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Pete Dye reworks some of US's most famous courses

Giving architect Pete Dye a second crack at Harbour Town is a bit like pulling the stake from Dracula's heart.

The designer who regularly brings pro golfers to their knees -- like Mark Calcavecchia sitting alone, head in hands, on Kiawah Island's Ocean Course at the 1991 Ryder Cup -- was asked to help with a $3.5 million restoration at Harbour Town. It's the course where he gained his reputation for golf treachery and beauty more than 30 years ago.

"We didn't want to change things," the architect said from Indiana. "But this was a project I'd wanted to do for the past 10 years."

It means more railroad ties. Deeper, stacked bunkers. Longer carries.

But the same small, glassy greens.

MCI Classic director Steve Wilmot said several pros told him at April's tournament: "You've got a gem here. What are you going to do?"

"Basically, I told them, we're just polishing it," Wilmot said.

About three weeks after Stewart Cink's victory, Harbour Town was closed so Dye, resort officials and construction companies could work on what they painstakingly call a touching up of Harbour Town Golf Links. The course is to reopen in January.

On the card, it will grow only about 80 yards to 6,997, said Cary Corbitt, Sea Pines director of sports. But Corbitt expects this rework to keep it fresh for a new generation of titanium-hitting pros.

The effort is to blend Harbour Town's traditional feel with the stronger, longer players of today.

When the PGA Tour returns next year, the most jarring change will be on the par-4 eighth hole, a 462-yard monster that requires a well-placed drive to avoid a spreading oak tree at the bend.

The tee box has been repositioned and lengthened. A trap along the green's left side has been wrapped around to the back.

Dye designed it for players to shoot 6-iron approaches "and now they'll probably have to do that again," Wilmot said.

The par-3 7th will have a redesigned tee box and a widened lagoon the length of the hole. "Visually, it's just gorgeous," Corbitt said.

On the par-3 14th hole, the work moved the tee box about 12 yards, restored a pot bunker the size of a garbage can cover and sliced off a section of the green.

Dye was gentle with the construction on Harbour Town's signature three closing holes.

A large tree in the right fairway on the 16th that had been dying for several years was removed. Corbitt said it would be replaced.

The par-3 17th, which opens to the breezy Calibogue Sound and South Carolina's coastal marshes, will grow by about seven yards. Crews replaced the bulkhead, carefully sawing planks to different heights to recapture a haphazard look.

The tee on the famous lighthouse hole, the 18th, was rebuilt. A bulkhead was hidden by the green for improved erosion control during the seaside storms that can batter the island.

Otherwise, it's the same, magnificent long iron shot into a wind-swept green where Arnold Palmer won the first PGA event played here in 1969.

"We wanted to keep the same feel," Dye said.

Corbitt and David Warren, Sea Pines' marketing director, said the improvements also will help the more than 38,000 resort golfers who play the course each year.

Each hole will have at least five different tees and most recreational players will be kept away from the PGA markers to speed play, Corbitt said. The price of a round also will increase by $61 to $240 when the course is reopened.

The course lost about 25,000 rounds and $2.5 million in fees, but the rework was essential to keep Harbour Town and Sea Pines a top location for corporate meetings, Warren said. A conference center was opened next to the clubhouse this year while a 60-room inn, with a butler on each floor, is nearly finished.

Dye also finished a reconstruction at Avalon Lakes Golf Course in Warren, Ohio, in time for this week's Giant Eagle LPGA Classic. And he has loose plans for projects at his TPC at Sawgrass course and Kiawah's Ocean Course.

"Things get worn out," he said. "It just makes sense to do this."

 

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