Course: The Dye Preserve is a private course near Jupiter, Florida designed by none other than Pete Dye. I had the good fortune of receiving an invite to play the course from one of the members when I was in West Palm beach on vacation. As a Dye enthusiast, I had heard lots of good things about the course and was glad that an opportunity presented itself to play it.
There was a very effective yet understated aura about the course and clubhouse. The course is set throughout wetlands, marsh and a variety of cypress and other trees. It feels as if the course was a part of the natural beauty of the area, as opposed to other courses where such things serve as simply good background. Although trees play a prominent role in creating corridors, dog legs and angled shots to greens, there is great open space in the fairways and greens. It reminded me a little of Harbour Town inasmuch as how the trees would frame many of the holes, combined with water hazards creating forced carries (particularly with the par 3’s), thereby increasing the premium of shotmaking, but the Preserve was bit friendlier and featured more contouring, mounds and larger greens. There was abundant wildlife both audible and visible as well. The clubhouse was simple, rustic and relaxing, with antlers above the urinals in the men’s locker room amidst exposed wooden beams. It appears the focus on the natural landscape obviously carried on from the course to the clubhouse, all the way to the locker room.
As the Preserve focuses on the golf, I felt it was an ideal setting for a golfer. There are no elaborate fountains or gimmicks; no team of staff members, running frantically around making sure your every need is met; and no other periphery that I can appreciate from time to time, but I’ve seen the bells and whistles used to many times as a way to take attention away from the underwhelming course. Here, the focus is where it should be. The golfer. This probably has something to do with the number of tour players I saw while I was there. Apparently, there were a handful of Web.com players from the club, all of when earned their card for this year.
We had an early tee time after driving on a road I was sure my GPS was toying with me, pulled up to a small guardhouse that let us through once we gave our names. After driving some more, we pulled up to a small enclave, with the clubhouse in the background and not a soul around, except someone nice enough to park the car and take our clubs for us, as well as our gracious host. While the weather seemed a little iffy, we warmed up at the range. While the day ended up terrific weather-wise, the resort I was staying at took on buckets of water. In any event, as the only group on the course, we actually started on the Ninth, but I’ll start the review from the First.
Pete Dye provides a hole by hole description on the course website and obviously does a better job describing his course than I ever could. His descriptions are pretty good, some times braggy, some times funny, but I enjoyed the heck out of it. You can find it here. Nevertheless, I’ll do my best at my own review.
The First is a 538 yard par 5. The tee shot is a tad daunting, as trees line both sides and the fauna blocks a clear view of the fairway, but there is plenty of room. The hole then sweeps left, so hugging that side off the tee is preferred. The green then sits in front of you, with a bail out area to the right. It’s a nice opening hole, yet enough challenge that you need to be on your game early.
The Second is a 342 yard par 4. The hole is pretty much straight away, providing a nice short par 4, which is a nice reprieve coming off the First. Other than a few well placed bunkers, this is a good scoring opportunity.
The Third is a 149 yard par 3. Another fair hole, with a shot to a generously sized green. Other than the most severe mis hit, you should be able to walk away with a nice little par.
The Fourth is a 429 yard par 4. The hole slides to the right a little for the second shot and with trees ensuring you get more left, the green is receptive to the longer second shot as the fairway rolls right on to it.
Moving up the fairway of the Fourth
The Fifth is a 287 yard par 4. This is one of my favorite holes of the course, as it’s a very good short par 4. The options on how to play this hole abound. The longer hitter can consider the risk/reward in going for the green from the tee while setting up the best approach from the tee is paramount, as the green gets more and more difficult to see the more right and away from the water you go, while hugging the water and staying on the left side of the fairway is preferable because of the much safer approach shot. With all the decisions and risk/reward scenarios, it’s yet another great example of how interesting a short hole can be.
Approach shot territory
The Sixth is a 524 par 5. Another one of my favorite holes on the course, as it’s a par 5 dripping with decision making, yet requires precision off the tee. Although the fairway is rather wide, you still need to poke it out there or strokes will start to pile up hitting your second shot out of the trees on the right or form the rough on the left. I also think this is the hole where there’s a farm of some kind off to the left, where all kinds of animals were pretty close to the course. At any rate, there are a few smallish bunkers scantily placed as you proceed to the green, but the mounding around the green gives the longer hitters pause before trying to blast to the green in two while the rest of us are able to plod away and figure out the best place for the approach shot, depending on the pin location and where the best look at the green is. Run off areas around the green also repel shots that might be off aim a little, while mounds and rough surrounding the green make those that have missed the green completely pay dearly.
Over on the right side of the fairway
Getting into approach shot territory, still on the right
The far side of the green. Note the run off areas
The Seventh is a 173 par 3. Pete did well to hide many of the subtleties of the green with the foliage, making it appear like a simple enough one shotter. It’s also tough to realize that the green is on the smaller side and the bunkers on the left are some what severe. It’s a nice par 3 that protects par very well.
The Eighth is a 360 yard par 4. The hole curls to the right over a group of cypress trees. The green is defended well, with bunkers, trees and sharp mounds and ridges, so getting the tee shot in the right spot is again important. One of the things Dye does effectively is slowing down progress to the green the more you mis hit. Alas, if you hit off to the side, there are no lucky bounces, you will end up in the one of the strip bunkers running alongside the length of the hold, of in the rough in a mound, with the ball severely below your feet. This hole does that well.
Approach shot territory
The Ninth is a 428 yard par 4. The hole is straightaway for the most part, with a slight twinge to the left. Keeping the ball in the middle is the most important thing here, as the sides are blocked out and you have those strip bunkers going up. The green is another where it’s possible to run the ball up from the fairway, so short and straight is better than long yet off to the side. With the clubhouse in the background, yet subdued in the trees, finishing up the front nine while looping through the wetlands was time well spent.
