When I was younger, I had strange experiences when I would have time to contemplate certain ideas and notions.  In particular, when I attempted to comprehend the vastness of infinity, I would sometimes be overcome by a gag reflex, as if the magnitude of such an idea would cause my mind to “short-circuit.”  In retrospect, I realized this was one of my earliest examples of being “awed.”

As Eddie Izzard has pointed out in his comedy routine, our culture has diluted the meaning of the word “awesome.”  We use it to describe everyday items and commonplace occurrences, forgetting the magnitude of such an adjective.  Today is a chance to reclaim the word in its fullest meaning.

Webster’s describes awesome as causing “an overwhelming feeling of reverence, admiration, fear, etc., produced by that which is grand, sublime, extremely powerful, or the like.”

Between the 12th green and 13th tee of the Pete Dye Golf Club, there stands a bell with the following inscription:


As I was nestled in the peaceful solitude of the West Virginia hills, this salutatory ringing provided a moment to reflect on how much my recent BuffaloGolfer experiences had affected me.  Recently, we were fortunate to play classic courses such as Leatherstocking, had spent several days basking in the culture of golf in Pinehurst, had been introduced to the wonder of Mike Strantz, and were now submerged in yet another Pete Dye creation.  As we approached the 13th tee, I told Mo’ Golf, “This year has been inspiring.  My passion for golf had waned in the last year for some reason, but I feel invigorated when I experience places like this.”

The key word in that last sentence was “experience.”  Pete Dye, like so many of the great architects before and after him, grasps a fundamental truth.  Golf is more than a game to be “played” – rather, it is a pastime that should be “experienced” on many levels.

And here we were, experiencing one of his finest creations.  Upon further reflection of BuffaloGolfer’s visit, I think it’s safe to say that I am truly “awed” by Pete Dye, the architect, and this West Virginia Masterpiece that bears his name.

Pete Dye Golf Club

Located in Clarksburg, West Virginia, the Pete Dye Golf Club is one of the elite National Golf Club “retreats”, attracting corporate and individual memberships from 25 states and 5 countries.  Such clubs are created with the intention of being “world-class” in every way, and with Pete Dye, they found the right man to lay the foundation for their endeavor.

Pete Dye has been referred to as the “Michelangelo” of golf course architecture, which, upon first reading, may seem hyperbolic.  However, when one truly reflects on the creative process, the moniker gains credibility.  And as an artist, Dye has distinguished himself using many canvasses, whether it be the swamps of Sawgrass or Harbour Town, the rivers and valleys of Blackwolf Run, or a flat Army airbase at Whistling Straits.  The Pete Dye Golf Club was born from 500 acres of abandoned, coal-mined land, and the artist did not disappoint.

We at BuffaloGolfer have been privileged enough to experience a number of Pete Dye’s designs, and the theme that has evolved is one of creativity and imagination.  When I contemplate the variety of holes I have played and the thought process required to create them from a blank piece of land, that overwhelmed feeling from my youth reappears.

I try and comprehend the process necessary to visualize a routing for a given piece of land – one which maximizes the natural features unique to each property.  I start to realize what a gift it is.

Like studying a painting, your first impression is of the image as a whole.  But when you look closer, you can see each brush stroke, and appreciate the thousands of subtle decisions that go into creating the overall image.  Similarly, after you have absorbed the overall feel for one of Pete Dye’s holes, you look closer and realize all the subtle elements that contribute to your experience.

The slight rise in the land slightly obscures your view of the landing area, adding that challenging element of the unknown to your shot.  A single tree that should not come into play, but still tricks you into altering your aim towards very real danger.  The mounding and undulation of landing areas that force you to think your way through the tee-shot routine, searching for the optimal risk/reward payoff.   The beautifully complex challenge of angled landing areas, that force you to move beyond the “stick figure” simplicity of “bang it down the middle.”  The strategic placement of bunkers.  The contouring of greens that rewards a well-thought approach, and eliminates “routine two-putt” from your vocabulary.

But whether you are contemplating the detailed brush strokes or simply enjoying the overall “feel” of the end product, the Pete Dye Golf Club will overwhelm you.  The simple beauty of the land is stunning, whether it be the waterfall by the 10th green, the strip-mined walls along the 8th fairway, Simpson Creek winding throughout the course, or simply the magnificent vistas as the course rises and falls during your experience.  Or you may enjoy the unique “man-made” remnants of the land’s coal-mining past, including coal-laden mine cars, the iron bridges, or the cart path through a once active mine shaft.

With every bit of analysis, you develop that “admiration and reverence” referred to by Webster’s.  And let’s not leave out “fear” – this is still Pete Dye-abolical, and for those of us scared by the occasional golf disasters hole, you should be wary, as certain poorly executed shots will be punished.

But don’t get the impression that this is a simply a monster course that relentlessly beats on golfers, appealing only to masochists.  A hallmark of Pete Dye’s designs is the variety of holes you will experience.  While there are several monster par fours ranging from 468 to 500 yards (Championship Tees), the course also features 5 par fours under 400 yards, placing a greater emphasis on shot placement than brute strength.  One of these, the shorter 17th hole, features one of the most frightening greens you will experience.  While some reviewers have criticized this green’s difficulty, when you consider the short length and relative lack of trouble off the tee, it is a fair challenge.

Similarly, the array of par fives varies from the easily reachable 8th hole (508 yards downhill), to the “not unless you’re Bubba Watson” three-shot 11th hole (604 yards).

For those golfers looking for a “world-class” golf experience, the Pete Dye Golf Club will exceed your expectations.  The variety of hole designs, combined with the array of hole and tee combinations, guarantees there will always be a unique experience waiting to be discovered on your first, fifth or fiftieth visit.

The Rest of the Story

However, the Golf Course does not encompass the totality of the “retreat” experience for this National Club.  While the course is the foundation and core of the Club, no experience would be complete without the complement of service, hospitality and accommodations.

Upon arriving at the Golf Club, out-of-town members and guests can relax in one of several on-site lodging options, including the Black Diamond Lodge or one of the townhouses located on the property.  Nestled within the woods of this magnificent piece of land, these accommodations provide views overlooking the course, Simpson Creek and the rolling West Virginia countryside, and slowly submerge the visitor into the complete retreat experience.

After a night’s rest, the golfer may prepare for his challenge at the Club’s practice facility, which, like everything else, is world-class.  Set up more like a golf hole than an “open field,” the range helps you to visualize shots, rather than simply “bang balls.”  If you have time, you can avail yourself of practice greenside and fairway bunkers, pitching and chipping areas, and putting greens, all of which are encompassed within this 35 acre facility.

After climbing the hill after the 18th green, you can recount your experience in the Clubhouse’s magnificent Grille Room, home to spectacular views of the course and adjacent hills.  Wherever you roam within the Clubhouse, you will be met by friendly staff who aspire to provide you with the highest service and hospitality during your escape to this mountain retreat.

Depending on your corporate entertainment or personal recreation needs, the Pete Dye Golf Club has the amenities and staff to provide a world-class experience.  To find out more about this West Virginia getaway, visit www.petedye.com.