Whistling Straits Hole 18

How Pete Dye Silently Influenced My Golf Career

Of the dozens of golf courses that Pete Dye designed in his life, I have played exactly…seven of them.

Seven feels like such an insignificant number, considering the very significant impact Mr. Dye has had on the world of golf.

But when I began thinking about those seven courses, I realized that they were more important to me, and where Breaking Eighty is today, than I’d ever realized.

The year was 2013. 

I had started Breaking Eighty just a year prior, and I decided I was going to do something “no one has ever done before!” (Riiiight.)

“I’m going to take an epic golf road trip, and write a blog post and shoot a video at every course.”

This is cringeworthy: 

Ah, how young I was.

Whistling Straits and Blackwolf Run: The Start of My Career

While at that time there weren’t many people who were documenting trips like this, there were plenty of people who were partaking in them – and my trip was hardly the Golf Digest fodder I thought it was destined to be.

But, that’s not to say this trip wasn’t incredibly important to me.

It marked my first dedicated trip for golf.

It included my first ever 36 hole day.

My first ever solo road trip.

And it also included what were at the time 12 Top 100 Public Courses and 6 of the Top 100 in the US.

My previous number played from any of those top lists? A grand total of 4.

So what does this trip have to do with Pete Dye?

Well, the whole impetus of the trip was to go visit Whistling Straits and the Kohler Resort.

Whistling Straits Hole 12

You’d better pray the pin isn’t upper right 🙂

If Kohler didn’t exist? The trip wouldn’t have happened. Or at least not in the form that it ended up taking.

It gave me content for days. I never even finished writing about all of the courses I played, and gave up on the daily videos within the first 3 days of the trip.

5th hole on the River Course at Blackwolf Run

One of the most fun tee shots in all of golf: the 5th on the River Course at Blackwolf Run

It gave me a basic education in golf architecture, and just from Whistling and Blackwolf Run alone, exposed me to many of the elements which make a golf course great.

Pound Ridge Golf Club: Growing the Site

Sometime after my trip in 2013, I began thinking about my hook for my site,.

What could I do to make Breaking Eighty different than everything else out there? 

What unique story could I tell that hasn’t been done before?

I began thinking that not just playing the top 100 courses would be interesting, as there’d been a number of people who had done that – but what if I became the youngest person to do it.

Who was the youngest person to do it?

I ended up reaching out to Ashley Mayo, who at the time was at Golf Digest. We had a brief conversation via Twitter, where she said there wasn’t an official record that she knew of, but to do it before the age of 35 would be pretty impressive and probably be a record.

Spoiler alert: There have now been people who have done both Top 100 in US and World, quite a bit younger than that, and now at the age of 34, I’m only about halfway there.

Par 3 at Pound Ridge Golf Club

Par 3 at Pound Ridge Golf Club

But my very roundabout reason for telling this story, was because the next time I was in NYC, Ashley and I met up, and over the course of the next few years we played a handful of rounds ranging from Tetherow in Oregon, Streamsong in Florida, to a round at Pound Ridge outside NYC.

This was my second Pete Dye course, and if it weren’t for building that relationship with Ashley, my site wouldn’t have grown nearly as quickly. Early on she and her colleague Cory were generous enough to share many of my photos on the Golf Digest instagram account – which is one of the things that boosted my followers early on.

A round of golf can be a great way to solidify and create relationships, and that round at Pound Ridge was one of those for me.

The Golf Club: The Beginning of the Top 100

It would be a few years before I played another Pete Dye course, but this one was no less significant.

In 2016, my good friend Patrick Koenig and I ventured out to Ohio to play many of the best courses in the area.

It was an invitation to play The Golf Club that originally solidified our plans to go.

Now, with a name like “The Golf Club” you know it’s gotta be something special, and it most certainly is.

The Golf Club Hole 3

The all world, third hole at The Golf Club

The Golf Club, outside of Columbus, Ohio is one of the most private and exclusive golf courses I’ve ever set foot on. It also happens to be one of the earliest Pete Dye golf courses having been built in 1967.

When you’re walking around the course it feels like you’ve found a secret golf playground, and that’s kind of what it is. Except instead of kids, it’s very, very successful businessmen.

It was on this trip that I felt like I’d finally reached a point where I’d played a wide enough variety of golf courses to truly create my first top 100 list.

This list has been one of the anchor pieces of content on Breaking Eighty each year, and while it always stirs up a bit of, well, spirited discussion, it’s allowed me to express my feelings about how “fun” should be the primary thing we consider when we look at the golf courses we enjoy most.

TPC Sawgrass: The Round that Almost Didn’t Happen

The most recent Pete Dye course I played was almost exactly three years ago, and it might be the most well known of all of them.

I was debating whether or not I was going to make the trip down to the PGA Merchandise show in Orlando, when the opportunity came up to go play TPC Sawgrass for the first time, just a couple of hours away.

Well, that sealed the deal.

TPC Sawgrass Hole 17

Making Par on the world famous island green 17th at TPC Sawgrass

The chance to go try and make a par on one of the most famous holes in golf (note: I did!), proved to be enough of a pull to get me down there.

I wouldn’t have gone down to the Show were it not for that round at Sawgrass working out. There ended up being multiple relationships I made on that trip that helped Breaking Eighty grow to the next level, and became instrumental in helping the Eighty Club to become a real thing.

Thank You, Mr. Dye

I realize this collection of stories is more about me, than they are about Pete.

But while I’ve only played seven of his courses, each of them had a very real and profound impact on me, my business, and well, my life.

If Pete Dye hadn’t been around and hadn’t built these courses, honestly I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that Breaking Eighty would be very different than what it is today. Hell, it may not even been here at all.

That early trip to visit Whistling Straits was such a game changer for me and my relationship with golf, that I will forever look back on it both fondly, and with high regard for where it got me.

While there are plenty of people who can tell you about Pete as a man (I never met him), or go into far more detail about the architectural merits of his work – all I can share his how his work and his courses affected me personally.

And the more I’ve thought about it over the last few days since learning of his passing, the more I realized that he had as great, if not greater, impact on me than any other architect around.

So, thank you Mr. Dye.

Thank you for building things that have allowed me to travel around the country in search of memorable experiences and a proper golf education.

I look forward to creating more stories as I experience more of your legacy in the years to come.

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