Virginia Tech's Pete Dye River Course

Pete Dye River CoursePete Dye arrived on the campus of Rollins College in Winter Park, Florida fresh off a stint with the 82nd Airborne Infantry of the United States Army in World War II. Soon after his arrival at Rollins, where he served as captain of the men's golf team, he met Alice O'Neal who would become his bride.

The young men who now sport the burnt orange and chicago maroon of Virginia Tech probably wouldn't be playing on such a world-class course if it weren't for the relationship Pete had with Alice, who encouraged him to pursue his passion in golf course design. 

With such fond memories of his own college golf career, it's no surprise that Dye decided to take on a renovation project in Southwest Virginia when he got a call from friend and 1962 Virginia Tech graduate Bill Goodwin, who picked up the multi-million dollar tab for Dye to renovate the school's River Course.

Tucked away betwen the Virginia Tech campus in Blacksburg and Radford, just a few miles from I-81 is one of the Hall of Fame architect's most unique projects. The Pete Dye River Course of Virginia Tech is set in the rural countryside of Pulaski County, very earthy when compared to some of his designs like TPC Sawgrass and the Straights Course at Whistling Straits.

The rushing waters of the New River, which adjoins the course for 2.5 miles when played from the championship tees, serve as the soundtrack. The surrounding Blue Ridge Mountains, a popular destination for motorists to drive through during the peak of fall foliage, make for a majestic and multi-faceted backdrop; panoramic views are the norm here.

Pete Dye spending a day at his course

The golf course itself is bisected by a 70-foot rock cliff, which created a natural dividing line for two distinct but complimentary nine-hole loops. The linear nature of these two nines allowed 14 of the 18 holes to feature views of the river. Eight of these player directly to the river's edge.

The par-72 layout includes five sets of tees that stretch from 5,142 yards (ladies) to 7,665 yards (men's championship).

"I've never had anything better than this piece of ground as far as the ambiance of the golf course,"Dye told a crowd assembled for one of the initial outings at the new course in June 2006. "The river makes this place. How many places have that? We tried to focus on the river. You'll see that most of the holes point back to the river."

Boosters envisioined not only a new and more spectacular home for Hokie golf, they pictured a course that would be a resource for local golfers and a destination for out-of-state travelers. The course would also become a gathering point for Virginia Tech alumni, which is probably why greens fees on Fridays before Hokie home football games are treated as holidays.

Pete Dye River CourseThe River Course isn't an original Dye design. The course was first built by Daniel J. Schlegal of Ault and Clark Associates. When they University purchased the property in 2002, the decision to bring in a nationally-known golf architect to enhance the course was made. That's when Dye stepped in.

Considered one of, if not the greatest, modern day golf course designers set out to overhaul the course and transform it into a world-class golfing destination, one that could help with regional economic growth and spark the school's golf program.

Dye reconstructed all 18 greens and tees, and then added 3,500 trees to the layout. In all, he moved 400,000 cubic yards of earth, not by himself of course. The River Course reopened to rave reviews on August 21, 2005.

In 2006, Golf Digest hailed the revamped River Course as one of "America's Best New Coures," making the Dye redesign No. 4 on the list of best remodels in the country. A couple of years later, the same publication branded the course with a nearly perfet 4.5 star rating from its readers, making it one of their "Best Places to Play" for 2008-09.

Today, the daily-fee course which is open to the public and members, is approaching its fourth anniversary. One piece of the puzzle still remains unfinished.

A luxurious $5.5 million clubhouse that will sit on a 70-foot rock cliff above the New River is scheduled to be completed in the third quarter of 2009. It is expected to be as unique and distinctive as the golf course it serves. It will be much more than a well-equipped pro shop peddling the latest Pete Dye River Course logo golf shirts. The buliding will become a venue for golf events, university functions, as well as private and corporate soirees.

River Course clubhouse

Construction at the site of the clubhouse

"We just embarrassingly smile when people ask about our clubhouse," David Lowe, chairman of the course's operating board recently told the Roanoke Times in reference to the pair of double-wide trailers that presently serve as the course's pro shop and respite area.

"It's going to be absolutely gorgeous," he continued. "A great golf course and a fabulous clubhouse, what else more would you want? There are some cosmetic things that we still want to do with the golf course. But the new clubhouse is the one big piece we really needed. And it's coming. I can't wait."

About the Pete Dye River Course at Virginia Tech

The layout winds along 2.5 miles of the scenic and historic New River and many holes have been endeared with its presence. Panoramic views are the norm and the passing of an occasional train enhances the beauty of the surroundings.

The Pete Dye River Course is a daily-fee public facility. Individual, Student and Faculty and Family Memberships are available and provide a variety of benefits. All golfers are invited and encouraged to experience "The River." Special corporate and group outings are welcome and can be specifically tailored to meet your needs.

Pete Dye River Course

The course is also only 45 minutes from Roanoke, the Blue Ridge Parkway and The Appalachian Trail. Other recreational opportunities in the area include white water rafting, canoeing, hicking, fishing, hunting, NASCAR racing and more, making it an ideal area for a family vacation or golf trip with your friends.

The golf shop and driving range are open daily. For more information visit or call 1-888-PETE-DYE. 


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