Pete Dye’s 90th birthday is Dec. 29, 2015. Just back from the Dominican Republic, the family is prepping for a worthy celebration. The World Golf Hall of Famer of 2008 didn’t start building courses until his mid-30s, and yet, he has the most respected and prestigious portfolio of the modern era of architecture (1949—2008). And he did it all from a rental car.

Whistling Straits
Whistling Straits

A few of Dye’s best—Whistling Straits, TPC Sawgrass (Stadium), Kiawah’s Ocean Course, Crooked Stick and Harbour Town—are frequent hosts of Major Championships, Ryder Cups and PGA Tour events. Dye has managed to remain busy and relevant in what is now an era of minimalists, in which the architects who do the least to the ground they’re provided, get hired to do more. The rest are out of work, or they’re being hired to either fix their mistakes, or fix the mistakes of their peers.


Pete and Alice
Pete and Alice

“The key is to do it for a little less than everyone else,” says Dye, who believes “designer” is a curse word. To Dye, that’s an architect who sketches plans on paper, then has someone else do the work for them. Dye is a builder. He wears boots to his “office,” and leaves them on the front step every night, covered in mud. “By being there, it’s better,” says Dye. “And it’s quicker.”

Reflecting on his career at 90, Dye is also quick to offer credit to his wife, Alice, an accomplished golfer—winner of nine Indiana state amateur championships—who has had significant impact on most of Dye’s 90-course portfolio. “She’s not just a good golfer,” says Pete, “she keeps up with all golf and golfers, younger and older. We talk about it a lot.”

TPC Sawgrass
TPC Sawgrass

For a guy who likes to mess with the minds of the professionals, but also claims to cater to his clientele, it has been paramount to Dye’s success that he stays current with the bifurcated trends of the game. It was Dye who foresaw the distance boom of the modern game, and it drastically influenced his style. In order to continue to test the best, which he is often hired to do, by both the PGA Tour and developers chasing tour events and/or majors, Dye stretched the playing surface, and he added more risks while eliminating rewards.

Blackwolf Run
Blackwolf Run

He’s now known for courses with high-degrees of difficulty, island greens, and he likes to finish his routings with a three-hole combination of a par 3, 4 and 5. He’s a master at drainage and is often hired to build courses on land that sits below sea level. “Before I start a course, I get to know the membership or the customer,” says Dye. “You build to suit their needs.”

Harbour Town
Harbour Town

Pete and Alice Dye both say that there’s a distinct difference between the courses they built for resorts, and the courses they built for private memberships. “At a resort,” says Alice, “you’re building a course for someone who will probably only play the course once or twice. It can be more dramatic and less forgiving.” “But a private course,” says Pete, “has a membership that will play the course over and over again. And you build them a course based on the average age and playing level.”

Makes sense. And for Dye, given his 50-year career (and counting), so is renting cars. “I haven’t owned a car in over 40 years,” says Dye. “I’m on the road all the time. We either rent or lease.” Dye suspects he’s National Car Rental’s No. 1 customer. “For whatever reason, I’ve only rented from National. It has always been the most convenient, and they’ve always been available everywhere I went. And they’re usually a little less than everyone else.”  Bobby Weed, a former Dye associate, affirms, “He’d rent National cars for a year at a time. He rented National cars so much he talked about them like a brand of car…as in Chevy or Ford. I’d need to get something out of his car in the parking lot. I’d ask him, ‘What kind of car do you have?’ He’d say, ‘National.'”

Pete and Alice
Pete and Alice

With six projects in the finishing stages, and at least six more on the horizon, including a fifth course at Destination Kohler in Wisconsin, Dye is driving his way into his 90s. Although he does admit, most of his clients now send him a jet to get to and from their developments. “It’s nice.” He laughs, as if he can’t believe his luck. “They come pick me up?!”

When asked if he could imagine building courses until he was 100 years old, Dye laughed again. “It has to end sooner or later. The ones I’m going to start building now will take me at least two or three years. So, that gets me almost there.”


My Top 5 Pete Dye Courses in the U.S. (that you can play)

1 – Whistling Straits – 2004, ’10 and ’15 PGA Championships, ‘07 U.S. Senior Open and ‘20 Ryder Cup.

2 – Kiawah (Ocean) – 1991 Ryder Cup and 2012 and ‘21 PGA Championships.

3 – Harbour Town – RBC Heritage Classic since 1969.

4 – Blackwolf Run (Championship Routing) – 1998 and 2012 U.S. Women’s Open.

5 – TPC Sawgrass (Stadium) – Players Championship since 1982.

My Top 5 Pete Dye Courses in the U.S. (that you can afford)

1 – Peninsula Golf Course, Lancaster, KY.

2 – Rum Pointe Seaside Golf Links, Berlin, MD.

3 – Prestwick Country Club, Myrtle Beach, SC.

4 – Fowler’s Mill Golf Course, Chesterland, OH.

5 – The Fort Golf Course, Indianapolis, IN.

Matt Ginella is a nationally known travel & golf expert. A former senior travel editor for Golf Digest and Golf World, he is continuously exploring courses, resorts and amateur golfer destinations around the world. In addition to writing for, Matt is currently a senior editor for as well as the Golf Channel's resident travel insider.



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