Courses have a way of evolving over time. Some change just from the work of nature. Others change as the owners or original designers tweak the design to adjust for how the course is being played. Perhaps some holes are too easy, others too difficult.
The Dye Course at PGA Village originally opened in 2002. In typical Pete Dye fashion, it was wrought with peril. Perhaps too much peril in many cases. There were small, deep, bathtub-size bunkers scattered to and fro. Then there was all the coquina rock. Lots and lots of coquina rock. It was used to frame fairways, guard greens and short-cuts. It was, and still is, not very much fun to hit from.
In 2007, the PGA closed down the Dye Course, and Pete Dye's was brought in to tweak his award-winning masterpiece. I think I've played the Dye course just a few times since it was "massaged", one being in a media event shortly after it was reopened in late 2007.
This weekend I was able to play it again and see just how Pete's tweaks, time, and nature have changed the course in the years since.
The upgrades from seven years ago are still noticeable, especially if you have a firm memory of how the course played before. Many golfers hated to play the old version because it could play too difficult. The changes that Dye made took many of the more penal parts of the course out of play for the higher handicapper. Fortunately, the award-winning track wasn't turned, nor has it evolved into, resort-style golf. Time and care by the PGA staff has kept the course true to the original links-style setup that many came to love ... and for some, hate.
Golfers continue to notice stunning contrast throughout the golf course. The natural colors of the tees, fairways and greens stand out vividly against the brilliant white of the crushed coquina stone. Golfers will be pleased to find that these days the coquina is less intrusive on shots that miss fairways and greens. Thanks to an upgraded irrigation system, the coquina areas are also easier to play from and produce much less dust.
The first changes to the course came on the very first hole. From the back tees golfers play a hole that is 20 yards longer than its original length. Landscaping and shaping of the hole produced an open, bowl effect offering players an immediate view of the beautiful 100-acre "Big Mamu" wetland that the course winds its way around.
In all only 50-yards was added to the course, bringing the distance from the tips to 7,200 very intimidating yards. The 14th hole saw another tee box added changing the playing angle off the tee for some players.
To improve playing conditions, all 18 greens were rebuilt with Champion UltraDwarf grass. Teeing grounds were redone with Paspallum Supreme grass. Over time these have not only held up well, but play firm and fast. I found the greens incredible, even if the undulations drove me nuts.
One of the most noticeable changes is the growth that the 450 trees that were planted in 2007 have seen. They not only provide challenge when you stray from the fairway, but also now provide cooling shade at Pete's Turn, where the ninth and 11th greens, along with the 10th and 12th tees intersect.
The now seven-year-old trees in this busy area help to deflect and absorb much of the noise as several groups pass through on their way to the next hole or as they stop for a quick beverage or snack at the hospitality house.
Over time, many of the sharp edges on the green-side bunkers have gone away. Some of the fairway bunkers have lost their depth, making it much easier to hit more than a wedge from them. Much of the overgrowth along the borders of the holes has been kept trimmed and opened up to allow for better views of the course's natural beauty. Even those pesky palmettos have been thinned and cleaned out making for fewer lost balls and faster play.
Still present is the quirkiness of the course that many have come to love or hate. I happen to think that weird bounces are an integral part of what links golf is all about.
Being a fan of Pete Dye and the Dye Course, I think the time has come for you to become one as well. Contact the PGA Golf Club at (800) 800-GOLF to schedule your round.
James Stammer has been an avid golfer and golf enthusiast for nearly 40 years. He hosts the Thursday Night Golf Show on WSTU 1450-AM. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.