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The best Pete Dye courses, ranked

January 17, 2024

In 1963, Pete Dye and his wife, Alice, toured the British Isles, studying the architecture of dozens of courses. The trip would become one of the most consequential in the history of golf course design, as when the Dyes returned, they designed Crooked Stick Golf Club in Indiana. “Crooked Stick is where Pete Dye became Pete Dye,” Golf Digest Architecture Editor Derek Duncan writes.

The Dye and Jack Nicklaus collaboration at Harbour Town in Hilton Head Island, S.C., followed a few years later, which gave Dye national attention for his dramatic concoction of deceptive corridors, wood railroad-tie water hazards and tiny greens on a flat piece of land. Dye continued to defy convention throughout his career, forging a bold style of architecture meant to intimidate the player, no more so than at the island green 17th at TPC Sawgrass.

By any measure, Dye is one of the greatest architects in the game’s history. Dye has 14 courses ranked on our latest America’s 100 Greatest and Second 100 Greatest lists, second only to Tom Fazio. His designs have hosted major championships, Ryder Cups and the Players Championship. After his death in 2020, his influence lives on through the numerous designers who worked under him, including Tom Doak, Bill Coore, Bobby Weed and Rod Whitman.

Based on scores from our 1,800 course-ranking panelists, we’ve ranked the best courses designed by Pete Dye. (Note: This is a ranking of U.S. courses only, so the Teeth of the Dog at Casa de Campo does not appear here.) Scroll on for the complete ranking, and be sure to click through to each individual course page for bonus photography and reviews from our course panelists. We also encourage you to leave your own ratings on the courses you’ve played … so you can make your case for why a course should be higher or lower on our rankings.

 

