ST. ANDREWS, SCOTLAND | Some years ago, plumbing magnate Herb Kohler and course designer Pete Dye traveled to Scotland to play a few rounds of golf together. It was something they did with some frequency when Dye was laying out the Blackwolf Run and Whistling Straits courses in Wisconsin for Kohler, and they used their time in the Old World to ponder new architecture ideas for their American tracks and broaden their own minds as to the different ways they could delight and defy golfers.
As a rule, they traveled quietly, often rooming together in small bed and breakfast inns and never letting on as to who they actually were. Kohler pined to be part of the local scene and did not want anyone to make a fuss.
One morning, Dye had breakfast with the proprietor of the B&B in which they were staying.
“We were dining by ourselves and eventually got to talking about Herb,” he says. “I told him about Kohler sinks, toilets and bathtubs, and the Scotsman was very interested. Then, he asked what we were doing in Scotland, and I told him about Herb owning the courses and how we were here on something of a research project. The innkeeper looked at me and said ‘So, he’s more than just a plumber?’”
Indeed, he is, and if the people of Scotland did not know that a couple of decades ago, when that exchange took place, they certainly know it now. Part of that is a result of Kohler having hosted a handful of major championships back home, most recently the 2015 PGA Championship at Whistling Straits. But that recognition also comes from the fact that the white-bearded, barrel-chested scion of the privately held manufacturing company that bears his family name has also established quite a presence in St. Andrews.