In the fall of 1969, as the Heritage debuted as South Carolina’s lone annual PGA Tour event, a relatively unknown architect, Pete Dye, was famously adding finishing touches on Harbour Town Golf Links as the first players hit their tee shots.
Nearly a half-century and dozens of world-famous course layouts later, Harbour Town remains one of Dye’s best-known works of golf art. That was reason enough for The Sea Pines Resort, home to both Harbour Town Golf Links and Heron Point by Pete Dye, to commission a lasting memorial to his craftsmanship.
The Pete Dye Room, a 700-square-foot exhibition space inside the Harbour Town Clubhouse, opened to the public Feb. 22, 2018, and had its first widespread exposure to golf fans during the 50th anniversary of the RBC Heritage Presented by Boeing. The result of 18 months work is a low-key, but fitting testament to Dye’s career.
Pete got his start at Crooked Stick in his native Indiana, but when Sea Pines approached him with the idea of opening a museum to commemorate his life, he reportedly said, "If it’s in one place, it should be Harbour Town. That’s the one that put me on the map, made my career."
Across the hallway from the Harbour Town pro shop, the multimedia permanent exhibit was designed by Peter Hyde of New York, who has completed similar projects for the US Golf Association.
Outside the room’s entrance, a large photo of the architect welcomes visitors to “Pete Dye, A Life in Golf.” Display cases feature mementos of his illustrious career, including his World Golf Hall of Fame trophy, an oil portrait of him for the 2017 Donald Ross Award, and a muddy pair of boots he wore while designing numerous golf courses.
“Pete always worked from the ground up, not on a computer,” said Cary Corbitt, Sea Pines Resort vice president for sports and operations.
There’s also a set of Ben Hogan clubs on display with a great story behind them. The way Dye tells it, he bought the clubs just before he was scheduled to play a round of golf with the legendary champion at Seminole Golf Club in Florida. Before he hit the greens, he beat up the clubs so they would look used.
The museum also features several graphics offering details of Dye’s career, as well as that of his wife and design partner, Alice Dye, who he credits with building Harbour Town's par-4 13th hole, with its wraparound bunker and elevated green guarded by wooden bulkheads – a Dye trademark. Video screens show highlights of Dye’s life and interviews with Jack Nicklaus, who co-designed Harbour Town with Dye, as well as Greg Norman, five-time Heritage champion Davis Love III and others.
Also on exhibit are a Sand Pro mini-tractor Dye used to shape greens; a life-size cutout of Dye peering through a scope; a “sand table” where visitors can get an idea of how golf course design happens; and a chart of the “Dye Design Tree,” listing 20-plus architects he mentored throughout his career, including South Carolina native Bobby Weed, top designers Gil Hanse and Tom Doak, and Dye’s sons, Perry and P.B.
Alice Dye consulted with the room’s designers during the project. Her husband, now in his 90s, has been suffering with dementia issues since 2017. Alice was among several family members present for the room’s grand opening.
“We’re proud to be the home for this,” Corbitt said. “We think it will become a new destination for fans of Pete’s work and a great attraction, both during the Heritage each year and for players and visitors all year long.”
For more information on the Pete Dye Room and a look at some of its exhibits, including a video interview with Dye discussing Harbour Town, click here.