1. Kiawah Island Golf Resort: The Ocean Course
Often considered to be the first course designed for a specific event—the 1991 Ryder Cup—this manufactured linksland-meets-lagoons layout might well be Pete Dye’s most diabolical creation. Every hole is edged by sawgrass, every green has tricky slopes, every bunker merges into bordering sand dunes. Strung along nearly three miles of ocean coast, Dye took his wife’s advice and perched fairways and greens so golfers can actually view the Atlantic surf. That also exposes shots and putts to ever-present and sometimes fierce coastal winds. The Ocean Course will forever be linked with Phil Mickelson and his improbable victory at the 2021 PGA Championship.
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2. Whistling Straits: Straits Course
Pete Dye transformed a dead flat abandoned army air base along a two-mile stretch of Lake Michigan into an imitation Ballybunion at Whistling Straits, peppering his rugged fairways and windswept greens with 1,012 (at last count) bunkers. There are no rakes at Whistling Straits, in keeping with the notion that this is a transplanted Irish links. It has too much rub-of-the-green for the comfort levels of many tour pros, which is what makes it a stern test for top events, such as three PGA Championships, the 2007 U.S. Senior Open and 2021 Ryder Cup.
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3. The Honors Course
Private
3. The Honors Course
Ooltewah, TN
4.7
151 Panelists
Considered radical in the early 1980s because of its acres of tall, native-grass rough, durable Zoysiagrass fairways and terrifying greens perched atop bulkheads of rock, today The Honors Course is considered a well-preserved example of Pete Dye’s death-or-glory architecture. Other than reducing the contours in a couple of greens (particularly the 18th) in the late 1990s, and adjusting the bunkering in 2008, Dye left the course alone for most of his career. Georgia architect Bill Bergin did create a new practice facility at the club in 2015, and Gil Hanse and Jim Wagner touched everything up again in 2022.
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4. TPC Sawgrass: Stadium
Public
4. TPC Sawgrass: Stadium
Ponte Vedra Beach, FL
TPC’s stadium concept was the idea of then-PGA Tour commissioner Deane Beman. The 1980 design was pure Pete Dye, who set out to test the world’s best golfers by mixing demands of distance with target golf. Most greens are ringed by random lumps, bumps and hollows, what Dye calls his "grenade attack architecture." His ultimate target hole is the heart-pounding sink-or-swim island green 17th, which offers no bailout, perhaps unfairly in windy Atlantic coast conditions. The 17th has spawned over a hundred imitation island greens in the past 40 years. To make the layout even more exciting during tournament play, Steve Wenzloff of PGA Tour Design Services recently remodeled several holes, most significantly the 12th, which is now a drivable par 4.
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5. The Golf Club
Private
5. The Golf Club
New Albany, OH
4.5
299 Panelists
The Golf Club, built in 1966, may be the most authentic of Pete Dye’s transition period of design, when he first chose to buck convention and start building lay-of-the-land layouts like those he’d seen during a 1963 tour of Scotland. In doing so, Dye re-introduced deception, misdirection and railroad ties into American golf architecture. Its construction attracted the attention of local boy Jack Nicklaus, who visited several times and made some astute suggestions. That led to a five-year Dye-Nicklaus design partnership. The Golf Club remained untouched for nearly 45 years, until 2014, when Pete Dye returned to rebuild holes, modestly adjusting some of his original green contours to better match them to present-day green speeds. He also relocated the fifth green, adding a contorted putting surface more reminiscent of his later designs, an inconspicuous reminder how much his design pedilictions evolved throughout his career.
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6. Oak Tree National
Private
6. Oak Tree National
Edmond, OK
4.6
116 Panelists
