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The Stadium Course at PGA WEST: Restoring The Glory

By Tim Cotroneo

After holing out on the 18th green at PGA WEST’S Pete Dye Stadium Course, it hits you. You’ve just completed a round on one of the hardest golf courses in the world. 

You remember the trepidation you felt on the first hole tee box. That was then, this is now, as you view the bleachers that are still intact from The American Express professional event that took place just one week before. 

As you march up the steps to the sprawling PGA WEST clubhouse, you realize that this is one of the few times your score seems incidental. You bask in the warm Southern California sun and realize you’re still smiling after going the distance on one of Pete Dye’s most legendary designs. Recounting this 18-hole journey is one for the memory books.

First Hole Jitters

With a 7:10 AM tee time, there’s no one standing on the 445-yard, Par 4, first hole tee box but you and the starter. After learning this is your Stadium baptism, this jovial Redlands, CA, native graciously offers that you’d be wise to stay right on most of the front nine holes. He adds that Dye dishes out undetectable trouble if you miss left. Advice noted and appreciated.

Leading up to your first drive, you couldn’t help but absorb some of the Stadium stories and quotes that were handed down over the years. There’s the mandate that the original owners wanted Dye to create “the hardest damn golf course in the world.” Tom Watson stated that the Stadium asked him to execute shots that no sane golfer should be expected to play. Dye himself remarked that one of the greenside bunkers is “the deepest this side of Mars.”

Loaded with this kind of pre-round baggage, you feel relieved after two-putting for bogey on hole one. On the positive side, the Coachella Valley delivered another of the region’s spectacular weather days. March on!

Santa Rosa Mountain High

By the time you’ve cruised to the 535-yard, Par 5, 5th hole, you’ve noticed three things. The first is that the whole left side offers enough water to sink the Titanic. The second is that Dye’s trademark railroad ties are visible and will continue to be visible throughout the round. The third is that, in the early morning hours, the blue sky intersecting the Santa Rosa Mountains is a sight to behold. 

Stepping up to each tee box, you note that there’s a name personalizing the hole. The 5th hole inherited Double Trouble. You guess that’s because water comes in to play twice. During the course of your round, you notice monikers like Black Hole, Moat, and Second Thoughts. It seems the devilish Dye also has a sense of humor. 

Another Stadium Course eye-opener comes in the form of huge mounds that appear on certain holes. These contours, resembling humpback whales, was a way for Dye to place his stamp on a desert parcel that was originally as flat as a pancake. Digging deep into his creativity bank, Dye sculpted a “stadium” surround into the acreage. On the 452-yard, Par 4, 9th hole, you receive the Dye full meal deal. Mounds on the left, water on the right, pot bunkers, and the signature railroad ties. Dye’s design repertoire is on full display everywhere you look.

The Drama Builds for The Great Escape

The closing holes at The Stadium are as dynamic as any you’ll play in a lifetime. Combined they are known as Pete’s Great Escape. 

The 16th hole includes a 20-foot-deep bunker that has humbled amateurs and even the best professionals. The 17th hole is a full carry over the water Par 3, and it instills shivers with the name Alcatraz. This is also the hole made famous by Lee Trevino when he scored a hole-in-one on the televised Skins Game in 1987. 

The 439-yard, Par 4, 18th hole is aptly named The Coliseum. The Stadium Course was built with tournaments in mind, and there’s a definite aura surrounding the closing hole green.  For the vacationing golfer competing on the big stage for a day, draining that final putt brings the satisfaction that you added The Stadium notch to your belt. 

Future Bright – Restoring the Glory

After your round, you learn that The Stadium Course will undergo a restoration to its glory days and reignite the original vision that Pete Dye had for the course. Tim Liddy, an architect who worked with Dye for 28 years will be at the helm for this exciting task.

PGA WEST Executive Director Ben Dobbs shared what Liddy’s team plans to accomplish in the coming months. “We will regrass the greens and get them back to their original sizes and contouring. We’ll also shape and restore the bunker edges, bringing them back to Pete Dye’s original.”

Dobbs continued, “We’re happy that it’s Tim Liddy working on The Stadium restoration. During Tim’s initial walkthroughs, he mentioned that he could feel Pete talking to him throughout the course. Tim welcomes the opportunity to continue Pete’s legacy here at PGA WEST After the wonderful feedback we’ve received following The American Express tourney regarding our course conditions, we are excited to restore this amazing course to its original glory.”


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