The Buzz: Two years ago, when he was asked if he liked being known as the “Wicked Designer from Hell,” Pete Dye replied: “Sure. Every golf course we’ve built has more play than anybody else’s. They can call me anything they want.” Dye has a reputation for designing courses that are brilliant, memorable and, often, diabolical. Golfers find all three in the track he created at Arizona State University, but it is so much more than a course. This is a true golf facility, named after Ping Golf founder Karsten Solheim and home to the powerful ASU teams. Phil Mickelson, Billy Mayfair, Grace Park and Paul Casey are among those who honed their skills on the Scottish links-style course, which plays to par 70 at 7,002 yards.
Originally a par-72 layout, it was tweaked in 2003 to bring it to the difficulty standards befitting Dye’s reputation. The challenge meter tops out at the 16th hole, a par-3 at 248 yards from the back tees, where your tee shot must carry over a lake that stretches all the way to a two-tiered green that is just 26 yards deep and wraps to the edge of the water. There’s plenty of bailout area left of the green, but many a chip shot from there has ended up swimming with the fishes. For good measure, add two pot bunkers on the left side of the green and one more bunker on the right. “It has to be one of the most treacherous par 3s on the planet,” golf director Darryl Crawford says. “When Pete Dye makes trouble, he makes it big.”
The facility, which received 4 ½ stars by Golf Digest’s “Best Places to Play,” also offers a first-rate academy and a Ping Learning Center with state-of-the-art fitting equipment and swing analysis. And if you want a complete experience, don’t miss the Trophy Room Restaurant, which draws a big lunch crowd even among non-golfers. The Southwestern fare is excellent, including the green chili stew, Baja burger and Taos club. For a bigger meal, try the Carnitas grande with shredded pork, flour tortillas, Spanish rice, black beans and jalapeno Diablo salsa, or the Chipotle penne rigate pasta with grilled chicken breast, roasted corn, peppers, cilantro and black beans in a chipotle-tomato cream sauce topped with asiago cheese. The cuisine will leave an impression, just like Dye’s designs.