The challenges of Pikewood faded as rapidly as a falling star flaming out in the dark night’s sky, replaced by a delightful evening reuniting with a special friend. During my college years, I worked as a field associate for the Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) while I was on an engineering internship in Gaithersburg, Maryland at what was then the National Bureau of Standards and is now the National Institute of Standards and Technology. It was during that time that I met Joe and Carole Dobrick, financial supports of FCA who became moral and spiritual supporters for me. Carole lost Joe in 2015. She and I reminisced over dinner about Joe and our times together.
Carol and Joe were educators, those pillars of America society who influence young minds. When I met them in the early eighties, they were both teaching High School in Rockville, Maryland. Joe, a World War II veteran who was in the first wave of soldiers that stormed the beach in Okinawa was an accomplished high school football coach. He had coached a team in Pennsylvania to an undefeated season. Carol shared with me that one of Joe’s proudest moments was when several of the players from that team attended and spoke at his induction into the Quaker Valley High School Hall of Fame.
Joe and Carole’s support and friendship during my teenage and early adult years had an enduring impact on who I am and how I live my life. I last saw Carole in 2006 when I bought my wife, kids, and mother-in-law to visit her and Joe in 2006. It was great to break bread and fellowship with her again. These are the moments in life that really matter. Years from now, I will long forget that I shot a 105 at Pikewood, but memories of my evening with Carole will live forever.
The next morning David, Mike, and I headed south of Morgantown to Bridgeport to play the Pete Dye Golf Club. David had arranged with Beau for us to play the course. Beau joined us to round out our foursome. The course is built on property that was once used for cool mining. There are remnants of the active mining days that are integrated into the course.
We approached the first tee under a beautiful blue sky with a chill in the air and morning dew still fresh on the ground. We chose to play from a much shorter distance than we had played from on the day before at Pikewood. We chose to play from the Dye tees. They measure 6400 yards with a rating of 71.3 and a slope of 131. This was mere child’s play compared to Pikewood.
The first hole at the Pete Dye Golf Club is a 360 yard par four. This was a day on which we would encounter very few simple straight fairways. That is not the style of the man who designed this course and for whom the club was named. This also meant that fairways without bunkers were not a feature we would expect to encounter. This after all is Pete Dye. There will be many bunkers and a lot of undulation in the fairways. Mr. Dye always moves a lot of dirt.
The tee box on the first hole is aligned to the left edge of the beginning of the of the fairway. The fairway flows straight before making a big turn to the left and then one back to the right as it heads to an uphill green. There are several bunkers to the left of the fairway and trees to the right beyond a ridge that runs along the right side of the fairway. There is also a bunker in the inside of the “u” that is formed by the fairway bending to the left and then turning back to the right as it approaches the green.
I think that on my first drive I tried to make up for my humbling experience at Pikewood on the day before. With so much room in front of me, I over swung and sliced the ball to the right and into the deep rough.
I took an unplayable and a penalty stroke. I hit my third shot to the fairway and then hit onto the green and two putted to start my round with a double bogey. I didn’t get off to a good start with my attempt to redeem myself after my round at Pikewood.
I played the 375 yard par four second hole slightly better. The hole sets up with the tee box on the left side of a creek and the fairway on the right side. The fairway is shaped somewhat like a drumstick with the first part of it being very wide before narrowing for the last 100 yards or so leading to the green. In a rare display of generosity, Mr. Dye placed just one fairway bunker on this hole. The bunker is positioned on the right side of the fairway at about 240 yards from the Dye tees.
The creek that separates the tee boxes from the fairway runs along the left side of the fairway through the green. Between the green and the creek is rough with a couple of bunkers. My drive landed in the fairway and rolled just off into the rough on the right just before the bunker.
My approach shot landed just off the front right portion of the green. I chipped on, missed my par putt and made a bogey on the hole.
You know that you are in Pete Dye country when you have holes with large waste areas. The short par four third hole has a 120 yard waste area along the right side of the fairway. The left side of the fairway has rough between it ant the cart path. The hole measures just 335 yards. I hit my drive to the waste area.
The toes of the sock shaped green pointed to the right and were aligned with the waste area. The flag was positioned on the back left portion of the green. I hit my approach shot onto the green. I hit my putt on line but left it short. I then missed my par putt and made a three putt bogey on the hole.
