Wife of TPC Sawgrass architect rips new drivable par-4 apart

We’re used to hearing Pete Dye mentioned as one of the most unique and prominent golf course architects, so it’s easy to forget that he actually designs with his wife of 67 years, Alice Dye. This is a shame, because Alice has some hot takes.

Dye, 91, is suffering from dementia, so Alice does most of the talking these days. Alice, a former amateur champion and the first woman to serve as president of the American Society of Golf Course Architects, is known as the First Lady of Golf Course Architecture.

Whistling Straits, the Ocean Course at Kiawah Island, and Harbour Town are among the pair’s most well known designs. TPC Sawgrass, however, owing to The Players Championship and the instantly recognizable par-3 17th hole, is their most iconic effort.

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Writing for GolfAdvisor.com, Matt Ginella talked with Alice Dye about the redesigned 12th hole at TPC Sawgrass, which we recently saw at The Players Championship. The changes to the par-4 12th represent the most significant renovation to TPC Sawgrass since the course opened in 1980.

The 12th hole used to play as a 360-yard hole. Most players took an iron off the tee, giving themselves 150 to 170 yards into the hole. The powers turned the 12th into a risk-or-reward par 4 that plays between 290 and 320 yards.

As we saw during The Players, few golfers elected to take on the challenge of driving the green, owing to the water hazard left of the putting surface.

“It’s an awkward hole,” Alice Dye said. “It doesn’t fit the course. He OK’d it, but it’s not a Pete Dye design.”

Golf writer extraordinaire Geoff Shackelford disagrees, suggesting that the design both added intrigue to the early part of the back nine and broke up a stretch of monotonous holes.

The Dyes’ objections, however, may be mostly philosophical in nature.

“Pete has never believed in drivable par 4s,” says Alice. “If a player is supposed to reach the green from the tee and you’re always allowed two putts, well, that’s a par 3.”

Alice continued.

“Even for the players who laid up, they were left with an awkward shot to a target that was angled across their body, the pins were hidden and weren’t accessible and the green sloped away from them, towards the water. The players who laid up weren’t able to be on the offensive. Either TV didn’t do a good job of presenting it or the hole didn’t create the excitement or the drama they were hoping for.”

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Shackelford, again, disagreed, writing on his blog that players who laid up had visibility issues and awkward angles and the approach was much more straightforward from closer to the green. He suggests with a few small tweaks, the hole could become a great short par 4.

Here’s the thing: Alice Dye is correct in her criticism, and her words are important. Because, as Shackelford acknowledges, a new hole’s debut rarely works out the way an architect intends. Player feedback and intelligent input from all corners is essential. In this case, there’s room to make the 12th the exciting risk-reward hole the renovation intended.

Hopefully, the Tour will listen to Alice Dye and the wealth of player feedback. And hopefully, we’ll hear more from Ms. Dye, as the husband-wife powerhouse design duo is a unique entity in the world of golf.

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