Brandon Tucker: River Course at Blackwolf Run
I've played ten Pete Dye courses by my count (plus a few more P.B. designs), and while playing the TPC Sawgrass last year was a real treat, my favorite can be found up in Kohler, Wisconsin.
It's not high-profile Whistling Straits on Lake Michigan, but the River Course at Blackwolf Run. Dye took a gorgeous parkland setting full of hills and a meandering Sheboygan river and the result is a tough test (like all Dyes) but something far more peaceful and relaxing woodland setting compared to the in-your-face Straits. The early holes feature a few marvelous elevated tee shots and even (gasp!) a couple birdie opportunities for mid-handicappers playing from the right tees.
I adore short par 4s, and one of the best in existence is the River's 9th hole. You have three options off the tee: go for broke over river the entire way with a driver to reach the green, lay up just short with a hybrid (which requires a shot over tall trees) - or bail out way left like a wuss with a 7-iron. You can guess which option I was baited into (and failed miserably) but I can't wait for another crack at this gem.
Dye seems to have a pretty regular formula for his closing holes: hang on. Low handicappers may be able to score on the par-5 16th, but it's topsy-turvy fairway, trouble to the left and tree in front of the green dutifully ate me alive. The 18th here is not all that unlike Sawgrass's closer and ensured I was humbled by round's end.
The River was recently redesigned in lieu of this year's U.S. Women's Open, and will in all likelihood even better the next time I make it here.
Mike Bailey: Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass
Any discussion of Pete Dye courses certainly begins with his most famous: The Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass. It's best known for the island green 17th, but there is so much more to this course than the cheek-clinching par 3. Home of the so-called fifth major, The PLAYERS Championship, this beast gives the best field in golf fits.
There was a time when the golf community thumbed its nose at Sawgrass. But for many, ever since 1982 Players champion Jerry Pate took the plunge with Dye and then PGA Tour commissioner Deane Beman, The Players Stadium Course is a modern classic.
By the way, Dye doesn't design courses for every level of player, and this is the perfect example. There's water and forced carries everywhere, and while the high handicapper can enjoy following in the footsteps of the pros, this course was designed to test the best – pure and simple. Most of us can forget about shooting our handicap.
The 17th green was softened somewhat before the 2012 PLAYERS, but that should be of no surprise. This course has been tweaked most every year since it opened in 1981, and in 2007 the course got new greens, subsurface aeration and new grasses.
The 17th is really just part of a great finishing stretch. The 16th is the ultimate risk-reward par 5. The 18th is a monster par 4 with water all down the left, trees to the right and a well-protected green. But really, every hole on this golf course gets your attention. It's never boring, and Dye dictates your shots. Those who challenge him have to be prepared for the consequences, but every once in a while, somebody outsmarts him.
Jason Deegan: Ocean Course at Kiawah Island
The Ocean Course at Kiawah Island is quintessential Pete Dye. It’s bold, beautiful, beastly and just might personify Dye’s devious brand of architecture more than any other course he’s done.
Dramatic theatre introduced the Ocean course to the world at the "War by the Shore" Ryder Cup in 1991. In 2011, Golf Digest ranked the Ocean course No. 1 as the toughest course in America. From one day to the next, there can be an eight-club change in the winds that swirl along the eastern-most shore of the island.
Dye continues to fiddle with the design, much like Donald Ross continually tweaked his beloved Pinehurst No. 2. Minor modifications have prepped it for the 2012 PGA Championship. New back tees can play in excess of 7,500 yards. Both the tee and the green on No. 18 have been repositioned closer to the beach within the past decade to enhance the connection to the Atlantic Ocean. Ten of its holes run seaside. At the suggestion of his wife, Alice, Dye built up the fairways, so ocean views can be enjoyed throughout the round.
Ponds and marshes pinch many of the fairways and green sites, demanding precise golf. Playing the Ocean course is not only an examination of a man’s golf game but his grit, heart and wits. Thankfully, world-class caddies assist with the journey, and pampering awaits back at the resort after post-round drinks in the magnificent clubhouse.