Pete and repeat: Dye family gets a second shot with The Links at Perry Cabin

FIRST SPREAD LEDE Links at IPC1 The Links at Perry Cabin

Pete and repeat: Dye family gets a second shot with The Links at Perry Cabin

Golf Life

Pete and repeat: Dye family gets a second shot with The Links at Perry Cabin

Nearly 20 years ago, I convinced a now-defunct golf magazine to send me to Maryland to write a story about golf along the Chesapeake Bay. The assignment held out the prospect of golf and seafood in my home state, which more than justified the modest freelance fee.

Part of the pitch was that I would visit a course billed as “Pete Dye’s Harbourtowne” in St. Michaels, Md., on the east side of the bay. The similarity – in name, at least – to Dye’s seminal work at Harbour Town in Hilton Head Island, S.C., piqued my editor’s curiosity and helped me secure the assignment.

I’d be lying if I said I recalled a great deal about the visit. It was, as it remains today, a lovely setting. The resort backed up to the bay, and the view across the water to Kent Island and the Chesapeake Bay Bridge offset the fact that the hotel – how to put this nicely? – needed some freshening. The same could be said of the golf course, where Dye’s railroad ties on the par-3 17th island green (sound familiar?) showed signs of rot.

In the subsequent story, published in late 2000, I referred to St. Michaels as “a sleepy village.” I had arrived at Harbourtowne Resort at 9:30 p.m. hoping to order a late dinner, only to find the kitchen already closed. I would have had to scavenge for something at the local High’s convenience store if not for a friendly server, who took mercy on a weary traveler and reheated some prime rib and salmon.

In 2015, New York-based Capital Properties acquired the Harbourtowne course and hotel, along with the charming Inn at Perry Cabin two miles away. Movie buffs who visit the Inn might recognize it from its star turn in the 2005 film “Wedding Crashers.”

This setting has plenty of appeal, even for Hollywood. (The Lodge at Perry Cabin)

It’s little wonder the idyllic setting along the Miles River appealed to Hollywood. These days visitors would be advised to book ahead, even on weeknights, at popular restaurants such Ava’s and Theo’s on South Talbot Street, the main drag through St. Michaels. On a recent Thursday night, Carpenter Street Saloon drew a packed house for live music. Just down the street, locals relaxed at Foxy’s Harbor Grille, an open-air bar on the Miles River.

Marylanders know that the biggest problem with St. Michaels is fighting summer beach traffic crossing the Chesapeake Bay Bridge. The Inn, smartly, invites guests to “skip the bridge” and board the hotel’s 55-foot Hinckley for the 45-minute trip from Annapolis. The Inn also will offer an 18-minute boat ride to The Links.

Though Pete Dye’s name was associated with Harbourtowne, it has a more complicated history. Andy Dye, Pete’s brother, first worked on the course in the early 1960s, and Pete got involved when Andy was diagnosed with colon cancer, according to P.B. Dye, Pete’s son. The course eventually was finished by another developer whose name has been lost to history, P.B. said.

P.B., a prolific architect in his own right, wasn’t familiar with Harbourtowne until several years ago, when a friend from nearby Easton, Md., told him of a Pete Dye course in St. Michaels.

“Until we got to the 15th and 17th holes that had a bunch of railroad ties on them, I didn’t believe him,” P.B. said.

Richard Cohen, founder of Capital Properties, hired the Dyes to re-imagine the golf course, since renamed The Links at Perry Cabin. Nine holes are open for member play, and the rest will open this summer. P.B. Dye has spearheaded the project, but he said his father made about a dozen visits to the site since 2016, often accompanied by wife Alice. Pete Dye recently was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, so The Links at Perry Cabin likely will be remembered as the last course on which he played a substantial design role.

While the new Links generally adheres to the same corridors as the old Harbourtowne, there are few other similarities.

“There’s nothing left of the original course – not one blade of grass, not one cart path,” P.B. Dye said.

SECOND SPREAD Links at IPC3

When the Dyes arrived in 2016, they found a course that was overgrown with trees, thistle and an invasive wetlands grass known as phragmites. (The Links at Perry Cabin)

Pete Dye, according to P.B., had hopes of moving the hotel inland and putting some holes on the bay. But that idea never was going to receive planning approval. Capital Properties plans to rebuild the hotel, to be renamed The Lodge at Perry Cabin, on its existing footprint. That work is scheduled to begin in 2019.

When the Dyes arrived in 2016, P.B. said, they found a course that was overgrown with trees, thistle and an invasive wetlands grass known as phragmites. “It looks like ugly sugarcane on steroids,” P.B. Dye said.

The first job was to eliminate all of that, open up the course and create more air movement. A much-needed, state-of-the-art irrigation system was installed, and Cohen purchased additional land left of No. 16 for a practice range.

Ponds were built, reshaped and expanded throughout the routing, with the material used to add contour and character to a design that had been largely flat and featureless.

“We generated a lot of material and had a lot of fun with it,” P.B. Dye said.

There are several noteworthy features, including the long Biarritz green on the par-3 seventh, which plays 245 yards over water. (The forward tees take the water out of play.) The par-4 ninth is potentially reachable for better players, but with plenty of trouble as you get closer to the green. The course has been stretched to 7,023 yards, with Nos. 10 and 12 lengthened and made par 5s.

Pete Dye nicknamed the final three holes the “Goodnight Kiss,” because, according to P.B., “Everybody remembers the last three holes. It’s sort of like your first goodnight kiss.” They’ll certainly remember the 17th. The island green still exists, but the hole was reconfigured in the opposite direction. The par-4 18th, a dogleg-right around a pond, plays into the wind, finishing on a difficult three-tier green that feeds down to the water. It’s a closing flourish instantly recognizable to architecture buffs.

“Mom looked at me and said, ‘This looks more like a Pete Dye course than any I’ve seen,’” P.B. said. Gwk

(Note: This story appears in the July 2018 issue of Golfweek)

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