Ocean views not for faint-hearted
Golf:While the world's best golfers struggle to tame the vaunted Ocean Course during this week's PGA Championship, there are two names they should call to mind: Hugo and Alice. Hugo was a hurricane that ripped through the area in September 1989, destroying the primitive Ocean Course hole routing and, by happenstance, laying the groundwork for the diabolical layout that emerged. Alice refers to Alice Dye, the wife of the golf architect Pete Dye.
A golf architect herself, Alice Dye persuaded her husband to raise the fairways at the course in 1990, an alteration that forever altered how the course would play and be perceived.
Walking the course with her husband in 1990, Alice said: "Pete, I can't see the ocean on the back nine. I don't just want to hear it; I want to see it."Pete Dye, who always showed his handiwork to Alice and often took her counsel, decided to raise the fairways 6 feet so the ocean was in view. But making the sea visible on this 2 1/2-mile stretch of Kiawah Island coast also exposed the holes to unpredictable, sometimes strong wind.
There is no prevailing wind on the site of the Ocean Course; the wind direction can change in a matter of hours. Golfers will be required to play the same holes differently day to day and shape shots in different directions hour to hour."Elevating the fairways changed everything for the golfer; it was now as if you were now standing on someone's shoulders," said Curt Sampson, the author of the new book "The War by the Shore," an account of the 1991 Ryder Cup, where the Ocean Course made its debut. "On a typical links course, the dunes protect you, but not at this golf course. You were almost above them."
The dunes were also reshaped by Dye and his workers, something that could not have occurred without Hugo. When the hurricane hit, several people in the Ocean Course work crew were stranded on the island and remained there until access roads were cleared. The day after Hugo headed inland, Dye rented a barge in a nearby town to take him to Kiawah.
He started up the bulldozers."Hugo had obliterated the work we had already done on some holes, but it had also knocked down trees and moved around a lot of things that we wouldn't have been able to move or be allowed to move," Dye said.
The site was part of a national disaster area, and Dye was allowed to rebuild disrupted sand dunes, clean out debris-filled marshes and reseed vegetation. He built a pioneering subterranean drainage system that recycled all the water runoff back onto the golf course. He experimented with how to foster the regrowth of native plants and, in the end, twisted and shaped some holes in new directions, a reformatting that turned a formidable course into a frightening one when the wind blew.
"It caused an awful lot of work for us and trouble for the area, but Hugo did make the golf course better," Dye said last year.The hardship, though, was considerable. Dye had to erect lights so his crews could work at night, first to clear the site and then to revamp it. Everyone, including the Dyes, worked 18-hour shifts.
The course developers paying Dye to construct the Ocean Course recalled that when the project was complete, Pete turned in the Jeep they had let him use. It was missing its doors, and on the floor of the back seat was piled high with empty cans of peaches and baked beans. Dye had not bothered to take lunch or dinner breaks; he ate in his Jeep and kept moving dirt and soil.
The result is a golf course not only consistently admired for its beauty and ardor, but one that will make a great theater on television this week. It will also have entertaining vistas for the attending fans. Dye created an amphitheatre-type setting for the demanding par-3 17th hole - the site of so much golf calamity during the 1991 Ryder Cup. As many as 10,000 fans could envelop the 17th green.
It is also a place where the gales can be fierce, as they were when Hugo came ashore. But in part because of Alice Dye, the view is spectacular. New York Times Service