The Life and Legacy of Pete Dye
Remembering Pete Dye and His Contribution to Kiawah
It’s difficult to reference Kiawah Island, specifically its famed Ocean Course, without thinking of Pete Dye. Lovers of the game revere Pete for his imaginative, seemingly impossible designs, and Island locals respect him for his contributions to the place we call home. We all, however, will remember his legacy.
For those who don’t know, Pete Dye made quite a name for himself in the world of golf. First-timers and professionals alike know Pete for his ability to create a course that challenged even the most seasoned golfer, yet was welcoming enough to invite the inexperienced players to try their luck. There’s a reason golf enthusiasts refer to Pete’s work as “Dye-abolical”, after all.
Among his most esteemed contributions include Harbour Town, Whistling Straits, TPC Sawgrass, Teeth of the Dog, and Kiawah’s own Ocean Course. While no two are the same, each was designed to test players not only physically, but mentally as well.
Many of his ideas were created alongside his wife, Alice, who passed away last year. If a course didn’t seem complicated enough, you could count on Pete and Alice finding a way to increase its challenge.
Where it all began
Pete wasn’t always involved in the golf industry. In fact, it wasn’t until a trip to Scotland in 1963 that Pete truly began realizing the talent and passion he had for the sport. Small greens, pot bunkers, and billowing fairways all inspired Pete, and thus his designs.
Any golf professional would agree that Pete is the father of modern golf course architecture. Simply put, no one does it quite like him. For decades, Pete poured his heart and soul into every design — especially when it came to the Ocean Course.
The Ocean Course
“The Ocean Course, brutally difficult and beautiful, is indisputably one of Dye’s very best. It’s one of the most thoroughly invigorating psychological and physical battles a player will ever find in this great game.”
In the late 1980s, it was decided that the Ryder Cup would move from the west to the east coast — without an established course to play on. With the clock ticking, Pete and Alice were hired to create a coastal masterpiece that proved a challenge for professionals everywhere. As anyone can guess, they were successful.
In a mere two years time, the Dye’s designed what we know today as the Ocean Course. As with his other designs, the Ocean Course is not for the faint of heart. Between the wind, thought-provoking lines, and lack of bunkers, Kiawah’s course is undeniably one to test your patience. While the front nine may look promising, the back nine, specifically holes 9, 10, 11, 12, and 13, bring a challenge of their own.
Those who have played the course before marvel at its beauty, yet shake their heads at its difficulty. Pete’s sense of pride — and humor — is blatantly evident at the Ocean Course. If you haven’t played, and are up for the challenge, we assure you it’s worth every missing ball.
In Kiawah Island and beyond, Pete Dye’s legacy will undoubtedly carry on. His contribution to the sport, as well as Kiawah Island, will be remembered for decades to come, especially during next year’s PGA Championship.
As professional golfers make their way to the Island’s course once again, we are confident it will be a bittersweet moment for us all. While the world watches players compete for the championship title, we can collectively respect and admire the magnificent 18 holes Pete Dye leaves behind.
We believe Vijah Singh said it best, “You can’t mistake a Pete Dye. You knew it was his as soon as you played it.” We are thankful for Pete’s lasting imprint on Kiawah Island and the world of golf. He is missed, respected, and marveled by many — those of us in Kiawah Island especially.
We dedicate this article to the memory of Pete Dye, 1926 – 2020.
Learn more about Kiawah’s private and resort courses.