Jerry Pate knows golf. He's got eight wins on the PGA Tour, including the 1976 U.S. Open, and he's an accomplished course designer. Throughout the season, he'll be stopping by Devil Ball to offer an inside-the-ropes look at the week's upcoming course. Today: TPC Louisiana, site of this weekend's Zurich Classic.
For the second week in a row, the PGA Tour visits a Pete Dye-designed golf course. The TPC of Louisiana is the essence of a Dye-designed course with its double dogleg holes, large waste bunkers, undulating greens, and pot bunkers.
Much has been written about his strategic philosophy and aesthetic visions, but less-known about Pete is his impressive ability to create beautiful, first-class golf courses out of the dreariest of conditions. Like the TPC Stadium Course, Harbour Town, Kiawah Island, and Old Marsh, among others, the TPC Louisiana was built out of swampland. These courses prove Pete is not just a visionary artist, he is an ingenious engineer.
When I first met Pete Dye during the World Amateur in 1974 at Casa de Campo, he told me then drainage was the most important aspect of golf course architecture. When I asked him what the second aspect was, he said, "drainage." The key is to lower the water level on the site. But that is extremely difficult when the site is already three to four feet below sea level, as it is at the TPC of Louisiana.
To accomplish this, Pete dug a series of interconnected lakes on the property which act as a void in the water table, which draws the ground water to them and out of the playable areas. The dirt excavated from the lakes is used to raise the golf course features—green complexes, landing areas, bunkers, and tees. As a result, water has elevation, if only a foot or so, to surface-flow off of the playable areas into the native woods or the large waste bunkers. The water elevation of the lakes is controlled by an overflow structure—in this case, pumps. Here the irrigation system pump station not only irrigates the golf course but also discharges excess water into the adjacent canal system that services the New Orleans area.
It is Pete’s ability to engineer golf courses that makes him one of the most impressive golf course designers of his generation. Many of his greatest works of art, some of which are mentioned above, are created on sites from which many designers would have run.
Jerry Pate has been designing golf courses for more than 30 years. His portfolio of work includes Old Waverly Golf Club in Mississippi, site of the 1999 United States Women's Open; Trump National Colt's Neck (formerly known as Shadow Isle) in New Jersey; Kiva Dunes on the Alabama Gulf Coast; and Rancho La Quinta Country Club in California. See more of his work at www.jerrypategolfdesign.com.)