf course that I have. A lot of mine are either mud, or rock, or swamp, I have never hit sand. But he did everything you could think of down there. And it looks so much more like a golf course, because it is on the sand. And when it is on sand, it looks like a golf course.

JAY FLEMMA: Does it also play at all like Scotland because the great Scottish and Irish courses are built on sand, at least the seaside ones?

PETE DYE: Yeah, I’d say it does, if I remember correctly. I was really impressed with the course. I don’t remember it that well, it’s been ten or fifteen years ago I played it, but it was a nice golf course.

JAY FLEMMA: What’s the strangest or most frustrating thing you’ve had to deal with as a designer? What gave you the worst migraine?

PETE DYE: I can give you a lot of stories about migraines….Almost everything in the United States has been demolished. You can go out to any swamp, or anything that’s been altered because of an interstate ten miles away, or a canal, or something, it’s all changed. And the thing that I can’t understand in the environmental sector is that you know we can create a better swamp than the swamp that is out there now because the swamps are not pristine. They’ve also been altered by something five miles away or something. And then in most of the forest wooded areas, what they call a wooded swamp, has been cut over so there’s secondary growth in there. So, my problem with permitting is they isolate these small areas where you know you can do a better job. Up at Purdue..I’m very proud of Purdue…it was the biggest environmental test that I’ve put together, every drop of water is monitored on that golf course.

JAY FLEMMA: Really? How come?

PETE DYE: Because I wanted it that way.

JAY FLEMMA: No, I mean why did you want it that way?

PETE DYE: Well we’ve proved now that anything that any kind of construction job we do, we can definitely do a better job of increasing the quality of the water running across the golf course. But the cost of doing that is millions of dollars to monitor all that. No matter what course I build, you’re going to end up with better water than what you started with and it just drives me nuts because we’re better off then the farmers, and better off then the homeowners, everybody. But anytime, whether it’s a private club or a public course, or whatever it is, the image that is created by some of these environmental sections is negative. Every time I go and want to do something, they restrict you, and that’s just very disturbing, because I know we’re doing a better job then anybody else.

JAY FLEMMA: Right, and that’s exactly what Jim Engh ultimately did at Fossil Trace Golf Club. He convinced his enemies at that time that he could build the course and preserve the fossils that he found there, and make it a dual use. He turned around the environmentalists, so now those same people who were against the course thinking it couldn’t preserve the fossils are the ones protecting the fossils every single day on site and they’ve also become good friends. He’s turned that negative into a positive. Have you had some examples like that?

PETE DYE: Well yeah, I think I have a pretty good record with the environmental people because I started recycling golf courses, I don’t know why, I did it accidentally at Old Marsh and the environmental people liked it, and then they were easier on me when I was trying to figure out how to get the golf course drainage recycling.

JAY FLEMMA: And several of your courses are Audobon preserves too?

PETE DYE: I don’t care about those guys, they are just in there for making money.


JAY FLEMMA: Okay. Now you said earlier that The Fort was a very difficult design for you or project to work on how come?

PETE DYE: Well in the first place, you charge them a dollar. In the second place, you have to get a contractor to build it and it was difficult for me was to get an outside contractor. There are contractors you normally do a lot of jobs with, say fifteen years with a guy. Or, perhaps the guy providing the money’s different, you see communication becomes difficult.

JAY FLEMMA: And that translates into not being able to get what you want in the ground done as quickly?

PETE DYE: Well, sure. Some jobs, I could sit here and pick up the phone, and I’d always know what’s going on at all times. Some guys have been with me twenty years or more your communication is much easier, especially when I don’t do a very good job at drawing these sketches for somebody to build something, so it’s verbal.

JAY FLEMMA: Let’s talk some more about your process. Take for example a hole like 14 at Nemacolin Woodlands. Would you sketch out the shaping of the holes, and the positioning of the bunkers? Or would you just do it verbally?

PETE DYE: Well when I built Nemacolin, I was there all the time. I would go up on 14 and maybe I’d take stakes and say put the bunker here, or over here, and they say okay. But what happens with people you don’t work with frequently is I’d come back in one or two days, I just look at it and I say, well, these guys aren’t going to get this done for another week to ten days. So they get it roughed in there and it’s just a pile of dirt, and you come back, and sometimes it looks a lot better then I thought and sometimes it doesn’t and so I’ll say “you got the green too big” or the runoff wrong or, “raise the mound couple feet.” And that’s all I’m saying. But they have no idea what the hell I’m talking about as opposed to guys I worked with for fifteen or twenty years.

JAY FLEMMA: Now, how many projects has Chris worked on for you, or how do I spell his last name correctly, by the way?

PETE DYE: Well it’s L-U-T-Z-K-E.

JAY FLEMMA: L-U-T-Z-K-E. Okay, good.

