Golf News for Thursday, May 3, 2007 | Courses

Pete Dye continues to refine The Ocean Course at Kiawah Island

KIAWAH ISLAND, S.C. -- Pete Dye has never finished a golf course. His courses may be open to play, they may host major championships, but he continually returns to these famous designs to fine-tune his designs – improving the playability for the typical resort player while ratcheting them up for the tour professional. Dye has been back to The Ocean Course at Kiawah Island Golf Resort three times since it opened in 1991, just in time for the Ryder Cup Matches.

In 1997 he made numerous, yet subtle, changes to the course, adding over 5 acres of turf where dunes and marsh once existed. He removed some of the bunkering and added collection areas around many of the greens. This greatly increased the playability for the average resort player while still challenging the better player. "I've gotten studies from the PGA Tour. If you put run-off areas around the greens and mow it short, the pro's scores will average higher than if they were in a bunker by as much as a half a stroke," explains Dye.

He also replaced the turf on the approaches to each of the greens. For the Ryder Cup, the approaches were Tifdwarf Bermuda, the same grass that was on the greens. With Tifdwarf, if a player missed the green, their ball would run far from the putting surface. Even if the ball stayed in play, it left a difficult shot since most resort players don't have a tight-lie flop shot. He changed the approaches to 419 Bermuda, the same type of grass that is on the fairways which is more roll-resistant and sets the ball up. This makes it easier for the average player to hold the green while, at the same time, makes it more difficult for the better player who would often bump and run chips (or even putt) up the slopes of the green collars. Forced to use a lob wedge, up-and-downs became much more difficult.

In the summer of 2002, Dye expanded the tee-shot landing area on No. 2 and bulkheaded its second marsh crossing making it more visible. He added fairway to the left side of the tee-shot landing area on No. 4 and three pot bunkers to the right (turning the hole more left to right giving players a better angle into the green). He has also raised the tees and shifted them to the left as well as shaved down the fairway giving players a view of the marsh crossing on the far side of the landing area. On No. 18, he shifted the entire green complex out to the last dune near the Atlantic Ocean making one of the most dramatic finishing holes in golf.

In addition to these architectural changes, new tees were created on seven holes and a number of the existing tees were enlarged.

From a visual standpoint, other than the 4th fairway and the 18th green, most players wouldn't know these changes were made. From a playability standpoint, however, these subtle changes make a big difference.

Returning in the summer of 2003, Dye resurfaced every green with a unique strain of Paspalum turfgrass specifically designed for The Ocean Course's seaside environment. In addition to a blade size comparable to Tifdwarf, it can be mowed to the length of 1/10 of an inch providing the necessary green speeds demanded by today's professional tournament venues. However, unlike Bermuda grasses, there is virtually no grain and the grass comes in thick to give the greens a sense of maturity even when the greens are relatively new.

Additionally, he substantially altered the fairway bunkering on No. 9, No. 11, No. 13, No. 16 and No. 18, reclaiming the course's original bunker lines that changed over the years with the shifting dunes. These changes both make the holes more playable for the average resort player and tempt the better player to take additional risks.

Pete Dye has not altered the nature of the course. He has just fine-tuned it to make it better. While it's eminently playable to the average resort guest, it remains extremely challenging to even the most seasoned pro. In fact, Golf Digest magazine recently named it "America's Toughest Course" in their March 2007 issue. For tournaments, it can be ratcheted up even further by shrinking the fairways, hardening and speeding up the greens and lengthening it to its tips (an agonizing, mind-numbing, 7,937 yards). The Ocean Course can handle all the spring-effect and multi-layer solid core balls modern technology can throw at it.

The field for the 2007 Senior PGA Championship includes: Greg Norman, Ben Crenshaw, defending Champion Jay Haas, Peter Jacobsen, Tom Kite, Gil Morgan, Gary Player, Nick Price, Loren Roberts, Craig Stadler, Curtis Strange, Tom Watson, Fuzzy Zoeller, 1991 U.S. Ryder Cup Team members Chip Beck, Raymond Floyd, Hale Irwin, Wayne Levi, Mark O'Meara, Lanny Wadkins and Captain Dave Stockton; as well as '91 European Team members Seve Ballesteros, Mark James and Sam Torrance.

Since 1937, golf's best professionals have been competing for the Senior PGA Championship's coveted Alfred S. Bourne Trophy. Past Champions include Gene Sarazen, Sam Snead, Arnold Palmer, Chi Chi Rodriguez, Jack Nicklaus and Lee Trevino, as well as returning players Floyd, Irwin, Player and Watson. The Senior PGA Championship, the oldest and most prestigious event in senior golf, is making its first appearance in South Carolina.

For tickets or to download a "spectator's guide," please visit or contact the PGA Office at 843-768-8575. Tickets may also be purchased at any Charleston area visitor center or at the tournament office on Kiawah Island. For more information on The Ocean Course, visit For high-res images of specific players in the 68th Senior PGA Championship field, contact Mike Vegis at or (843) 768-2749.

The PGA of America is the world's largest working sports organization, comprised of 28,000 men and women golf Professionals who are the recognized experts in growing, teaching and managing the game of golf while serving millions of people throughout its 41 PGA Sections nationwide. Since its founding in 1916, The PGA of America has enhanced its leadership position in a $62 billion-a-year industry by growing the game of golf through its premier spectator events, world-class education and training programs, significant philanthropic outreach initiatives, and award-winning golf promotions. Today's PGA Professional is the public's link to the game, serving an essential role in the operation of golf facilities throughout the country.