Moving up the fairway
Approach shot territory
The front nine felt well laid in phases, with the first few holes as a nice settling in, then a transition into the complex holes, then finally into a final plateau. The holes are diverse, using the natural environs to frame and dictate play, as Dye does so well. I’d rank the front nine 5, 6, 8, 1, 2, 9, 3, 4, 7, but really, every hole stood out for me and I liked them all.
The back nine starts with the 517 yard par 5 Tenth. The fairway moves slightly right to left, with more trouble on the right with water and a bigger strip bunker, and of course anything right to right center of the fairway is the preferred area for the approach shot. The green complex is one of the more interesting because of the angle from the fairway, the severity of the bunker on the left and the run off areas. Another great par 5.
Approach shot territory, as storm clouds loom and darken things
The Eleventh is a 429 yard par 4. It’s on the longer side and dog legs to the right. There are plusses and minuses to approaching the green from the left or right sides of the fairway, but by all means stay in the fairway. The trees will block you out and although the pine needles make it easy to find your shot, a stroke will be spent just to get back out. It’s a nice longer par 4, still generating decision making and a receptive yet challenging green.
The green from the right side, on top of a mound
Looking back at the fairway, on the right side
The Twelfth is a 399 yard par 4. Everything is in front of you on this hole. Although the fairway is generous, a decent tee shot is still required or you’ll likely lose a stroke from the trees or water. Although the green pinches the fairway a tad, the bunkers on either side of it dictate staying straight, even if short. The mounds near the green can be used to move the ball towards the hole, or will repel the ball away from the green in the rough, likely shielding a view of the green.
Moving up the fairway, with the green in sight
The Thirteenth is a 190 yard par 3. The member we played with affectionately called this hole the shortest par 4 in West Palm Beach. In Dye’s description of the hole, he claims this is as close to a Redan hole as you’ll find in Florida. I could believe it. The sloping and green complex itself, along with the distance, make this a pretty tough hole. Our entire group ended up off the slope on the far side. A very nicely done hole.
The Fourteenth is a 366 yard par 4. The hole sets up left to right off the tee, then right to left from the fairway, which Dye describes as an old Ross trait. I’ll call it a dog leg to the right, then the green curls to the left after you get past the tree line on the right. The green complex has its opening more towards the right, goading to approach from that side off the tee, hugging the tree line. Definitely reminded me of Harbour Town in that regard.
Approach shot territory
The Fifteenth is a 500 yard par 5. The tee shot is in a nice little niche in the trees, which also seem to strongly suggest you hit your tee shot off to the left. Once you clear the tree line on the right, however, The green sits in front of you on a relatively wide fairway. As with most of the holes, the green complex demands precision, or else the mounds will start complicating matters. With this being a par 5, you have an extra shot to set yourself up for the best approach possible. This is also a good scoring opportunity.
Moving up the fairway
The Sixteenth is a 366 yard par 4. Fun fact: it’s the exact same yardage as the Fourteenth from the Back tees. It plays much different though, as water runs along the right side and the fairway bunkers are small yet nasty. The green complex was one of my favorite on the course, as the sharp lines of the bunkers and mounds with the green running from back to front made for challenging short game.
The green complex
The Seventeenth is a 219 yard par 3. It was one of the most scenic holes on the course, with the horizon in the background, water in the forefront, and a green pretty far away. The green is enormous, however, and there is plenty of bail out room on the left. Be mindful, however, there is nothing stopping your ball from falling in the water as you chip to the hole from the left side; the lack of rough means the water continues to be in play. I learned this the hard way during my second round, when I hit a pretty good tee shot, then got cute with my chip shot and ran it right into the water. The member I was with was able to commiserate; it wasn’t the first time he saw that happen. Yet another great par 3, yet neither one shotter on the back is a push over.
The Eighteenth is a 421 yard par 4. Although it’s a longer par 4 that dog legs right, the fairway green are fairly generous, yet the approach won’t tolerate any exaggerated mis hit. It’s a good finishing hole that shouldn’t beat you up all that much and makes you forget any transgressions you felt the course made on the prior holes. With the inviting clubhouse in view of the green, it’s a good set up to end the round and head over to the Nineteenth hole.
Approach shot territory
The green complex
The back nine felt more challenging than the front, yet certainly provided chances to get strokes back. The mounding and green complexes were consistently used effectively, while water was more prominent on the back. I’d rank them 17, 13, 10, 11, 16, 18, 15, 12, 14, but again, I enjoyed every hole and could easily re arrange my preference.
Generally, the Dye Preserve was one of my favorite courses designed by Dye. I remarked a few times during the round how certain aspects of it reminded me of Harbour Town in that the design features do exactly what they’re supposed to in dictating play. The solitude of being in the wetlands, the strategy that the course requires for scoring and the St. Augustine grass made this one of the special courses I played in 2014. I am a big Pete Dye fan, yet I’ll say that I think I enjoy his later designs a bit more because at least I find they have more subtlety and an aura of serenity about them.
Gripes: None. I loved the round so much that after lunch, we went around the course again.
Bar/Grill: We ate in the grill area, which had televisions, a great beer selection and a heck of a burger.
Clubhouse: As mentioned before, it is understated yet very nice and effective. The locker room was terrific, with antlers over the urinals, exposed wooden beams, all evincing comfort.
Practice area: Natural grass area and proV1 practice balls. I could have spent all day there.
Nearby: Yet another course where I have no clue.
Getting there: I know it’s off the Florida turnpike near Jupiter, but that’s all I got. Google Maps is your friend on this one.