Monday, 27 December 2010

1960-1970 – The Emergence of Pete Dye

The 13th at The Golf Club

This was another great era for the growth of golf where Trent Jones built another 100 courses all over the world. There was a whole new breed of architects that began the next great wave of golf course architecture and almost all were designing the way Trent Jones did. The modern (Trent Jones) school of design was the style that dominated the era almost completely. This was the era of modernization and “progress” where history was ignored for a more modern approach to everything. Maintenance and practicality often took precedence over artistry and aesthetics. Even the architecture in the United Kingdom, walked away from its roots and embraced the new modern American style of golf course. If Tom Simpson were alive, I have often wondered if he would have called this the second dark age.

Only a short rise in front of the green

There was one very fascinating exception to everything that was going on. Pete Dye made a tour of golf courses in Scotland with his wife Alice Dye and came back determined to build course that resembled those great links course and not the courses of Trent Jones. He was the very antithesis of the Trent Jones era doing almost exactly the opposite. He built shorter courses when length was in vogue. He believed in sharp abrupt features like swales and pits and hollows rather than long graceful lines. He built small difficult greens full of wild contour instead of the massive greens of the era. He moved as little dirt as possible, while new course were entirely shaped and cleaned up.
Bunkers unlike any others I have ever seen

He also brought back unusual features like railroad sleepers and pot bunkers. He also wasn’t afraid to use subtle features like a grass slope or long rough as a feature rather than always relying on a bunker. Some of his holes were very tight while others were unusually wide open. He built holes that were nearly impossible, while others offered a breather to the player. If there was one word to describe his style it was variety. This was all a return to much older ideas and sharply away from the modern idea of fairness that was slowly creeping into golf. Dye ran directly against the current trend in golf course architecture, and eventually influenced an overwhelming change in opinion.
The work Dye did at this particular point is some of the most influential on my generation’s architecture. He took us back to our roots, told us that we did not need to move the land, to make the details more intimate, look more closely at the early strategies, forget about length and just design interesting holes, and don’t be afraid to add a sense of humour back into the game.

The massive irony to me is everything he did at this point is an important part of what I believe now – everything that would come later seems like a contradiction to his early ideals.

Two Key Footnotes:

It's also important to mention Jack Nicklaus came over to see what Pete was doing at The Golf Club which lead to their work together at Harbour Town. This is a key moment for golf design since Jack Nicklaus becomes one of the biggest designers in history. This was also the beginning of televised golf tournaments which began to showcase the courses, which eventually brought interest in who was designing these courses. This played a major role in the emmergence of Pete Dye.

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