Time for my second course review, The Dye Preserve in Jupiter, Florida. This is my home course, so take this review with a grain of salt (obviously I like it, I wouldn't have become a member if I didn't).
The Dye Preserve is not typical south Florida golf. In the 1980s, Joe Webster III, who was a developer friend of Pete Dye, bought a then-existing golf course and had Pete Dye rebuild it in 1988. That course was named "Cypress Links". The property is located in a a gated equestrian community on the edge of the Cypress Creek Natural Area (a nature preserve). Due to its location there is a wide variety of wildlife on the course, including a huge number of birds (which include bald eagles and sand hill cranes), and cows (yes, cows).
In 2002, Webster invited Dye back to reconstruct Cypress Links and The Dye Preserve was born (the cows remained). The Dye Preserve is a golf club, period; there are no tennis courts, no pool. You play golf or you don't belong (there are no social memberships). There are no dining minimums, they serve only lunch (and sometimes breakfast). The course still maintains a working caddy program, with either full or fore options available. Done to set the course aside from others in South Florida, and to encourage a membership focused on golf, the club design also helps keep costs down for the members. The clubhouse is a perfect example of why the Preserve is different from other South Florida courses
At 15,000sqft, it is small by Florida standards. However, it is one of the nicest clubhouses I have experienced. All hardwood with a lovely mural of the Everglades in the entrance hall, it is a beautiful example of Old Florida design. The men's locker room consists of cedar lockers for the members, plus extras for guests, the attendant's desk, bathroom, showers, and the card room/grill. The walls are lined with photographs of courses from around the world, all taken by one of the members. I have been told the ladies' locker room is equally impressive, done in a French style. Additional photographs are located here and here. The photograph above is of the back side of the clubhouse, the front side is surrounded by trees that hide the structure.
Practice area - GRADE: B (in current state)
For practice you have five options: the two ends of the driving range, the two putting greens, and the chipping area.
A short cart ride from the starter, through a natural cypress area over a low-profile wood bridge (example of the bridge architecture is in a later picture) is the near side of the driving range
Your only option is grass, no mats. There are numerous aiming targets, including greens, multiple flags per green, and barber poles. Unfortunately, there are no yardage markers; the range may be color coded for distance, but I am unaware of any such coding. The range is large enough for me to use all of my clubs with ease. Some of the member-pros have requested that the range be expanded so there is more distance for them to hit driver, so an improvement project is currently underway, which will lengthen the driving range, add an air conditioned hitting bay, additional teaching/analysis area, and a rebuilt chipping area. There are hitting areas on each end of the range with a path to drive to the far end. Generally, guys like me hit from the near end while the pros hit from the far end.
There are also two putting greens. Each practice green has multiple holes. These greens are kept in the exact condition as the greens on the course, even the flags are miniature versions of the flags on the course. The practice greens are undulating, but do have flat spots, and the holes are located in various locations to simulate what you might find on the course. Overall they are at the same standard as the best practice greens I have ever experienced.
Unfortunately, part of the practice facility improvement project means the course burned off the chipping green for rebuilding. That project should be done this fall, but right now there is no good area for practicing chipping. Before it was killed for reconstruction, the chipping green had multiple bunkers (the fairway and green side bunkers use the same sand) and course-accurate rough. I am excited for the new facility, but the lack of a chipping practice facility requires I knock the grade down.
I was going to give the practice facilities a B-, upgradable to a B+ when the reconstruction is complete. However, after my friends raved about the practice facilities, I decided to increase the grade to a B, upgradable to an A-, as I have a lot of respect for these particular friends and their golfing experience.
Course conditions - GRADE: A
The course conditions are superior. I attribute this to a combination of excellent maintenance by a very skilled staff, and the low number of rounds played. Tee boxes are all flat and in perfect shape.
The fairways are also perfectly maintained and the greens are immaculate. The fairway and green side bunkers use the same sand, there are also waste areas in the fairways. There are two kinds of rough, the traditional South Florida style, and a less common St. Augustine. The rough can be deep and punishing if you stray too far away from the fairway. There is water everywhere with the traditional Dye reinforcing railroad ties. Cart paths are gravel and in good condition. If the hole isn't lined by water, it is lined by traditional south Florida pines and cypress under which you'll find standing water (and free relief), pine straw and wood chips, or peat. Everything is absolutely immaculate, again on par with the best I have ever seen.
Layout - GRADE: A
The layout is pure Dye. There are four par 3s, each playing to a different cardinal direction so you will be faced with an upwind, downwind, and two cross-wind par 3s. There are also four par 5s, including numbers 1 and 10. There are doglegs both left and right, with varying degrees of bend. There are long holes and short holes, and there is about as much elevation and undulation as you can get from South Florida.
