It was back in 2010 that then Indiana governor Mitch Daniels triggered the creation of the Pete Dye Golf Trail to stimulate tourism in the Hoosier State.
The following year Joy and I became among the first to play all seven courses on it. Back then I wrote that Dye was the most innovative golf course architect of our time.
Dye died on Thursday at age 94, but nothing has changed in my assessment of his talents. No disrespect to Tom Fazio, Jack Nicklaus, Rees Jones, Robert Trent Jones, Bill Coore-Ben Crenshaw, Tom Doak, Gil Hanse or any of the other celebrated architects of my generation, but I maintain that Dye was the best.
Though he didn’t do much work in Illinois Dye was prominent in Wisconsin (Blackwolf Run, Whistling Straits) and his native Indiana (Crooked Stick). And, one layout that bears his name – The Pete Dye Course at French Lick Resort in the southern part of the Hoosier State – may be the best of his creations.
Harbour Town and TPC Sawgrass, as annual PGA Tour sites, have higher profiles and the Ocean Course at Kiawah in South Carolina has had its share of big events, too. Comparing Dye courses can be a thankless task, but playing them is always a treat.
His only Chicago area creation was Ruffled Feathers in Lemont (done with son P.B. Dye in 1991). Dye’s other Illinois credits are Oakwood, in Coal Valley; Tamarack, in O’Fallon; and Yorktown, in Belleville.
In 2020 the Western Amateur will be played at Crooked Stick, the Ryder Cup at Whistling Straits and the Senior LPGA Championship at French Lick in addition to the The Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass and the RBC Heritage Classic at Harbour Town. Those big events will underscore what a great architect Dye was.
For Joy and I his passing might fittingly trigger a return to the Pete Dye Golf Trail. In our first time around we played five of the seven courses in five consecutive days. We might not try that again, but we won’t forget the enjoyment received while playing Dye-designed layouts.