“He was like a second father to me,” Lidy said. “So when I’m there, I can hear him talking to me. I can hear him screaming at me as I walk around.”
Liddy hears a lot of Dye’s comments these days as the PGA West embarks on a two-year renovation of the stadium, which is the host for The American Express on the PGA Tour each January.
The first year of the restoration features landscaping, removal of trees from planning and work to restore the ground cover and shrubs that were part of the stadium’s appearance in the mid-1980s. In the summer of 2023, work will focus on an aging irrigation system as well as returning bunkers and greens to their original sizes and shapes.
While Liddy has been president of his design firm, Liddy and Associates, since 1993, he has worked closely with Dye on numerous projects. Dye, who died in 2020, became famous in the 1980s for his designs such as the PGA West Stadium and TPC Stadium in Sawgrass, home of The Players Championship in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida.
Dye’s designs were radical for the time, with deep refueling, hills along the track, forced convection over huge lakes, undulating greens and plenty of his signature rail links.
A large bunker between holes 14 and 15 is now seen clear of bushes and other obstacles at PGA West Stadium in La Quinta, California, Thursday, July 7, 2022. (Andy Abeyta/The Desert Sun)
The PGA West tournament was best known for hosting six Skins games on national television beginning in 1986, and to professional negative feedback when the course was played at the 1987 American Express, then called the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic. The tournament rolled out of the stadium field after just one year and did not return to the event rotation until 2016.
Liddy says he only wants to restore the track, not fix it.
“Obviously we’re not going to change the golf course,” Lidy said. “That would be sacrilege to sanctity. So the golf course is 37 years old, what should we do? Well, it’s the infrastructure. The greens have shrunk, which is a common thing. The bunkers have lost their shape as with age and maintenance work and the guys hit sand from them.” So the bunkers have to be put back in. The watering life is 30 years or 37 years. They are designed to last 20″.
Work is being done this summer in phases, with the back nine running out of the stadium grounds now and the front nine finishing now. The course will be open as usual after the fall is over, and will be used again at The American Express for the eighth year in a row next January before restoration work continues next summer.
While next summer’s work will be just as important to the course as this year’s work, players on The American Express will see drastic changes to the course in January due to tree clearing. Chris May, director of agricultural engineering at PGA West, said that while original plans called for 600 trees to be removed, the actual number would be closer to 200, with about 1,200 trees remaining on the path.
By removing trees, the track’s appearance changes from a layout where trees narrow lanes over holes or provide aim points for players to a layout with the original Dye scattered look often described as a lunar view in the early days of the course. Archival photos also reveal where trees have been added to the course over the years.
Best for grass, tees and greens
In addition to returning to the track’s original design, May said the trees had become a problem because many were overgrown and decaying on the inside. More than three decades of growth also meant that the trees were causing problems in the lawn that did not occur when the path was small and the trees were newly planted.
“We have new ownership and they don’t like seeing grass problems or brown spots,” May said. That was part of the mandate. Part of the brown spots came from trees obstructing the sprinklers. We need everything to be green and whole. Mostly tees are affected by that.”
While Liddy said he thinks the trees have become a distraction from Dye’s original vision for the course, he understands some of the negative comments PGA West has already received from homeowners about removing the tree.
“Trees are an emotional issue. Lidy said. He added that some of the trees that are being removed will be replaced by smaller and smaller trees
Lady said he’s been talking to architect Lee Schmidt, who has worked at Dye daily on projects including the Stadium Course, about other issues, including vegetation that grew between the holes but has since been removed from the stadium. This vegetation was intended to add to the track’s Scottish look.
“He told me you knew Pete’s original concept was to make it look like Scotland, so we went to the nursery and looked for plants that represented goral (a thick, thorny shrub seen on many Scottish courses) and heather.” And I said, well, we don’t have that now. ”
Next summer, Lady hopes to flatten the bottoms of the bunkers, remove sand from the bunker faces and return the greens to their original size. All so he can help maintain Dye’s original and radical design intent.
“I built hundreds of greens with Mr. Day,” said Liddy. “I don’t know what to tell the others that they’re going back to where I think they were.”
Larry Bohanan is a Desert Sun golf writer. He can be contacted at [email protected] or (760) 778-4633. Follow him on Facebook or Twitter at @larry_bohannan. Support the local press. Subscribe to Desert Sun.