Pete Dye Designed Courses

The 16th at the TPC at Sawgrass
Evan Schiller

Whether you regard Pete Dye as a genius, an iconoclast, or something in between, the simple truth is that no architect has had more influence on golf design in the modern era. With his liberal use of island greens, railroad ties, pot bunkers and heavy mounding, Dye transformed forever the way we look at golf courses. In recent years, Dye has softened his approach a bit. These days, errant shots don’t “DOINK” into serious trouble as often as they did back in his 1980s heyday. Still, it only takes one look at his masterpiece o f the 1990s, the Straits Course at Wisconsin’s Whistling Straits, to know that Pete Dye isn’t done thrilling and exhausting golfers just yet.

This week, the PGA Tour makes what could be its final stop (for reasons having to do with sponsorship, not the golf course) at the Mystic Rock course at Nemacolin Woodlands Resort & Spa in western Pennsylvania. Located 75 miles south of Pittsburgh, this full-service resort pampers its guests with one nicety after the next, with one ego-bruising exception-the Pete Dye-designed Mystic Rock layout. Originally opened in 1995, the course first hosted the Tour in 2003, where it proved no match for the pros, so Nemacolin owner Joe Hardy brought Dye back to lengthen holes, shrink and recontour greens and bring more hazards into play. The result? Only eight players broke 280 in the 2005 event. Jason Gore managed to two-putt the final green from way downtown to claim his first PGA Tour win.

Measuring 7,511 yards from the tips, Nemacolin’s Mystic Rock virtues are best exemplified by the 205-yard, par-3 12th, which features a handsome, rock-framed water hazard that must be carried to reach the putting surface. Another memorable brute is the 468-yard, par-4 closing hole that plays uphill. Make no mistake: there’s trouble lurking everywhere at Mystic Rock, but friendly angles and welcoming bailout areas give the resort golfer plenty of options. You must be a guest of the Nemacolin Woodlands Resort & Spa to play here, but it’s worth the splurge. If you get the urge to wage more battles with the modern master, here’s a “Top 3” of other Tour-worthy, East Coast, public-access Pete Dye designs to try.

    [LIST “TPC Sawgrass (Stadium Course), Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.
    Nowhere else will you experience the full force of Pete Dye’s design skills than at the forerunner of all TPCs. Even with the advances in equipment, the island-green, par-3 17th and boomerang-shaped, par-4 18th remain as scary as the day they opened in 1981. Waste bunkers, huge spectator mounds, semi-blind shots, grass bunkers-they’re all on display here at the home of the PGA Tour’s Players Championship.”]

    [LIST “Bulle Rock, Havre de Grace, Md.“]
    Next to crab cakes, this 1998 Pete Dye design is Maryland’s top attraction for visiting golfers. Home to the McDonald’s LPGA Championship, an LPGA Tour Major, Bulle (pronounced “Bully”) Rock is situated 40 minutes north of Baltimore and gallops over tree-lined, rolling terrain, with holes built on a massive scale. Huge hazards protect wide fairways and ample putting surfaces. Yet, despite golf this big, the emphasis is on course management, not power, which explains the enormous success that Annika Sorenstam enjoys. Bulle Rock closes with one of the Mid-Atlantic’s most memorable holes, a 485-yard par-4 with water down the entire left side.

    [LIST “Ocean Course at Kiawah Island Resort, Kiawah Island, S.C.“]
    Dye had to scramble just to finish this one in time for the 1991 Ryder Cup Match, affectionately known as “The War by the Shore,” but the real winner was the battlefield itself. So tough was this wind-blown, Charleston-area, seaside layout when it first opened that Ray Floyd speculated no one would break 80 if it were hosting a strokeplay event. After a couple of design tweaks, the Ocean has been softened somewhat to make it more playable for regular folks, but just try parring the dune-laden par-5 16th, the over-the-lake, par-3 17th and the adjacent-to-the-ocean, par-4 18th on a windy day and then try and tell me it’s a “soft” golf course.

    Joe Passov is the Architecture and Course Ratings Editor of GOLF MAGAZINE. E-mail him your questions and thoughts at [email protected]