When PB Dye Golf Course opened in 1999, it was during the boom of course openings that ran from the late 1990’s through the early 2000’s. Unlike many courses that opened during this boom, the course is thankfully not smack dab in the middle of a housing development. The course sits largely by itself, making me wonder how they got it right when so many got it so terribly wrong.
I first played PB Dye at a waggle.com 2-man best-ball outing in 2006, when we were suffering from a drought and a heat wave, leaving the rough burned out and the fairways and greens being heavily watered to keep them from burning up. My assessment that day was a course with great bones that was a victim of circumstances not of its own doing.
It was in that vein that, after a nine-year wait, I re-visited PB Dye. Now under the management of Billy Capser Golf, I was curious what having a large management company would do for the course and for the overall experience.
Overall, while the course has enough railroad ties to satisfy the most bizarro of railroad tie fetishes (if that’s your thing), he certainly has plenty of tricks up his sleeve. While his design is very much what you’d expect from the Dye family, there’s enough there that it doesn’t feel like nothing more than a “best of” design that PB Dye’s father might have put together in a moment of cynicism.
Upon arrival I was greeted by a friendly starter who loaded our bags onto our cart and pointed us to the pro shop where I checked in and took care of our greens fee and asked if I wanted to purchase range balls. I declined, but if you’re one to want to get some swings in, they have a real green grass range that, upon inspection, looked to be in decent shape. There’s a large practice green that doesn’t allow chipping and a smaller practice green that does allow chipping.
After my playing partner got himself ready for the day ahead, we headed to the first hole which is adjacent to the range. It’s something of a handshake hole if you were to look at the card (307 yard par 4 from the blue tees which on the card come out to just under 6400 yards for the entire course) you’d think “easy pickings” and you would be wrong. The hole (as are most holes) are very well protected against wayward shots, but yet offer a bail out area short of the green. A poor second shot left me having to scramble to save bogey.
A ridiculously short second hole (119 yards from the blue tees) this demands deadly accuracy leafs to a short par 5 third hole that starts to expose Dye’s design genius- the tee shot truly dictates the second shot; it’s not just ‘give it a rip and then give it another rip’ it makes you do that most unpleasant of things…think.
The eighth hole at PB Dye is more of his genius. A long par three to a plateau green with a nice thoughtful rock formation as a good aiming point…unfortunately my par putt slipped by leaving me with a bogey. The 9th hole punishes any shots to the right with a water hazard, while anything left will be left with a tricky bunker shot or worse.
The 10th hole is more risk-reward. A short par 4 offers big hitters a chance to drive the green, but wayward shots will be punished severely. The 11th is your classic Dye “short par 3 surrounded by water and worse”; anything left or short is wet, long and/or right is nearly impossible to recover from.
After a shortish par 3 to a very tricky green, the 15th hole is a visual nightmare for golfers, requiring a forced carry over a ravine/waste area . However, a well-placed power fade/cut shot will be rewarded.
The finishing hole is a visually intimidating but shortish par 4 that requires you to negotiate with water left and a second shot over another waste area. Nothing impossible but visually, it can scare the easily intimidated.
With Maryland having a bit of a dry spell some of the rough areas were a bit brown, and the tee boxes were, if we’re being honest, in poor shape and had been pretty chewed up. Having said that, the fairways were in good shape and the greens were in similar shape. Any issues is more to do with the weather than anything else.
Overall, it’s a fantastic test of golf, and for a design surname that people associate with the unusual and bizarre, PB Dye is a playable track that isn’t all that tarted up. There are a few tricks here and there, but for the most part, it’s a course that rewards shotmaking, accuracy, and being able to think your way around a course. I wouldn’t put PB Dye on an absolute “must play” for visitors to the area, but friendly service, green grass range and plenty of risk-reward holes make it a track well worth taking visitors to. Bring plenty of balls and be prepared to have to think your way around.