More often than not, the holes rated as the easiest holes on a course are the par threes. The course at the Pete Dye Golf Club has four par threes. While two of them are among the four easiest holes on the course, two of them are not. The first of those two is the 180 yard par three fourth hole. The hole has water all along the left side from the tee box through the green. There are shaved collection areas in front of and behind the rather large two-tiered green. The green is 40 yards deep and 25 yards wide.
There is a large irregular shaped bunker in front of the front collection area, one about 10 yards short of the front right portion of the green and one to the right of the middle of the green. I didn’t want to have anything to do with the water on the left side of the hole. My tee shot landed on the right side of the front of the green and rolled just off, leaving a very long putt from the lower tier to a pin positioned on the back upper tier portion of the green.
I hit another really good putt that held its line, but I left it five feet short of the cup. I then missed my second short par putt in a row. I taped in for another bogey.
Just a word for you if you ever find yourself playing golf at the Pete Dye Golf Club. Mr. Dye is very interested in your suggestions on improvements to the course. He is so interested that he has provided a suggestion box. It is on a tiny mound of rocks in the middle of the lake to the left of the green. I’m sure he is ok with you swimming out to the mailbox to leave your suggests.
The tee boxes for the par five fifth hole are positioned between a creek that runs along the left side of the second hole and the pond that was in play on the fourth hole. The creek makes a u bend around the fourth hole and runs along the right side of the tee boxes, fairway and green on the fifth hole. The fairway on the fifth hole is oddly shaped. The first 300 yards of hole are aligned with the tee boxes and the green. The last 200 or so yards are offset to the left of the left side of the first part of the fairway. There is a narrow swath of fairway that connects the first part of the fairway to the elevated second part of the fairway.
The area beyond the first part of the fairway contains several bunkers including six that are clustered together just beyond the end of that portion of the fairway and a very long one that starts about 70 yards before the green and runs up to the green. There are also fairway bunkers along the left side of both portions of the fairway. The deck of the elevated second part of the fairway is not visible from the first portion of the fairway.
There is a lot of strategy involved in playing this hole. I hit my drive 250 yards to the middle of the fairway leaving about 260 yards to the green.
The green was visible from my ball, but the straight line to it was wrought with peril. There were bunkers, rough, the creek and more bunkers. That was enough to convince me that there was no future in hitting a ball along that line. I laid up by hitting a six iron to the upper fairway leaving 105 yards to the green.
There was still danger lurking on the right side of the fairway and the green. The pin was positioned on the back left right side of the green. I hit a sand wedge to 15 feet below the flag. I still hadn’t gotten the speed of the greens down. I left my birdie putt two feet short of the cup. This time I didn’t miss the par putt. It took me five holes and twelve putts, but I finally had my first par.
The fifth hole is followed by a short and simple par four. The sixth hole measures just over 300 yards. The fairway is set several yards to the right of the tee box. The left side of the fairway has a dry bed creek filled with rocks. The right side of the fairway borders on an embankment that leads up to trees. There is a bunker off the left side of the fairway and two behind the fairway. The fairway is very undulated. I hit my three hybrid to some deep rough off the right side of the fairway, leaving 120 yards to the middle of the green.
I muscled my approach shot out of the rough to just inches off the left front portion of the green.
I then went back to taking more putts that I should have. I three putted from just off the green for a bogey on the hole.
The drive from the sixth hole green to the seventh hole tee was through a tunnel that was a part of the mine in the hill behind the green.
The 150 yard par three seventh hole is rated as the second easiest hole on the course. The biggest challenge on the hole is the infestation of bunkers. The green is downhill from the tee box. There are three bunkers leading up to the green and off the green on the right side, one bunker off the front left of the green and several bunkers lined up behind the green. Most of the bunkers behind the green are not visible from the tee box. I topped my tee shot. The ball went into the rough in front the green.
I hit my second shot out of the deep rough to off the right side of the green. I chipped on to the green and within one foot of the cup. I tapped in to save bogey. I had missed several par opportunities, so my scorecard wasn’t very clean. A second double bogey with just one par would have been demoralizing after playing reasonable golf. Saving bogey on the hole helped to keep my head in the round.