PETE DYE: And Keith Sparkman. They’ve been with me on…well I don’t know how many courses they’ve worked on. Let’s see, The Ocean Course, Nemacolin, Kohler, [Whistling Straits], Chris went to Kohler every day. He went down to the Dominican Republic twice for me. He, he must have worked on New Orleans, Colleton River. I liked that course. I think it was the best ones I’ve ever built. Nobody’s done that. And then there’s Virginia Tech.

JAY FLEMMA: Now you were speaking about how sandy soil is so important for the bump and run, and it’s so important for the authentic seaside courses in Scotland or Ireland, yet you said you’ve never had an opportunity in all your many years to build on sandy soil.

PETE DYE: Well, I’ve got one coming.

JAY FLEMMA: Which one?

PETE DYE: It’s in New Jersey, if I ever get it done, It’ll be the first one I’ve ever built on sand.

JAY FLEMMA: Why have you not had a chance to design a seaside course in the UK or Ireland yet?

PETE DYE: Oh I don’t know. I wouldn’t go over there.

JAY FLEMMA: How come?

PETE DYE: You know how many times I go to a golf course when I build one? Hundreds! Do you know how many times I’d have to fly back and forth to the UK? That’d be crazy?

JAY FLEMMA: Okay, but you still build in Switzerland and in the Dominican Republic?

PETE DYE: But I lived down there for six years! If you live there for six years, you ought to be able to get something done, you know.

JAY FLEMMA: Fair enough. When you look at a world map, for example, Europe, or a map of South America, people always say all the great sites are gone or close to gone. But there’s coastline in Germany, Poland, Russia, there’s coast lines in Argentina, Chile, Brazil, but why no great coastline golf courses?

PETE DYE: There’ll be some, though. One of these days they’ll show up. But basically the world will see something like that.

JAY FLEMMA: If you were to recommend to my readers, great, inexpensive, public golf courses, some of them can be yours, and some of them of other designers, what would you pick?

PETE DYE: Well there’s so many good public courses in Scotland and Ireland. There are a lot of them that you never hear of. .

JAY FLEMMA: How about here in the US?

PETE DYE: In the United States, I like the Midwest. There’s probably a half a dozen golf courses in Indiana that are good and that are fun to play. People could play those. They can come down and play Purdue, and they go down and play Brickyard Crossing and then they’ll play The Fort then they’ve got other guys golf courses in town and there’s a half a dozen right there in Indiana.

JAY FLEMMA: Like Rock Hollow and The Trophy Club.

PETE DYE: Yeah, there’s those courses and you can go play golf like that and it’s for a reasonable amount of money and I’m sure that there’s other places that I’m not familiar with or forgetting right now, sort of like Indiana’s golf trail. I don’t know what the Jones Trail costs in Alabama.

JAY FLEMMA: It’s about $45, $50 a round.

PETE DYE: Well that’s right I the same ball park as Indiana I’m sure.

JAY FLEMMA: What about Bethpage?

PETE DYE: Where the hell is that, New York?


PETE DYE: I’ve never been there either. But it’s got to be good.

JAY FLEMMA: Brian Silva said that his moment of clarity as a golf course architect was when he saw number five at PGA West Stadium Course. Where the tee shot is draw off the tee, and then it’s a fade into the green. When did the light bulb go on for you? A) When you first decided you wanted to be a golf course architect and B) this is how to build great, strategic design holes?

PETE DYE: Well, I got into the business accidentally. Actually, I was selling life insurance and doing pretty good. I was the youngest life member of THE MILLION DOLLAR ROUND TABLE. I was doing well. And I played a lot of golf. I played five or six national amateurs. I played in the Western Amateur. I won the state amateur. My wife had won everything that had been played in golf, she won the state amateur nine times, the city amateur eleven times, she won the North and South. We just played a lot of golf together. In the meantime, as a kid, I worked on the golf course. Now when I was in the parachute infantry during WWII, and when I returned home to Fort Bragg I became the greenskeeper at Fort Bragg Golf Course. And then when I got out of school, I got to the USGA in their greens section.

JAY FLEMMA: So when you got out of school…

PETE DYE: Yes, out of college. And then I met the chairman of the greens committee of the Country Club of Indianapolis. Meantime, Purdue had short courses to take in agronomy. And I went through all of them and I never passed any of them. But I was more interested in the agronomy of the golf courses more than anything else. But because of that, a guy asked me to build this nine hole course south of town. He called me up to find somebody. He had no money, and no one wanted to work for him, he said, “why don’t you go do it.” So I went down, and I built the first nine USGA greens ever built in this country.

JAY FLEMMA: Really, at which course?

PETE DYE: El Dorado. Now it’s called Royal Oaks.

JAY FLEMMA: And that’s in Indiana?

