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Breezy Point

Local Golf
August 17, 2017

Iowa's Only Pete Dye Golf Courses Will Host The Solheim Cup Matches
Pete Dye and Director of Golf Scott Howe in November of 2008 at DMGCC
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Pete Dye and Director of Golf Scott Howe in November of 2008 at DMGCC
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By R.J. Smiley

Pete Dye, the architect who designed the golf courses at Des Moines Golf and Country Club, is a member of the Golf Hall Of Fame. Mr. Dye (as he is respectfully referred to by in-the-know golf people) has ten golf courses in Golf Digest's Top 100. Over the years, golfers have used a million different adjectives to describe Pete Dye and his work. Those adjectives range from brilliant to blessed; from diabolical to crazy. He has three golf courses on the list of the 10 toughest courses in the World.

Neither course at Des Moines Golf and Country Club is in that prestigious Top 100 list. Nor are they on the list of the 10 toughest. However, they are consistently listed among the top 10 golf courses in Iowa.

Dating back to 1897, Des Moines Golf and Country Club is one of the oldest country clubs west of the Mississippi. It was the host course of the first Iowa Golf Association tournament. It was the first Iowa golf club to host a USGA Senior Open. In August it will be the first Iowa golf course to host the Solheim Cup.

The physical location of the golf club changed three times before the members purchased the 475 acres site where the club is located today. The new location was situated adjacent to the new east/west freeway (I-80) just to the west of Des Moines. The membership had a grand vision of two championship 18-hole golf courses plus additional amenities. When the committee selected Pete Dye, a new kid in the design business, to design the golf courses at DMGCC, no one had a clue that he would raise to the summit in golf course design.

After the Des Moines project Mr. Dye's next project was Harbour Town Golf Links on Hilton Head Island, SC. All golfers instantly recognize the golf course with the big red and white lighthouse behind the 18th green. Pete said, "When Jack Nicklaus associated with me to build Harbour Town, it was a tremendous boost to my fledgling career."

Dye was the mastermind of TPC Sawgrass (Player's Club) with its island green. "Every time you build a golf course, it's not a golf course when you get there. You have to improvise," Dye said. "The island green at the 17th made me realize that we had created a hole that was planted in the player's mind from the very first tee."

When he worked on DMGCC, Dye had not become the radical Dr Jekyll designer that builds golf courses that bring the World's best to their knees. He had not developed his design signature of railroad ties and pot bunkers. "I first used railroad ties on the short par four 13th hole at The Golf Club," Dye said of The Golf Club in Columbus, Ohio.

At DMGCC, Mr. Dye designed two wonderful golf courses that flow with the existing farmland terrain. Fifty years later these mature golf courses display what Pete Dye's mind saw those many years ago. The courses at DMGCC may never host a U.S. Open, but they are suitable for any other championship golf event. It is an interesting side note that the first 18 holes that Dye designed at DMGCC (today, 9-holes on the North Course and 9-holes on the South Course) are the routing used for the 1999 USGA Senior Open and the 18-holes that will be used for the Solheim Cup.

A few years after the 1999 USGA Senior Open, Rick Tegtmeier, the new Director of Grounds, suggested that many of the bunkers on the golf courses were in need of repair and the irrigation system was badly outdated. The discussion in the various committees became focused on the bunkers. Tegtmeier said, "We are sure the bunkers need to be replaced. But are we sure that they are in the right place? Bunkers change over time, are we sure that we are retaining what Pete Dye envisioned? Rather than make these changes piecemeal, we need a master plan. These are the only Pete Dye courses in the state of Iowa. Let's keep them true Pete Dye golf courses!"

Jim Cutter, General Manager at DMGCC, who had previously worked with Mr. Dye as clubhouse manager at Crooked Stick, reached out to Mr. Dye. "We would like to have you come to Des Moines and review the design of the golf courses you created over 40 years ago. We need a master plan to follow as we renovate your courses. In addition, the plan would serve as a guide for future renovations. We want to keep these golf courses true Pete Dye design."

Mr. Dye responded to GM, Cutter, "I will do it under these conditions. I want a private jet to fly me to and from the golf courses each day. I want to spend every night at home. I also want two white golf shirts with a pocket on the left breast and a DMGCC logo on the left sleeve."

A few weeks later a private jet brought Mr. Dye to Des Moines with his dog named, 60.

When Rick Tegtmeier drove up to Mr. Dye on a golf cart and asked him to hop on. Dye replied, "I never ride when I am working. Let's walk."

All day long a small group of Club representatives, Mr. Dye and 60 walked the golf courses. Mr. Dye made some notes and told stories about his thoughts when originally working at the Club.

Rick Tegtmeier fondly remembered that as the sun was setting on a very long day, they were walking down the hill on the 18th hole of the North course. (This hole will be #9 during the Solheim Cup.) It was the 36th hole of the day. The small group reached the bottom of the hill and Mr. Dye looked back up the long hill and said, "We need to go back to the top and take another look. I think this will be a great hole."

On a subsequent visit Pete brought along his associate Tim Liddy who worked hard to note every suggestion that the famous architect suggested as they again toured the entire property. Working with Mr. Dye to develop the master plan Tim would also become the architect who visited the site throughout all 4 phases of the construction project.

The renovation has taken four years (nine holes per year). Many minor changes were made; some major changes, like moving entire green complexes. Bunkers have all been replaced or restored and filled with Pro/Angle bunker sand. The mainline of the irrigation system has been replaced and miles of drainage have been added.

The summer-long celebration will reach a crescendo on worldwide television with the Solheim Cup in August.

Mr. Dye once said, "The ardent golfer would play Mount Everest if somebody put a flagstick on top." The women who represent Europe and the USA in the Solheim Cup are not playing golf on Mount Everest. They will be playing golf on a fair but tough golf course that will reward good shots and penalize imperfection. They will be playing the only original Pete Dye golf course in Iowa.

DMGCC got the best of Pete Dye. They got the young Pete Dye who was trying to find his niche in golf course design. They got the wise old Mr. Dye who did not have to trick up a golf course to earn recognition. When the Solheim Cup Matches are televised throughout the World, golf fans will see a refined version of Pete Dye's vision. The only Pete Dye golf courses that Iowa will ever see!

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