The eighth hole is the second of the two par fives on the front nine. The fairway is slightly elevated above the tee box. There is a small bunker just before the fairway. The fairway flows a little to the right as it leaves the bunker and then bends back to the left around several bunkers off the left side. It then bends right and then sweeps back to the left before heading for the green. There is a long bunker off the right side of the fairway that starts at about 100 yards from the green and continues along the right side of the green. There is a small bunker between the right front of the green and this large bunker. There are also three bunkers off the left side of the green. I hit my drive to an area in the fairway that was ground under repair.
I took a drop from the dirt in the ground under repair area and hit my second shot to the rough off the right side of the fairway, well short of the large bunker that ran all the way to the green.
I hit my approach shot to fifteen feet below the hole.
My putting wows continued, I again three-putt to turn a probable par into another bogey. If I could putt, I would have had a very good round going.
The ninth hole is the longest par four on the course. It measures 445 yards from the Dye tees. The fairway is across a creek and several yards of rough. There is a bunker in the middle of the fairway at about 250 yards form the tee box. There is also another bunker off the fairway to the right of that bunker. I hit my drive 225 yards to the middle of the fairway.
On my approach shot I hit my driver off the deck from 220 yards out. I expected the ball the fade. It didn’t. The ball landed on the left in between three bunkers and the left side of the green. I chipped onto the green and two putted for my seventh bogey of the front nine. The good news is that I had just one double bogey and was really at risk for just one other one during the first nine holes. The bad news is that I three putted several times and missed several makeable par putts. I scored a 45 on the front nine.
The front nine on the course plays entirely in the area in front of the clubhouse. The back nine is played on the area behind the clubhouse and except for tee box on the 10th hole and fairway and green for the 18th hole, is played on the other side of a creek that runs behind the clubhouse.
The 10th hole is a 390 yard par four. The fairway is set to the left of the tee box and across the aforementioned creek. The creek is below the fairway and runs along its right side. There is rough, a long bunker, and a waste area between the creek and the right side of the fairway. The cart path borders the fairway on the left. There is a rock bed and small waterfall to the right of the two-tiered green. I hit my drive to the left in the fairway.
For the second hole in a row, an expected fade on my approach shot failed to materialize. My ball landed in the rough just off the shaven area along the left of the green.
I chipped onto the green and two putted for a bogey.
The 11th hole was my most disastrous hole of the round. This par five is very similar to the par five 8th hole, but at 530 yards, it is fifty yards longer. Like the 8th hole, the fairway is slightly offset to the right of the tee box. There is also a small strip of fairway connecting the narrow first part of the fairway to a wide second part of the fairway. There is one fairway bunker to the right and one to the left. I topped my ball off the tee. I hit a provisional to the right fairway. We couldn’t find my original tee shot, so I had to play the provisional. I hit my fourth shot to 90 yards out. My fifth shot landed short of the green. I chipped on and made a 1 putt for my second double bogey of the round.
At 315 yards, the twelfth hole is the second shortest par four on the course. There is a plethora of bunkers of the left side of a wide fairway and trees very close to the fairway’s edge on the right. The green has four bunkers of varying shapes and sizes off the left side and a couple of move a good distance off the right side. I hit my 3 hybrid off the tee. The ball came off an open club face, went to the right and landed just to the right a tree right off the cart path.
My only shot was a pitch back to the fairway. My third shot rolled off the back of the green. I was able to chip on and make the putt to save bogey. After struggling mightily with my putting on the front nine, my putts were starting to drop on the back nine.
The easiest hole on the course is the 160 yard par three thirteenth hole. The green is set to the right of the tee box. The tee shot requires a carry over the rough and a rather large bunker off left side. I hit my tee shot onto the green but left it 60 feet short of the hole.
My birdie putt (ok go ahead and laugh, but technically it was a birdie putt) stopped 15 feet short of the cup. I suddenly found my putting prowess. I made the 15 foot putt for my second par of the round.
I consider the 14th hole to be my best hole of the day. It is a 435 yard par four. The fairway sweeps right to left and then back to the right as it approaches a green that is aligned with the tee boxes. There are two fairway bunkers off the left side of the fairway and three off the right side of the fairway. The third bunker out of the three on the right starts at about 60 yards out from the green and following the contour of the fairway up to and along the right side of the green.
I ripped my drive to the right fairway, leaving 140 yards over the right green side bunker to a flag on the back of the green. I nailed the approach shot. I cut a 9 iron over the left side of the bunker to 15 feet to the right of the pin. I followed up my best drive of the day with one of my best iron shots of the day.
