Mr. Dye never thought golf was meant to be fair, inspiring him to build courses that intimidated the world’s finest players and led to his induction into the World Golf Hall of Fame.
Among his innovations were the forbidding island green on the 17th hole at TPC Sawgrass, railroad ties stacked on end to give definition to putting surfaces and devilishly difficult bunkers.
“I think Pete Dye was the most creative, imaginative and unconventional golf course designer I have ever been around,” said Jack Nicklaus, who became a golf course designer under Mr. Dye’s influence. “Pete would try things that nobody else would ever think of doing or certainly try to do, and he was successful at it. If there was a problem to solve, you solved it Pete’s way. In the end, Pete’s way usually turned out to be the right way.”
“You can’t mistake a Pete Dye,” said Vijay Singh, who won the 2004 PGA Championship at Mr. Dye’s Whistling Straits course in Wisconsin. “You knew it was his as soon as you played it. He had a different set of rules when he built golf courses and every single one he built was tough.”
Hall of Fame golfer Greg Norman referred to Mr. Dye as the “Picasso of golf architecture” who changed golf-course design in the 20th century.
“While Pete designed to torment the most accomplished professional, his forward tees allowed the most inexperienced to play,” said Herb Kohler, who brought Mr. Dye to Wisconsin to build courses such as Whistling Straits and Blackwolf Run. “He would challenge the professional both physically and mentally, while remarkably accommodating the raw amateur who was learning the game.”
Perhaps Mr. Dye’s best-known design was TPC Sawgrass, where the Stadium Course has held the Players Championship since 1982. It was little more than swampland before the PGA Tour purchased it for $1. Mr. Dye turned it into a course with a distinctively original design.
His wife, Alice Dye, who designed many courses with him and died last February, suggested to him that the short 17th hole at TPC Sawgrass be made into an island green, surrounded as if by a moat and accessible only by a walkway.
The result is a visually striking but frighteningly difficult course that consistently yields entertaining results.
PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan called Mr. Dye “one of the most important course architects of this or any generation.”
Mr. Dye’s courses have held four major championships, and Whistling Straits will be the site of the Ryder Cup this year. The 1991 PGA Championship was held at Crooked Stick in Indianapolis; Whistling Straits hosted the PGA Championship in 2004, 2010 and 2015; and Kiawah Island, which Mr. Dye designed in South Carolina with Nicklaus, was the site of the 2012 PGA Championship, won by Rory McIlroy.
Suzy Whaley, president of the PGA of America, said Dye “left an imprint on the world of golf that will be experienced for generations, painting wonderful pictures with the land that continue to inspire, entertain and challenge us.”
Paul “Pete” Dye Jr. was born Dec. 29, 1925, in Urbana, Ohio. He served in the Army during World War II and later attended Rollins College in Orlando, where he met his wife.
He sold insurance and was a champion amateur golfer before becoming a full-time golf course architect in 1959.
After studying golf course design in Scotland, Mr. Dye came to the realization that “golf is not a fair game, so why build a course fair?”
He changed golf design in the later part of the 20th century by introducing bunkers of all shapes and sizes, railroad ties as architectural features, unmanicured rough and a general orientation to a more strategic approach to the game.
Dozens of PGA Tour and LPGA events have been held on Mr. Dye’s courses. He designed more than 100 courses in North America, the Dominican Republic, Israel and Switzerland. He was named to the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2008.
A list of survivors could not be confirmed.
“If you were going to play well around his places, you couldn’t fake it,” pro golfer Charles Howell III said. “I would ask him, ‘Mr. Dye, why would you put that bunker right there? What were you thinking?’ And he would look at me and said dryly, ‘Just to [tick] you off.’ ”
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