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November 2018

Sea Pines Resort Pays Homage to its Architectural History

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By Steve Eubanks

The old clubs do it all the time. Walk into any traditional club in America – one of the stately ones with century-old clubhouses and memberships that span three or more generations – and you’ll see the history in every nook and cranny.

You can barely take a step at The Country Club in Brookline, Massachusetts, without running into a photo or reminder of Francis Ouimet, Harry Vardon and Ted Ray. March through the clubhouse at Pinehurst and you can’t miss the black-and-white homages to Donald Ross and the winter trains that brought the well-heeled down to the sandhills from the industrialist northeast. Cypress Point has Alister Mackenzie in tartan kilt and tie; Aronimink has its namesake, a Lenape Indian chief; and East Lake Golf Club showcases the ubiquitous presence of Bobby Jones.

Clubs like that build their cultures around their histories. It is why many people join and why others want to play.  

But the rise of real estate golf altered that dynamic. When your course was built in the floodplain of a high-density residential development and named after an animal and a geographic feature – Fox Creek, Pelican Point, Wolf Ridge, Bear Valley – history was never something you could sell.

But one resort, built near the water with the clear intention of selling homes and condos, looked at its architect and decided to change that. Sea Pines Resort, home of Harbour Town Golf Links, recently opened the Pete Dye Room in the clubhouse, an historical tribute to one of the most influential golf course designers of the late 20th century. Long before there was TPC Sawgrass with his devilish island green, there was Harbour Town, the course Dye said, “made my career.” The course opened 50 years ago in 1968 and hosted its first PGA Tour event a year later with Arnold Palmer hitting the ceremonial first shot and then winning the event. 

In the meantime, Dye’s designs have become recognized around the world. His use of angles and mounding were revolutionary. Courses like TPC Sawgrass, Teeth of the Dog in the Dominican Republic, PGA West, Crooked Stick and The Honors Club have placed Dye in rare company among the most prolific and recognizable architects in the history of the game. It made sense for Sea Pines, which has two Dye courses, to parlay his history into their own. 

The room itself has interactive, multimedia displays, photographs, drawings and exhibits that offer a complete history of Dye’s accomplishments and contributions. There’s a sand-table interactive exhibit that shows how Dye designed and built holes; an interactive transit that looks at a course under construction; a cross section model of a putting green as well as trophies and awards Dye received throughout his six-decade career.

The fact that Dye will turn 93 in December and suffers from dementia makes this exhibit all the more important. Preserving Dye’s legacy is not only good business, it’s an important service to the game. 

“We’re thrilled to honor the life and work of the great Pete Dye in our Harbour Town clubhouse,” says Cary Corbitt, the resort’s vice president of sports. “The stewardship of Pete Dye’s seminal design is important to us and his longtime contributions to Sea Pines, Hilton Head, and the golf world at large are immeasurable.”

Harbour Town is a part of Dye’s personal history. With the room, his story will be part of the resort’s history as well. 

Steve Eubanks is an Atlanta-based freelance writer and New York Times bestselling author.

 


 

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