In Memory: Pete Dye ’50

Rollins bids farewell to the father of modern golf course design Pete Dye ’50, whose prolific innovations revolutionized the sport of golf.

Photo courtesy Rollins College Archives
Photo courtesy Rollins College Archives

Pete Dye ’50, the “Picasso” of golf course design credited for some of the most iconic holes in the sport, died Thursday, January 9, in the Dominican Republic, home to several of his courses, at the age of 94.

Dye is responsible for more than 100 golf courses around the world, including some of the most athletically challenging and visually stunning. He and his wife, Alice Dye ’48 ’02H—who he met at Rollins and preceded him in death in 2019—are known for their longtime partnership in revolutionizing golf course design.

Golf legends praised Dye’s iconoclasm and humility, even if they cursed the difficulty of his courses when on the green.

“I think Pete Dye was the most creative, imaginative, and unconventional golf course designer I have ever been around,” golf champion Jack Nicklaus told ESPN.

Dye was born in 1925 to Paul and Elizabeth Dye in Urbana, Ohio, and grew up playing golf on a nine-hole course his father built. He won the state’s high school golf championship and placed in an Ohio amateur golf championship.

At age 18, Dye enrolled in the U.S. Army. World War II ended while he was in training to become a paratrooper.

Dye met his wife, Alice, while they attended Rollins in the 1940s, sparking a lifelong partnership that led to what PGA President Suzy Whaley described as “the greatest force in golf design history.” Pete served as captain of Rollins’ men’s golf team, while Alice captained the women’s team.

Rollins’ 1947-48 golf team, including Pete ’50 and Alice Dye ’48 ’02H. Photo courtesy Rollins College Archives.
Rollins’ 1947-48 golf team, including Pete ’50 and Alice Dye ’48 ’02H. Photo courtesy Rollins College Archives.

“The connection that the Dyes have to Rollins is literally the genesis of their lifelong love story,” says Julie Garner, Rollins’ director of golf and the head women’s golf coach. “They met and fell in love here in Winter Park.”

The Dyes married in 1950, settled in Indianapolis, and successfully sold life insurance before setting off to construct golf courses. Their business, Dye Designs, eventually came to be known as the “First Family of Golf.” Its courses now span the country and the globe from Alabama to Wisconsin, Austria to Turkey.

“The reach of Rollins in the golf world is remarkable, and Pete and Alice are a huge part of that,” says Garner. “He will be missed, but his place in the game of golf is secure, as his course designs will withstand the test of time and technology.”

The couple collaborated on courses, including the iconic “Island Green” on number 17 at TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida. Encircled by water and accessed by a narrow bridge of grass, it’s arguably the most famous hole on the PGA Tour.

Dye is credited with creating some of the most challenging courses in all of golf, which are also known for their beauty and whimsy. He used the term “Dye-abolical” to describe the 18th hole, edged by sand dunes and the Lake Michigan shoreline, at his Whistling Straits course in Sheboygan, Wisconsin.

Dye’s courses are also acclaimed for pioneering environmentally friendly features, including reducing the use of water, pesticides, and fertilizers while making use of native plants and stormwater runoff systems.

Coming out ahead of Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus in the 1957 U.S. Open, Dye is among four players from Rollins featured in the World Golf Hall of Fame. Dye received the Rollins Alumni Achievement Award in 1981.

Dye is survived by his sons, Perry and Paul Burke, both golf architects with Dye Designs, along with his niece Cynthia Dye McGarey; two grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.