Oak Tree National was originally the men’s-only Oak Tree Golf Club, with 18 holes patterned after previous Dye designs (the par-3 eighth, for example, was a close cousin to his 17th at Harbour Town, complete with a basket trap on the back left). It has long been considered one of Pete Dye’s sternest tests of golf, a hilly layout with numerous water hazards and deep bunkers protecting some very tiny greens, as well as gusting Oklahoma winds and gnarly Bermudagrass rough. It’s been a PGA Tour Champions fixture in recent years, hosting the 2006 Senior PGA Championship and the 2014 Senior U.S. Open. Recent touch-ups by Tripp Davis have kept Dye's architeture sharp.
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7. Pete Dye Golf Club
Private
7. Pete Dye Golf Club
Bridgeport, WV
4.7
158 Panelists
Like No. 33 Pikewood National, Pete Dye Golf Club is a 100 Greatest course built atop a West Virginia mining deposit, but in this case, it’s an active coal mine. (The club’s original name was Coal Ridge.) Evidence of that fact is everywhere, from the strip-mine wall along the par-5 eighth and the black cinder bunkers on the par-4 sixth to the abandoned coal train that curls around the outside of the dogleg on the 10th. There’s even a coal mine shaft you can walk through to reach the seventh tee. Construction took so long that Dye’s style had evolved by the time the full 18 was finally seeded. Early holes sport the railroad-tie motif of Oak Tree National while later holes feature the echo-chamber bunkering of Whistling Straits.
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8. Crooked Stick Golf Club
Private
8. Crooked Stick Golf Club
Carmel, IN
Crooked Stick is the course where Pete Dye became Pete Dye. Conceived following an extended tour of British courses, Pete founded Crooked Stick, located the land, raised the funds and designed the course, rejecting conventional golf holes in favor of radical ones, using bulkheads of vertical telephone poles to create abrupt change and long expanses of sand to emulate dunes. What’s more, he built it himself, pressing even his wife, Alice, and young sons Perry and P.B. into construction work. They opened the back nine first, in 1965, with Mackenzie-style boomerang greens; the front nine came two years later, with lines and angles appropriated from Donald Ross. Crooked Stick was the first Dye course to host a major championship, the 1991 PGA Championship.
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9. Blackwolf Run: River
Public
9. Blackwolf Run: River
Kohler, WI
Only Pete Dye could have convinced owner Herb Kohler to rip apart an award-winning course (Golf Digest’s Best New Public Course of 1988) and still come out a winner. Dye coupled the front nine of that original 18 (now holes 1-4 and 14-18) with nine newer holes built within a vast bend of the Sheboygan River to produce the River Course. It possesses some of Dye’s most exciting holes, from the triple-option reachable par-4 ninth to the boomerang-shaped par-5 11th to the monster par-4 18th, where Kohler surprised Dye by converting a long waste bunker into a temporary lagoon for tournament events. For major events, like the 2012 U.S. Women’s Open, Dye’s original 18 was used. But for survey purposes, Golf Digest evaluates the River 18, which is available for everyday general play.
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10. French Lick Resort: Pete Dye Course
Pete Dye’s mountaintop design, Golf Digest’s 2009 Best New Public winner, established that at age 80 the designer still had fresh ideas, including rumpled chipping swales, country-lane cart paths and volcano bunkers. Measuring just over 8,100 yards from the tips, Pete Dye at French Lick is not the first course over 8,000 yards to land on our rankings. That would be Runaway Brook in Massachusetts, now called the Pines Course at The International Golf Club. It was 8,040 yards when ranked in 1967. Today it’s 8,325 yards. The world’s longest is Jade Dragon Snow Mountain in China at 8,415 yards. The yardage may be a talking point, but what golfers will remember about Dye's French Lick course are the multi-mile views in all direction, the roominess of the fairways and greens that hang out over the edges of the sweeping land formations.
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11. The Dye Course at White Oak

