West by God Virginia! That’s where I am today and the Pete Dye Golf Club is where I’m playing. Pete Dye is of course one of the most famous architects of modern times and has multiple courses on the Top 100. I’ve played a good number on the list as well as several of his other courses so I felt like I had a decent idea of what to expect. Pete Dye can be downright diabolical and with the rugged mountain terrain in Bridgeport, WV I had a feeling this course might be Pete Dye at his worst . . . or should I say best . . . I’m not really sure.
My club pro arranged for me to play here with my friend Fred from Philadelphia. Although the club is private they informed us that they will allow reciprocal play for members of any private club. Currently the PDGC membership is very small with only 140 members, most of which are national members. From what I could tell the course does not see a lot of play. There were only two other groups on the course this day which was really nice.
A little history on the Pete Dye Golf Club. Pete Dye himself said that this was the longest running golf course project that he has ever been a part of. It took 22 years to complete the course. The story goes that two guys, a father and son, single handedly built the course . . . no wonder it took so long! Apparently the father was in the coal business and he used his mining machinery and the labor of his mining crews to actually create the course. It sounded to me like they operated on a shoestring budget and that is a big part of the reason it took so long to complete.
Unfortunately, the club fell on hard times last year and the original owner lost the club. I understand from news stories that Textron Financial Corporation is currently the owner and has hired Davis Love Golf Management to run the course until they can find a buyer or otherwise figure out what they want to do with the club.
I drove in from Virginia and Fred from Pennsylvania so we met at the club an hour and a half before our anticipated start time. Once we got settled and hit some balls we met our caddies and were off. Below are some of the holes that I thought were of particular interest.
The photo below shows the view of the 2nd hole from the tee box. Its a little intimidating, but the carry is not long. You really can only hit 220 – 230 if you want to keep it from going through the fairway.
Below is the par 3 4th hole. This is a tricky little shot over water to a VERY shallow green. You can see my bag at the tees we were playing and this photo is taken from the trips where the Nationwide Tour plays from. From the tips it plays 225 yards over water to a very shallow green. You cant really see it in the photo but the flag is tucked in the far left corner of the green. This was the first of many difficult hole locations of the day.
On our way to the 5th tee we saw this big boy in the pond. Being from Philadelphia, Fred wanted to get his hands on this guy and put him in a pot for a little snapper soup!
The 5th hole is a par 5 with a pretty big dogleg right. It also is a two tier hole. Below is the location where my drive landed. If I wanted to be bold I could cut a big chunk of the hole off and hit a 220 yard shot over the water and get to the green in two. The green is located just in front of the tall tree to the right of the smokestacks. Players that lay up will have a blind shot to the second tier fairway.
Below is a photo of where I hit my 3rd shot from on the second tier. I elected not to be bold and played the hole as a three shot hole.
In the photo below you can see the theme of the course is. Because it is in coal mining country the course very much has a coal mining theme. Behind the green you can see an actual mine shaft. After playing the 6th hole you can walk through the shaft to get to the 7th tee box and it looks just like you would expect an abandoned mining site to look like. Bare bulbs strung together on old wiring, emergency phone systems and lots of water on the ground. As cheesy as the mining theme sounds, its actually really cool and they did a great job pulling it off without being goofy.
Below is a photo of the 7th green looking back towards the tee box. This is a shortish par 3 with an elevated tee that plays downhill. A fun one shot hole.
The 8th is a great par 5 with a very downhill second shot that makes the green reachable. Note in the photo below the rock face lining the right side of the hole with the trees along the top. My caddie told me that during the Nationwide event a few years ago the player he caddied for flared his second shot high up on the rock face and it never came down. They walked up there, found the ball, hit the 3rd shot and made par!
The 8th green is in the photo below. That would have been quite a 3rd shot the Nationwide player hit from high on top of that rock face. I think I’d be worried the most about about losing my balance.
The 10th hole is another one that plays across Simpson Creek which runs throughout the property. In the photo below you can see the natural stream on the right of the green. This stream is not pumped and flows 365 days a year. They built the 10th green right over top of it.
Below is an up close view of the 10th green with the stream coming out from underneath.
I started playing pretty poorly on the second nine, so I didn’t take many photos. One thing I’ll note is the 17th green. This is about the only feature on the course that I found unfavorable. The green is so undulating that there are only two hole locations on the green. There simply aren’t any other flat spots. Fred hit a perfect drive to the middle of the fairway and then a perfect approach shot at the flag but his ball didn’t hold and rolled right off the green. Any hole where you hit two perfect shots and are not putting for birdie is simply not a fair hole. Apparently the members dislike the green very much as well but Pete Dye won’t let them change it unless they take his name off the course. The photo of the 17th green below doesn’t really do it justice, but you can faintly see some of the undulations.
The 18th hole is another hole similar to the 2nd hole pictured above where you drive over the creek. On this hole the green sits right on the edge of the creek and any approach shots to the left will wind up getting wet. The photo below is taken from the rough where I hit my tee shot.
The Pete Dye Golf Club is a great course by a great architect. If you find yourself in the area it is well worth a few hours of your time to play it. While I really did enjoy my round there, its a pretty tough track and I’m not sure its a course that I would love playing day in and day out. Because of their reciprocal policy and the on site cabins it makes a great place to go for golf weekend with some guys from your club. Its a world class course and you won’t have to fight the crowds like you would in some of the major American golf destinations.
While they don’t have a caddie program anymore the Director of Golf did manage to line up a couple of guys for us who had caddied there previously and knew the course well. I’d highly recommend that if you are going to play here. Its a really fun course to walk. Next stop Laurel Valley in Ligonier, PA.