Saturday, 25 February 2012

My Conundrom with Pete

courtesy of Paiute Golf Resort

Pete Dye represents one of the great conundrums for me as an architect.
I consider Pete Dye one of the most important architects in history. I happen to think that Pete’s earliest work prior to the TPC was quite clever. I was particularly impressed with my visit to The Golf Club in New Albany where some of his trademark ideas like timber work was a brilliant punctuation to what is largely a subtle and clever piece of architecture.  I think his early work is one of the key influences on the origins of the minimalist movement. In fact I many ways he is the father of the minimalist movement. The fact that he trained many of the key players in this movement also adds to his importance.
Every architect (me included) respects Mr. Dye for his knowledge, skill and audacity. He singlehandedly changed architecture on more than one occasion and is a largely the leading influence of the last thirty years. Because of this most architects hold Pete Dye up as a major influence on their design ideas.

I don’t.
In fact I can honestly say that as much as I respect the man and his abilities (and in the past have studied many of his most significant courses) I have very little interest in seeing his work. I do like a few of the early designs, but once he began to aggressively manipulate his sites he lost me.  I also found that once he got involved with the PGA Tour he became length obsessed and relied very heavily on the intimidation of ponds hard up against fairways and greens. I respect the strategies because there always well thought through, but I can’t appreciate the style for its level of difficulty.
And yet here I am reading “Bury Me in Pot Bunker” for the second time. I’m also off to the Honours Course in Tennessee to see one of his best designs (that I haven't seen).  I know he’s really talented, so it must just be me. I keep coming back to the question what is it I just don't get?


  1. ...any good student of one's profession understands the importance of curiosity, study and open-thought.

    I keep trying to enjoy contemporary (Canadian) architecture by some of our most important designers... ... it remains a struggle, but I keep an open mind (or try to).


  2. In my opinion, unless natural to the site, or otherwise absolutely necessary, there should never be hard surfaces on a golf course. That is but one of several reasons why I disdain
    Dye's work. Indeed, I go out of my way to avoid any of PD's golf courses. A worthy example to the contrary is the sand cart paths at Pinehurst #2. Or the railway ties at the 4th hole at Sandwich where the huge dune on that hole is retained by them. The use of a hard surface in that location is necessary and it is the ONLY place on that links that railway ties are utilized. But to use railway ties solely as a visual feature with no necessity for them is, in my opinion, intentionally changing golf into something akin to pinball, not golf. And doing so is an offense to the anticedents of the game.

  3. Ian, I had a similar debate about Dye on a golf forum recently, where someone used a similar analogy to my own. He sees Dye at the Picasso of architecture, whereas I tend to think of him as Salvador Dali but we're both getting at the same thing: any kind of creative genre will have its wild child and we both see Dye as it in this particular context.

    When he's good, he's very good and when he's bad...well, let's just say that if a rookie architect ignored the adage about a course having to look as though it's been there for ever as often as Dye does, he'd be driven out of town.

    Dye has spent his career testing the frontiers of golf course design. While that's healthy if architecture is to evolve, I suppose it's inevitable that it will produce its share of flops to go with the successes.

    So while I'm just an armchair architect, let me presume to say that I don't think there's anything about him that you don't get. Your ambivalent reaction is probably typical of many, in fact, mine included. We just judge each Dye course on its merits, while mindful of the fact that we'll miss him when he's gone...