What's been the key to Pete Dye's success? His wife, Alice
Pete Dye rescued golf-course architecture from the Dark Ages. He ushered visual excitement into the game in the form of tumbling fairways, island greens, bulk-headed hazards, pot bunkers and grassy mounds -- all of which are on display at this week's Tour venue, the Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass.
More important, however, he served up the steak to accompany the sizzle. Borrowing from classic Scottish and early-American designs, Dye reintroduced short par-4s, blind shots, small greens and risk/reward options, which placed a renewed premium on shotmaking and strategy.
In short order, the flattish, repetitive, "championship" layouts that defined post-World War II architecture through the 1970s yielded to character-filled courses that demanded cunning, creativity and patience.
But he had help.
Over time, the truth emerged about how valuable a collaborator Pete's wife, Alice, had been. A superb player in her own right, she championed the proper positioning of forward tees -- both for yardages and angles -- that provided distance-challenged golfers the chance to enjoy a course as much as the scratch player.
It was Alice's idea to raise the fairways at the Ocean Course at Kiawah, just to make the views -- and hence the round -- more memorable. It was also Alice who suggested turning the 17th at TPC Sawgrass into an island-green hole, recalling a similar one she and Pete had played more than 30 years earlier just up the road at the Ponte Vedra Inn & Club. She also convinced Pete to raise the back portion of the 17th green; originally, he had it sloping toward the water.
Not only was Alice active in the designs, but in the Dyes early days, she also performed the drafting duties for Pete, who hadn't yet learned to decipher contour maps.
In 1982, she became the first woman elected to membership in the American Society of Golf Course Architects, and became its first female president in 1997. Two years later, I enjoyed the pleasure of her company during a round at Yeamans Hall Club, a low-key Seth Raynor classic near Charleston, S.C. After only one hole, I was in awe. I'm not sure I had ever met anyone so right-out-of-the-blocks brainy about design, and so straightforward in her pull-no-punches critique, yet so easy to warm to because of her humor and style. No wonder she and Pete have made such a formidable team for more than 60 years.
For any of us who have hit and held a shot at Sawgrass' 17th hole, or peered out at the ocean from Kiawah's fairways, or simply enjoyed our game more because someone in our group played a sensible set of forward tees at a Dye creation, here's a tip of the hat. Thanks, Alice. You're one of a kind.
(Photo: David Walberg/SI)