Much like wielding a guitar when your surname is Dylan, being in the golf business with the last name Dye can be a mixed blessing. A few more doors might open, but audiences will be quick to judge and eager to dismiss. When Matt Dye, Pete Dye's forty-six-year-old nephew, started his own design business in 2002, he was aware of the challenges he would face. But with four course openings in the past sixteen months, Matt has emerged to take center stage, albeit in smaller venues than his famous uncle.
"I've gone from working on $10–15 million projects with Dye Designs to $5 million projects on my own," Matt says en route to the first tee of his latest course opening, the Ledges in St. George, Utah. And, he admits, "selling houses for the developer is as much a consideration as the actual golf course." But he has no regrets about moving away from the more established branch of the family. "By 2002 I felt I'd learned enough to go out on my own, but I'll always remember those afternoons working on Paiute GC in Las Vegas with [cousin] Perry and [sister] Cynthia. At the end of a long, hot day's work, we would share a six-pack and watch the sun set. Those were the best of the best days, as enjoyable a family business as anyone could have." (Cynthia, as principal designer of her own company, Dye Designs Group, is one of the most prominent women in the field of golf architecture. She shares office space with Perry, who works on both his own projects and his father Pete's.)
Matt's first solo design project took him to the North Island of New Zealand, where he reopened the Carrington Club in 2003. It was a renovation, but the changes were so far-reaching that today the course bears Matt's name as the designer of record. Offers came in quickly after Carrington's success. He designed El Rio CC near Laughlin, Nevada, and the Links at Sleepy Ridge in Orem, Utah, simultaneously, and the Ledges and Dos Lagos GC in Corona, California, shortly thereafter. Dye is currently working on two more new designs in Utah and California and has been contacted by developers from as far afield as China and Costa Rica.
It's obvious from one look at the Ledges that Matt's work demands to be taken seriously. Seven holes on the back nine wind through the otherworldly red-rock formations of Snow Canyon State Park. The other eleven holes, however, needed a designer with imagination—the topography was flat, scrub-covered and lacking the wonder of the natural features that define the back nine. "Trying to get the course to be consistent without overdesigning the holes on the less interesting terrain took a lot to achieve. It was up to me to create a rhythmic flow over eighteen holes in a landscape that changes so drastically."
Matt dug back into his thirteen-year history with Dye Designs and focused on the bunkering, the greens and Uncle Pete's technique of using obstacles and hazards to capture the player's eye and steer him to the shortest route to the green. "That's the one constant in any of our courses," he says. "All those lakes and waste bunkers you see from Pete or Perry, they take your eye to the green." At the Ledges, even the holes on less interesting terrain have been manipulated into quasi-doglegs by Matt's use of this strategy.