Timothy Liddy + Associates has been charged with restoring the Pete Dye design. Year one of the restoration features landscaping, the removal of trees from the layout and working to restore ground cover and bushes. In the summer of 2023, the work will focus on an aging irrigation system as well as taking bunkers and greens back to their original sizes and shapes.
Golf course architect Tim Liddy is relying on the close professional and personal 28-year relationship he had with Pete Dye during the restoration project for the Stadium Course at PGA West in La Quinta, Calif., the Palm Springs Desert Sun reported.
“He was like a second father to me,” Liddy said. “So when I’m out there, I can hear him talking to me. I can hear him yelling at me just walking around.”
Liddy is hearing a lot of Dye’s comments these days as PGA West embarks on a two-year renovation of the Stadium Course, the host course of the PGA Tour’s The American Express tournament each January, the Desert Sun reported.
Year one of the restoration features landscaping, the removal of trees from the layout and working to restore ground cover and bushes that were part of the course’s look in the mid-1980s, the Desert Sun reported. In the summer of 2023, the work will focus on an aging irrigation system as well as taking bunkers and greens back to their original sizes and shapes.
While Liddy has been the head of his own design firm, Liddy and Associates, since 1993, he worked closely with Dye on many projects, the Desert Sun reported. Dye, who died in 2020, became famous in the 1980s for his designs like the Stadium Course at PGA West and the TPC Stadium Course at Sawgrass, home of The Players Championship in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.
Dye’s designs were radical for the time, with deep bunkering, mounding throughout the course, forced carries over huge lakes, undulating greens and plenty of his trademark railroad ties, the Desert Sun reported. Liddy said he only wants to restore the course, not overhaul it.
“We’re not going to change the golf course, obviously,” Liddy said. “That would be sacrilegious. So the golf course being 37 years old, what do we need to do? Well, it’s infrastructure. The greens have shrunk, which is common. The bunkers have lost their shape as they do with age and maintenance and guys hitting sand out of them. So the bunkers need to be put back the way they were. Irrigation is 30 years old, or 37 years old. They are designed to last 20.”
The work this summer is being done in stages, with the back nine of the Stadium Course now finished and the front nine currently being done, the Desert Sun reported. The course will be open as usual after fall overseeding and will again be used in The American Express for the eighth consecutive year next January before the restoration work continues next summer.
While the work next summer will be just as important to the course as this year’s work, the players in The American Express will see dramatic changes to the course in January because of the trees being removed, the Desert Sun reported. Chris May, Director of Agronomy for PGA West, said that while original plans called for 600 trees to be removed, the actual number will be closer to 200 trees, with around 1,200 remaining on the course.
By removing the trees, the appearance of the course changes from a layout where trees narrowed corridors on holes or provided aiming points for players to a layout with Dye’s original sparse look that was often described as a moonscape in the course’s earliest days, the Desert Sun reported. Archival photos also reveal where trees had been added to the course through the years.
In addition to returning to the course’s original design, May said the trees were becoming a problem because many were overgrown and rotting on the inside, the Desert Sun reported. More than three decades of growth also meant the trees were causing turf issues that didn’t happen when the course was young and the trees were newly planted.
“We have new ownership and they don’t like to see turf problems or brown spots,” May said. “That was part of the mandate. Part of the brown spots came from trees obstructing sprinklers. We need to have it all green and full. Mostly the tees are affected by that.”
While Liddy said he thinks the trees had become a distraction to Dye’s original vision for the course, he understands some of the negative comments PGA West has already received from homeowners about the tree removal, the Desert Sun reported.
“Trees are an emotional issue. They always are,” Liddy said. He added that some of the trees being removed will be replaced by younger and smaller trees
Liddy said he’s been talking to architect Lee Schmidt, who worked for Dye on a daily basis on projects including the Stadium Course, about other issues, including vegetation that was grown between holes but has since been removed from the course, the Desert Sun reported. That vegetation was intended to add to the Scottish look of the course.
“Lee said you know Pete’s original concept was to make it look like Scotland, and so we went to the nursery and looked for plants that represented gorse (a thick, thorny bush seen on many Scottish courses) and heather,” Liddy said. “And I said, well, we don’t have that now.”
Next summer, Liddy hopes to flatten the bottoms of bunkers, take sand out of bunker faces and push greens back to their original size, the Desert Sun reported. It’s all so he can help maintain the intent of Dye’s original and radical design.
“I’ve built hundreds of greens with Mr. Dye,” Liddy said. “I don’t know what to say other that they will be restored to where I think they were.”