P.B. (Paul Burke) Dye is the youngest son of groundbreaking architects Pete and Alice Dye. Despite his lineage, Dye is known as a self-made, hard working architect who has no office, staff or overhead, preferring to live on job sites and build golf courses himself by hand. Dye also spends time between his Ohio and Florida homes and on the family compound in the Dominican Republic. His most notable courses include Loblolly Pines, The Honors in Chattanooga, Fisher Island, Palm Beach Polo Cypress Course, Debordieu, Punta Cana Resort’s La Cana Course, and P.B. Dye Golf Club.
I’ve grown up understanding the necessary balance of golf and real estate. If you ask a real estate developer to build a golf development, you’re going to have a poor golf course, since the course will be secondary to the home sites. If you ask a PGA Tour player who has won twenty majors to design a course, the home sites will be shortchanged. But ask a ditch digger and son of Pete Dye like me, and you’ll find out that I know how to find the balance between the golf course and the real estate.
At Punta Cana Resort and Club, in the Dominican Republic, I was able to build the La Cana Golf Club, thanks to my friend Oscar de La Renta, the fashion designer, getting my foot in the door. Oscar lives in a very stylish oceanfront home at Punta Cana, and he designed the Tortuga Bay Suites for the resort. Oscar introduced me to Frank Rainieri, the chief executive officer of Punta Cana, and Rainieri hired me to design the course beside his beloved resort and residential development on land along the Caribbean Sea.
The coastline, where I designed the seventeenth hole, was fronted by a row of palm trees all along the beach. I wanted very much to take out those trees and open up the hole to the beach and ocean. But Mr. Rainieri loves trees – and I knew it. He is a creative and avowed environmentalist. His Punta Cana is a very “green-friendly” resort. He did not want those trees removed under any circumstances. His is also a keen businessman, so I figured I could reason with him. I took him out to the site so he could see the potential for the hole and so I could explain to him why I wanted to take the trees out. But Rainieri, for all his vision and talent, was not a golfer. The more I pleaded my case about removing the trees, the higher I could sense Rainieri’s blood pressure rising. But I was justifying my reasoning to him from a golfer’s point of view, so I wasn’t really connecting.
Frank was a pilot. In fact, that is how he discovered the land – and the investors – to develop Punta Cana Resort and Club. On the far eastern reaches of Hispaniola, the land was so thick with growth and vegetation it was inaccessible in any way other than by air. Young Frank, twenty at the time, was a crop-dusting pilot who, since he was very familiar with the terrain, had been hired to give some New York investors an aerial tour of the “wasteland” they’d just acquired. Since Frank was a local Dominican, the investors relied on his expertise, and his vision that resort cottages would be a good start. The rest is history – and those palm trees would be, too, if I could just find a way to convince him. We were both pilots, so I tried a fresh angle.
“Frank, imagine the seventeenth hole is a runway, and you’re trying to land your airplane. You’re at the controls,” I said, grabbing the steering wheel for effect. “Your aircraft has a three-hundred-foot-wide wingspan, but your landing strip is only two hundred feet wide. That would frustrate you as a pilot just as much as that row of trees will drive golfers mad when they try to drive a golf ball down this fairway!”
Rainieri leaned toward me and listened intently. I had his attention, and I knew it was time to talk turkey and go for the close. I told him, “Those two golf holes on the ocean, if the trees are taken out, will be very photogenic. Pictures will appear in magazines all over the world. People will want to come to Punta Cana and the course will be very popular. And if the course is popular, it will continue to make money for your children and grandchildren long after you are gone, Frank.”
The light bulb went on. I could virtually see it in Rainieri’s eyes. We agreed to remove the trees but then replant them three hundred feet inland in beach sand as part of some elaborate landscaping on a residential lot, which would dramatically increase the value of the home site.
Later, Robert Trent Jones Jr. told me he’d been trying to get Rainieri to remove trees for years! It only took me fifteen minutes to convince him…but I had to speak in his language in order to help him see my vision.