In memoriam: Pete Dye, architect of award-winning golf course
Pete Dye left his mark on the golf world and Virginia Tech.
A World Golf Hall of Famer, Dye was regarded as one of the game’s great course architects. He is credited with designing more than 130 public and private courses around the globe, including such renowned locations as TPC Sawgrass and Whistling Straits. He is also the artist behind the golf gem nestled between Blacksburg and Radford – the Pete Dye River Course of Virginia Tech.
Dye, 94, died on Jan. 9, Dye Designs, the company he founded, announced, last week.
“We have a world-class golf facility thanks to Pete Dye and Mr. Bill Goodwin and his wife Alice,” said Jay Hardwick, who retired as director of golf operations and head coach of the men’s golf team in 2018 after 36 years at Virginia Tech.
Dye became involved with the redesign of what was then known as The River Course at the behest of his friends, Virginia Tech alumnus Bill Goodwin and his wife, Alice Goodwin, shortly after the course was acquired by the Virginia Tech Foundation in 2002. The Richmond couple provided the financial support needed for the design and construction of the new course arrangement, which was recognized as a Best New Course by Golf Digest in 2006.
“We wanted to provide the Virginia Tech golf teams, the university community, and the region the opportunity to play on a world-class championship course, and bringing in Pete was key to making that happen,” said Bill Goodwin, an avid golfer who graduated with a degree in mechanical engineering in 1962. “You really need to appreciate that Pete was a very nice and honorable person — that makes a big difference. I will never forget working with him on that project where the monthly spend was always over budget but in the end, I received a final bill that perfectly matched the budget. I saw what had happened though — Pete had sacrificed his design fee and used that money on the course build. He was a true artist that puts his art first.”
The Goodwins have a long history of supporting Virginia Tech, including a record-setting $25-million gift that helped build Goodwin Hall. They are charter members of the President’s Circle of the Ut Prosim Society, the university’s most prestigious donor recognition group. In 2005, Bill Goodwin received Virginia Tech’s University Distinguished Achievement Award, one of the university’s highest honors.
Dye was one of the most influential course designers of the modern era. After building a few courses in the Midwest in the early 1960’s, he and his wife, Alice Dye, who died in February 2019, traveled to Scotland and spent a month studying and playing many of the world’s classic layouts. Dye built some of the most transformative golf courses in the world, adapting his designs to incorporate the design features of great Scottish courses.
Hardwick had the honor to be alongside Dye during the River Course project, which took slightly over two years, but was basically— and quite amazingly — designed in a single night after an early visit.
“Pete and his fellow architect, Tim Liddy, said they needed something to draw on. So, they went by the grocery store and got a roll of butcher paper, and when they arrived at the golf course the next morning they’d drawn the entire golf course,” said Hardwick, adding that little from that draft was changed in the final version.
One of those changes came at the request of Dye’s wife, Alice, who was also a renowned golf course architect and first woman president of the American Society of Golf Course Architects. “The forward tee on #7 is a result of her suggestion,” Hardwick said. “The original design made for too much of a forced carry for ladies and Ms. Alice realized that immediately.”
Hardwick said Dye probably made 15-20 visits to the course, always wanting to walk it in its entirety, and oftentimes accompanied by his dog, Sixty.
“At times when I would walk around with him, the dog and I would both lie down and pant, but Mr. Dye would just keep going,” Hardwick said. “I learned so much about golf and golf courses just spending that time watching him work his magic. It was truly an education in its own right for me.”
The finished design featured five sets of tees. The yardage of the course stretches from 5,142 for ladies to 7,665 for tournament play.
Since its formal dedication in 2006, the Goodwins’ investment and Dye’s design have provided Virginia Tech and Southwest Virginia with access to one of the nation’s finest golf course and the Hokies’ golf teams with an elite-level home course. The course hosted the 2011 NCAA Men’s Regional Golf Championship, as well as numerous other major amateur events, and hosted more than 70 Virginia Tech alumni-related, charity, and member events last year alone.
Pete Dye River Course of Virginia Tech is a daily fee public facility and has individual and family memberships are available. The 18 holes stand as a tribute to the man considered a legend and friend in the golf community and at Virginia Tech.
“He was a really amazing guy, such a ‘gentle’ man, as well as a gentleman,” Hardwick said. “Everyone was lucky to have met him.”
— Written by Travis Williams