From architecture editor Derek Duncan: The Dye Course at White Oak, our 2022 Best New Private Course winner, is one of the most exclusive golf courses to be built in recent memory. It’s located on the border of Florida and Georgia outside Jacksonville, in almost complete natural isolation. It has no members, no on-site clubhouse (or any other structures on or near the course), and hardly anyone has played it except for personal invitees of owner Mark Walter and several dozen Golf Digest panelists, who visited between October 2021 and September 2022. Walter engaged the late Pete Dye to design the course in 2013, but by the time construction began in 2017, Dye’s health had deteriorated, and he was no longer able to be active in building it. The job of finishing White Oak fell to longtime confidant and veteran course builder Allan MacCurrach, who interpreted Dye’s wishes based on extensive discussions from previous years and his own wealth of experience working with Dye on over 20 projects.

 

You can find our architecture editor's complete review, here.

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12. Harbour Town Golf Links
Public
12. Harbour Town Golf Links
Hilton Head Island, SC
In the late 1960s, Jack Nicklaus landed the design contract for Harbour Town, then turned it over to his new partner, Pete Dye, who was determined to distinguish his work from that of rival Robert Trent Jones. Soon after Harbour Town opened in late November 1969 (with a victory by Arnold Palmer in the Heritage Classic), the course debuted on America’s 100 Greatest as one of the Top 10. It was a total departure for golf at the time. No mounds, no elevated tees, no elevated greens—just low-profile and abrupt change. Tiny greens hung atop railroad ties directly over water hazards. Trees blocked direct shots. Harbour Town gave Pete Dye national attention and put Jack Nicklaus, who made more than 100 inspection trips in collaborating with Dye, in the design business. Pete’s wife, Alice, also contributed, instructing workers on the size and shape of the unique 13th green, a sinister one edged by cypress planks.
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13. Medalist Golf Club
Private
13. Medalist Golf Club
Hobe Sound, FL
Medalist is a long, demanding course that can stretch out to roughly 7,600 yards, a necessary requirement when the membership includes Tiger Woods, Dustin Johnson, Rory McIlroy, Brooks Koepka and many more of the world’s top professional players. They like The Medalist for the relaxed atmosphere and local convenience, but also because it’s a demanding driving course—the holes circle through an undeveloped sanctuary of wetlands and low scrub vegetation one parcel south of McArthur (no. 179) and are buffeted by the strong Atlantic crosswinds from every direction. Pete Dye designed Medalist with co-founder Greg Norman (this was one of Norman’s first U.S. designs) and the course features Dye’s S-shaped holes curling around sand buffers, slinky ground contour, and small, low-profile greens that bleed into short-grass surrounds. The course had undergone numerous modifications and formalizations in the late 1990s and early 2000s, but Bobby Weed reclaimed much of original Dye character during a 2015 renovation.
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14. Long Cove Club
Private
14. Long Cove Club
Hilton Head Island, SC
Long Cove was originally routed by Frank Duane and his then-partner Arnold Palmer in the early 1970s. Then Pete Dye was offered the job, but turned it down in order to concentrate on construction of No. 52 TPC Sawgrass. Once TPC was finished, Dye was persuaded to build Long Cove. Having previously done No. 142 Harbour Town just down the road, Dye wanted to do something different, so he installed knobs and mounds and framing berms, shaped some remarkably large greens and built two holes skirting the Colleton River. His construction crew contained half a dozen youngsters who would ultimately became golf architects, including construction supervisor Bobby Weed, Tom Doak, David Savic, Ron Farris, Scott Pool and Pete’s younger son, P.B. In 2018, Weed, author of No. 107 Olde Farm, was picked to restore Pete’s original design, which had grown shaggy around the edges. Now golfers can again run the ball onto 16 of the 18 greens.
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15. PGA West: Stadium Course
Public
15. PGA West: Stadium Course
La Quinta, CA
Originally private, the Stadium Course (the original 18 at PGA West) was among the rota of courses for the old Bob Hope Desert Classic until some pros, objecting to its difficulty, petitioned to remove it. (It’s now back.) It's Pete Dye at his rambunctious best, with a finish mimicking his later design at TPC Sawgrass: a gambling par-5 16th (called San Andreas Fault), a short par-3 17th to an island green and an intimidating par-4 18th with water all the way to the green. Though hideous in its difficulty and aesthetics by 1980s standards (it was can't miss television when it hosted the 1987 Skins Game), it's matured into a noble piece of architecture that represents the tail end of Dye's extreme middle phase.
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16. Austin Country Club
Private
16. Austin Country Club
Austin, TX
4
56 Panelists
Founded in 1899, Austin Country Club will be forever linked with the legendary teacher, Harvey Penick. Penick’s association with the club spanned 82 years, starting when he was eight years old and working as a caddie at the club’s original Hancock location. He rose to shop assistant and assistant professional before becoming the club’s head professional in 1923, when he was just 18 years old. Over the years, Penick taught and mentored many of the game’s best players, including Kathy Whitworth, Ben Crenshaw, Mickey Wright and Tom Kite, among many others. In 1984, the club moved to its present location on the banks of the Colorado River, just north of downtown Austin. Situated against the backdrop of the Pennybacker Bridge, the Pete Dye design hosted the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play from 2016 to 2023.
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17. Blackwolf Run: Meadow Valleys
Even before Pete Dye completed the River Course at Blackwolf Run, he had taken the front nine of the original Blackwolf Course (Best New Resort winner of 1988) and merged it with a newly-constructed nine to form the Meadows Valley Course. Although the Sheboygan River isn't in play as much on Meadows Valley as it is on the River (the 18th hole plays over it), there are plenty of deep bunkers and tricky pin positions.
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18. Nemacolin: Mystic Rock
Public
18. Nemacolin: Mystic Rock
Farmington, PA
Mystic Rock is one of the more curious courses Pete Dye ever designed, with mostly oval greens and rectangular bunkers. Because many holes were blasted from rock, some holes have fields of boulders in the rough and all water hazards are bulkheaded with stacked stone. The course concludes with Dye's favorite finish, a gambling par-5 16th, a 17th over water (in this case, 205 yards) and a now-strong par-4 18th. Mystic Rock's 18th was rebuilt and lengthened before the course hosted a PGA Tour event, the 84 Lumber Classic from 2003 to 2006.
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19. The Dye Preserve Golf Club
Private
19. The Dye Preserve Golf Club
Jupiter, FL
4.2
148 Panelists
As far as Jupiter-area courses go, The Dye Preserve is a bit off the beaten path, nearly 10 miles inland and west of I-95. The Pete Dye design has many of the late architect’s defining features, including railroad tie-lined water hazards, deep pot bunkers, teardrop mounding and intimidating sightlines. With the tips nearly reaching 7,300 yards and course rating just shy of 76, the course is a stern test. Like many Jupiter courses, PGA Tour and LPGA Tour players are members at The Dye Preserve.
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20. Pete Dye River Course of Virginia Tech
4
49 Panelists
A donation from the Goodwin family in 2003 allowed the financial support to cover a complete redesign by Pete Dye on an existing 18-hole layout along the New River in Radford, Va. The River course earned a fourth-place award from Golf Digest in its Best Remodel rankings of 2006, the highest of any public facility. The course—which is the home to both Virginia Tech and Radford University’s golf teams—has earned the reputation as one of the best collegiate courses in the country.
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