PETE DYE: Yeah, that was in Indianapolis, so it had the first nine USGA greens and nobody had ever built the USGA greens before, and I had been very interested in promoting the USGA greens. Nobody knew how to do it. So I was always interested in the agronomics of this deal, and then after I built that course, Doctor Harlan Hatcher came down from the University of Michigan. He came down and played that golf course, just those nine holes, and somehow or another called me up and said Trent Jones and Dick Wilson wanted to talk to me about building The University of Michigan Course. I told him I was in the insurance business not the golf course building business. He said, don’t worry, I’ll work that all out. So I went up there, and low and behold, I had built the University of Michigan course. And when I came back, after that, I said “Alice?” She said “What?” I said “why don’t we give this a try, because it’s fun.”

JAY FLEMMA: So you said why don’t “WE” give this try? We…

PETE DYE: Yeah, that’s right. I said we. So “we” did it. And we’ve been doing it ever since. She’s just great. I’ve probably built eighty golf courses in 47 years. The new guys will build four, five, six a year and Nicklaus it might be twenty. But I build a golf course, you gotta understand that. If the labor doesn’t show up tomorrow, I get a phone call, where I have to fly out there and stand out there in the summer heat because the pump house fell down or something!

JAY FLEMMA: Now with all the great contributions that Alice has had, like the 17th green at Sawgrass…

PETE DYE: Alice has gotten really good. She’s got just the greatest experience. She’ll be eighty next month. She played with Byron Nelson, Mickey Wright, Babe Zaharias, she played in an LPGA Championship where Mickey Wright won. Mickey Wright was first, and Alice Dye was second.

JAY FLEMMA: How come Alice hasn’t had a chance to design a golf course on her own?

PETE DYE: She doesn’t want to.

JAY FLEMMA: Why hasn’t she wanted to?

PETE DYE: Well, she knows how I do it, but she’s not a builder. She’d have to draw plans and she’s not going to do that. But see, on a day like today she’s out there playing golf. Some days, she plays with alot of girls that just got off the tour. And then other days, she’s out there playing golf with… in fact she’s doing it today right now…playing with three girls that can’t break 130. So now she’s gone from Ben Hogan to that. But when Alice comes into look at a golf course, I may sit there and listen to her. But why does she want the headache of building it? Here comes Alice, she’s not worried about the labor not showing up, she is not worried about the weather, she isn’t worried about the D10 blowing up, or somebody breaking and blowing up the gas main, or any of those things. She looks at it and she says, “well why aren’t you doing this?” And I roll my eyes and say, “oh my, that’s a good idea,” meanwhile I know what it’s going to cost to get it done, but it’s helpful. So I may build the golf course, but I’ll tell you something. At PGA West, more women played on that golf course then anybody else because Alice would come in and say, “how is Mary White going to play this hole?”

JAY FLEMMA: So perhaps Alice’s greatest contribution is that—

PETE DYE: I’ll tell you something. She thinks that you can’t build a par-3 too severe, because she can just come in after and put in a ladies’ tee someplace so they can play the hole.

JAY FLEMMA: But she still made sure that the 17th green at Sawgrass didn’t slope away.

PETE DYE: (Laughter) She was right.

JAY FLEMMA: Well perhaps Alice’s greatest contribution is that she’s got an eye not only for professional and expert amateurs, but horrible players as well?

PETE DYE: Sure, that’s exactly it. She’s out there today playing for five hours with three girls that can’t break 130. Now there’s another thing. Those women don’t get in trouble right or left.

JAY FLEMMA: They get in trouble short.

PETE DYE: Right.

JAY FLEMMA: How did you meet Alice?

PETE DYE: Well we were in school together.

JAY FLEMMA: Which school?

PETE DYE: Rollins College in Winter Park, Florida. I was 22 and she was a junior at that time.

JAY FLEMMA: Do you remember your first date?

PETE DYE: Well, I played golf with her. I met her on the golf course. And we got married after she got out of school.

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Jay Flemma

There are 2 comments. Add yours

  1. 21st November 2007 | TXSeve says:
    Iits Dan Maples... not Naples who did the Pit in Aberdeen, NC
  2. Pingback: A Walk In The Park » Jazzy Awards - Turkey of the Year - ESPN on steroids November 23, 2007

    […] Occasionally…not often, not often enough, not likely, but occasionally ESPN reports the other side of steroids, usually through Bob Lee on Outside the Lines, but their track record of being behind on the vices of HGH and steroid use is woeful.  I don’t know who the real worldwide leader in sports is, but whoever they are, hope they lead the charge in wanting a clean game, not one where we tolerate cheating.  Hope they lead the charge in promoting the health of teen athletes.  Hope they lead the charge in promoting honesty and responsible science.  Time has shown the LPGA, PGA, MLB, NFL, Cycling and Track and Field and many others are taking the health issue serious enough to soundly condemn the steroid scourge and enact strict testing and fund research for catching HGH cheaters.  As Pete Dye said in my interview here, “Two years or forever” for a ban. […]

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