Unfortunately, I missed the 15 foot birdie putt, but tapped in for my second par in a row.
The fifteenth hole is a 495 yard par five. All you need to know on this hole is that there is water all along the right side of the fairway from the tee box through the green. The hole plays fairly straight. I hit what I thought was a good drive down the middle of the fairway. The wind started pushing the ball to the right. The ball hit on the right side of the fairway and bounced several times before going into the water.
I took a drop and hit my third shot to short of the green. I pitched on and two putted for a bogey that I was happy to walk away with after my drive went into the water.
As I approached the last three holes on the course, I was in a good position to break ninety. As with several other recent courses, I buckled down and tried to concentrate on every shot. One thing I’ve gained a greater appreciation for during my quest to play the Top 100 courses as ranked by Golf Digest for 2017-18 is the ability of professional golfers to concentrate on every shot for 18 holes on four consecutive days. Trust me, it is a chore to stay in the moment on every shot. There have been several courses where I have finished strong by making pars on the last three holes of the round.
The first hole of the final three was 180 yard par three sixteenth hole. It is the second of the two par threes that is not rated as one of the four easiest holes. It is rated as fifth easiest hole. The green is downhill from the tee boxes. There is a large bunker off the right side of the green and a much smaller one to the right of it. The pin was positioned on the front right portion of the green. I hit my tee shot to 10 feet below the flag. The ball rolled back toward the front of the green and stopped 15 feet below the hole.
I again had lost my touch with my flat stick. I missed the 15 foot birdie putt but made a par to start my final three holes on the right note.
The 17th hole is a short par four. It plays just 350 yards. The fairway starts out a little narrow but widens considerably in the landing zone and then necks down to a narrow strip just before it reaches the green. The tee boxes are offset to the left of the fairway but are aligned with the green. The area in between the tee box is filled mostly with bunkers and rough. Past a set of four bunkers, there is a portion of the fairway that jets out to the left. There are then additional bunkers between that portion of the fairway and the left side of the green.
I setup and aligned with the left side of the fairway expecting a slight fade to the generous fairway. I hit a three wood off the tee that went as straight as an arrow and landed in the middle bunker off the left side of the fairway.
I now had my work cut out for me if was going to par the second of the final three holes. I knew I hit a really good bunker shot when I saw my ball land and stop 15 feet from the pin. I didn’t know how good until I walked up to the green and saw the undulation on the green. I had hit the ball to the only flat spot anywhere near the hole.
My putting was not nearly as good as my bunker shot. My flat stick failed me again. I missed the birdie putt and again settled for a par.
As I looked out over the 410 yard par four eighteenth hole, my singular thought was to not pull the ball into the creek that runs along the left side of the fairway. The fairway is across the creek from the tee boxes. There are no fairway bunkers on this final hole at the Pete Dye Golf Club. It was me against a creek on the left and rough on the right. I hit my drive down the middle of the fairway.
As I rode in the cart toward my ball, it became quite clear that the drive was the easy part of the hole. The green was on a ridge above the right bank of the creek.
I now had a new concern. My singular thought became don’t pull your approach into the creek. I often welcome challenges and the opportunity to craft a shot on a golf course. Not on this day. While I didn’t have a great score, I’d played a solid round. I didn’t want to ruin it with a blow up hole to finish the round.
I approached my shot to green with more trepidation and opportunity. My thought process went from how do I make par on this hole to how do I ensure I don’t make a double bogey or worse. I hit my approach shot short and to the right. The ball ended up it the right rough.
The pin was positioned in the middle left portion of the green. I again played with fear. The opportunity to hit past the flag and into the creek was still lingering. I pitched onto the front of the green.
I lagged the ball on my first putt and made the second putt to close out my round with bogey and a score of 42 on the back nine. This gave me an 87 for my total score. This was nothing to write home about but it was one stroke per hole better than my score at Pikewood.
I’d like to thank Mike for the introduction to David and David for working with Beau to arrange for us to play the course. I’d also like to thank Beau for getting us on the course.
Following our round, I made the drive through beautiful West Virginia and Western Maryland in route to Dulles airport for my flight to Atlanta and watched a beautiful sunset over the mountains of Western Maryland.