This is a very challenging course, but it has tees for every skill level. There are four published sets of tees, with two combo tees. The official numbers are: Red - 5,161, (65.1 Rat, 116 Slope); Red/Green - 5,438 (66.4, 123); Green - 5,991 (69.5, 133); Green/Blue - 6,168 (70.3, 136); Blue - 6,600 (72.5, 141); Brown - 7,255 (76.0, 151). As to the "published set" bit, I have been told the course has a set of "Gold" tees that are an extension of the brown tees, that are officially rated at about 7,500 yards. The rating isn't published because nobody plays them, but they are available for the pros (and anyone else insane enough to try). I have found all tee boxes, and, having played both Hazeltine National (7,600+ yards) and PGA National Champion (7,050) from the tips in their tournament configurations, I cannot figure out how it is possible to play Dye Preserve from the tips. Maybe I'll buy a couple boxes of junk golf balls and give it a shot one day.
Meanwhile, I'm going to stick to the blue tees (and maybe the browns). The course layout has something for everyone. A good example is the par 3 13th, lovingly referred to as "the shortest Par 5 in Palm Beach".
Playing 182 from the blue tees (I have marked the blue tees with a blue dot in the picture), the green is very elevated and hard to hold. The bunker on the right is about 15 feet below the putting surface, with the side hill shaved so anything that misses left runs into the bunker, if you are lucky. If you are not, the ball will run through the bunker and continue down to the water. The green has good undulation, offering a variety of pin placements and lies. The green falls away to the right as well. 46 yards behind the blue tees are the brown tees (marked with a brown dot). You can see how far set-off they are, on the lake (there's a bridge to get there) and below the blue tees. The reason for this setoff is what appears from the tee to be another bunker just behind the flag. When you get to the green you realize it is a classic Dye trick, the bunker you see is actually 20 yards behind, and about 15 yards offset left from, the back of the green. But from the tee it looks like the bunker is on your line, causing you to want to push your tee shot right, which will make it bounce off the green where you'll have a chip with about 20 feet of elevation into the narrow dimension of the green. That tricky Pete Dye! But that mental trick is reserved only for the back tees, for the higher handicap golfers it becomes a challenging, but not unreasonable, par 3.
Challenging overall, the course won't punish you if you play from the right tees for your skill. You cannot see the cart paths from the fairway because they are hidden, as are some of the bunkers and, sometimes, the green or pin. Holes play to every direction with varying lengths and hole styles. No two holes feel the same so you won't get bored. It is one of the few courses I have played that actually requires me to hit every club in my bag at least once in a round.
Pace of play - GRADE: A+
There are no tee times and no marshals. I regularly play in 2.5 hours or less. No round ever takes more than 4 hours and I have only once ever waited on a group ahead of me to hit a shot. I have also been the only person on the course. Because of this pace of play, I have played in groups as large as 7 and 9 with no problems, and that's an awful lot of fun. Hazeltine National is the only other course I have ever played at this pace.
Price - GRADE: A+
I'm not going to post the price of membership, but I will say that, of the courses I looked at, Dye Preserve came in on the low end. Membership extends to immediate family members as well, so my dad gets to play when I'm not around. Membership is also good at a group of 'affiliate' clubs, which includes some clubs in the Bahamas, Montana, and Martha's Vineyard, as well as a shooting club in Okeechobee, Florida and Old Head Golf Links in Ireland.
The real reason for the A+ grade is the cost to bring guests. During the summer the accompanied guest rate about $60, including cart. Munis in the county are charging about $40 for a round and cart. It really is a steal. The rate goes up for the winter, with unaccompanied guest rates hitting about $200. There is a caddy program, and caddies do cost extra, but are not required for guests accompanied by members.
Amenities - GRADE: A
This is the most subjective grade in the review. As detailed above, the course does not have the same amenities you'll find at country clubs. So if that's what you want, then I'd say you grade this section a D. However, if all you want is a golf club, where everyone is focused on golf, the amenities are amazing.
I described the locker rooms and the dining facilities above and they are amazing. While limited, the food is tasty with a good variety from healthy to artery clogging. We occasionally have a BBQ set up outside for burgers and hotdogs in the middle of a round. There is no person on the course selling drinks, there are coolers with beer, soda, water, and sports drinks (and candy/energy bars) at the starter, which you pass going to the first and tenth tees. The golf carts have coolers with water bottles on them and water is available on the course. There is a bathroom on the course, situated so it is available on No. 7 and No. 16.
Overall - GRADE: A
There is a reason this course is consistently rated as one of Florida's best. A true golfer's club, Dye Preserve eschews most of the normal Florida country club design to focus on the game of golf. It is old school golf at its best, there are no tee times, they still have caddies, and you will never see money exchanged unless it is to pay off bets from the game. This focus on the game at the expense of costly add-ons (like a pool) means you get one of the best golf experiences in South Florida without breaking the bank. If you want an excellent golf experience on a traditional Pete Dye layout that will challenge you mentally and require you to use every club in the bag, all without breaking the bank, the Dye Preserve is a course you'll want to play.