Photos provided by Ken May
was in full swing in the 1950s.
Alice this month will receive
the Donald Ross Award for design.
Photo provided by Alice Dye
By Brian Biggane
From Harbour Town in Hilton Head, S.C., to Whistling Straits in Wisconsin, to Crooked Stick in Indiana, golf course designers Pete and Alice Dye have built some of the most famous courses in the world. And as residents of Gulf Stream since 1969, they’ve left their mark across coastal Palm Beach County.
Stewart Iglehart, one of the founders of St. Andrews Club, reached out to Pete and Alice to build the club’s par-3 course adjacent to the Intracoastal back in 1972.
“Pete was busy so I took it on,” said Alice, who on May 20 will be presented with the prestigious Donald Ross Award by the American Society of Golf Course Architects in Jupiter. “To call what was there a swamp would be an upgrade.
“Some of the farms out in west Delray were being sold then, so they were taking dirt out and Stewart would buy it and bring it in. One night he called and said, ‘I just can’t bring any more dirt in. That’s all you’re going to have to work with.’
“I said, ‘Stewart, if you don’t bring any more dirt you’re going to have a canoe club.’ So he brought more in, and St. Andrews now is a really nice par-3 golf course.”
While Pete, 91, and Alice, 90, are among the longest-tenured residents of the area, Pete’s visits date to the early 1930s.
“There was a flu epidemic where they lived in Ohio, and when Pete was 6, one of his younger cousins died of the flu,” Alice said. “So Pete’s father put everybody in the car and brought them down, and that’s how his family started coming to Delray Beach.”
Pete and Alice met at Rollins College in Winter Park and were married in 1950. They settled in Indianapolis, where Pete sold insurance, but found themselves returning to Florida time and again so Alice, one of the nation’s top amateur female golfers, could play in tournaments.
“It would be St. Augustine, then The Breakers, Coral Ridge [in Fort Lauderdale] and Miami Country Club,” Alice said. “Pete’s family had a house at Atlantic Avenue and the ocean; A1A would be paved for about a block south of Atlantic and then it would be sand. That was in the ’50s.”
After Pete got into the golf design business, the pair decided Florida made a better home base than Indy.
“Indianapolis had a tiny airport and terrible weather and he could never get home in the winter,” Alice said. “So we bought a house over on Seventh Avenue [in Delray] and would come down in the winter and put our boys [Perry and P.B.] in school, first at St. Vincent’s, the Catholic school, and then Atlantic High.”
Pete and Alice made an instant impression on their neighbors after moving into their current house just north of Gulf Stream Golf Club in 1969.
“The house needed painting and I had seen this house in the Seagate area that was a pale yellow, that I thought was so nice,” Alice said. “The painter did some work with a yellow on a board and I thought it was nice, and Pete and I left to play golf. When we came back, you could see this house … Midas Muffler never had a color this yellow. Needless to say we were not too popular.”
Alice said the demographics of the area have changed markedly since the days when what is now The Little Club was a polo field and families would come down for a month or so in high season.
“The kids needed a school, which led to Gulf Stream School being built, and over time what were a lot of small houses were eventually torn down and bigger ones were built. So the neighborhood has gotten younger, and Gulf Stream has become a wonderful school.”
It was only a few years ago that members at Gulf Stream Golf Club decided their course needed some modernizing and offered the job to Pete Dye — with one significant stipulation.
“They knew Pete’s reputation for building really difficult golf courses, which is what the owners typically have asked for,” Alice said. “This was the opposite: The members wanted Gulf Stream to be easier. So in the beginning they asked him to start with one hole. He said, ‘I can’t bring a crew in here for one hole.’”
When Donald Ross built the course in 1920, he put bunkers 50 yards short of the green, which had become problematic for the average players who struggled to clear them so they could reach the green in two. Additionally, the greens had become severely sloped from back to front over time, so players who purposely went right or left of the bunkers faced approach shots made more difficult by the slopes.
Membership ultimately relented and Dye took on the job, redoing the front nine in the summer of 2013 and the back nine a year later.
The members’ reaction? “They’re all out there now,” Alice said. “You can hardly get on the course.”
Alice’s status as both a top player and designer has helped her become a pioneer for the women’s game. She became the first woman president of the American Society of Golf Course Architects and the first woman to serve as an independent director of the PGA of America.
While Pete has struggled with dementia in recent years, he has continued to work, all the while amazing Alice with his remarkable ability to look at a piece of undeveloped land and see a finished golf course.
“We’ll be standing there looking at a site, and what I see and what he sees are not the same,” she said. “I’m practical, and Pete is really visionary. I can’t imagine moving this much dirt; there’s bushes and stuff in my way. I don’t think he’s ever seen it as not finished. He looks at the brambles and sees it finished. I look at the brambles and think, ‘What are we going to do with those?’”
Those who know the Dyes know they have had a succession of dogs, all named Sixty and all of whom have typically accompanied Pete to every job site. The latest Sixty died at age 13, just before Christmas, and Alice said that “as of right now” there are no plans to find another.
While the Dyes continue to work on a handful of projects, the time for scaling back has finally come.
“We’re not going to take on any more,” Alice said. “We’re going to finish what we’ve got. [Pete’s] still good in the field and he’s very creative, but he’s 91 now, so we’ve come to the end of taking on new work. Our boys have been a really big help.”
Both P.B. and Perry will carry on.
P.B. is a part-time Gulf Stream resident with additional homes in Urbana, Ohio, and the Dominican Republic, while Perry is based in Denver.