Bellerive Country Club – A Major Championship Golf Course
For whatever reason, it seems as if the courses in the northeastern portion of the United States get all the love. While we won’t argue that there are some absolute gems scattered across states like New York and New Jersey, we will argue that the Midwest has some tracks that are right there in terms of significance.
Take Bellerive Country Club in St. Louis, Missouri, for example. Here’s a private country club that opened more than 120 years ago, and for some reason, not many people talk about it. Frankly, that might just be exactly how the members of the posh country club in the St. Louis suburb of Town and Country like it.
We plan on spending the next few sections telling you everything there is to know about the home of the 2018 PGA Championship. Many people remember that Gary Player became just the second man in history to achieve the career Grand Slam of golf. What they tend to forget is that those magical moments unfolded at the 1965 U.S. Open at Bellerive Country Club.
We are going to cover each and every time a Major event was held at Bellerive CC to shed light on its place in professional golf. We’ll also sadly include the instance when it was lined up to host the 2001 WGC American Express Championship, only to be canceled by the tragic events of 9/11.
We’ll tour the course and tell you how to get there and what’s nearby. We want you leaving this article feeling like someone who just walked off the golf course.
Here are a few basic facts about Bellerive to get started.
Bellerive Country Club – Key Facts
- St. Louis, Missouri
- Year Opened
- 1897. Redesigned in 1960, 2007
- Owner/Operated By
- Course Designer
- Robert Trent Jones Sr. (1960) Rees Jones (2007)
- 7,547 yards
- Host To
- 1965 U.S. Open, 1992 and 2018 PGA Championship, 2008 BMW Championship, 2004 U.S. Senior Open, 2013 Senior PGA Championship
- Official Website
A Country Club Opens in St. Louis
We are going to take you all the way back to the very beginning, before it was even called Bellerive Country Club. When a nine-hole course in the north section of St. Louis opened in 1897, it was actually called The Field Club and was a place for men to play golf and hang out.
It didn’t take on the name of Bellerive Country Club until 1910 when it was moved to the nearby suburb of Normandy. It was put on the map in 1949 when it hosted the Western Amateur, and even more so in 1953 when it hosted the Western Open, a tournament on the PGA Tour schedule at the time.
The move in 1910 may have been the first time the course was transferred to a new location, but it wouldn’t be the last. Bellerive again moved in 1959, this time to Town and Country, Missouri, a small, affluent community in west St. Louis.
We say affluent because the average household income in Town and Country shatters that of any other city in the state of Missouri.
They brought in renowned golf course architect Robert Trent Jones Sr. to do the heavy lifting and design the golf course. The result was realized on Memorial Day in 1960 when the “new” Bellerive Country Club opened. Almost five years later to the day, the club was hosting its first United States Open.
This wasn’t the last Major Championship held here, and the work of Robert Trent Jones Sr. would not be the last time a famous course designer was brought in.
We’ll get to the other big tournaments that have been played at Bellerive, nicknamed “The Green Monster of Ladue” (Ladue is the name of the street its located on). But we first need to continue explaining the evolution of the course’s layout.
A Tour of the Golf Course
We alluded to the fact that the current site was designed by Robert Trent Jones Sr. from 1959-1960. What we haven’t brought to light is that his son Rees was called in 2005 to come in and make some amendments.
Considering Rees obtained a degree from the Graduate School of Design at Harvard University and is the son of Robert Trent, it’s safe to say that Bellerive was in pretty good hands.
The course was closed for a full year while undergoing a facelift to make the course more difficult. For example, he added a lake on the 2nd hole, not to mention that he added length to the 8th and 12th holes.
Rees even came back again in 2013 to make additional modifications to the property. This was a massive project, as it included replacing the sand in all the bunkers, as well as reconstructing the shape of many of them.
Turf lines were added to line the edges of creeks, sand traps, and all the greens. This design led to the course’s beauty being magnified that much more, increasing the visual appeal momentously. These changes immediately vaulted Bellerive Country Club into the discussion for the top championship-quality venues in the entire country.
Built around a large creek that comes into play on half the holes, water hazards are a factor on 11 of the 18 holes. The course is full of thick rough, and the fairways aren’t very wide.
Players will hope to sprinkle in a few birdies throughout the first 13 holes because birdies will be few and far between during the final five-hole stretch.
Holes 14-18 at Bellerive CC are known as The Ridge. Once you get to the 14th tee, it’s time to hold on for dear life. The main issue is that all five of these holes generally play back into the southerly wind.
For example, #14 is only 410 yards on the scorecard, but if players miss this fairway, they’ll likely be laying up to set up a third shot. Deep bunkers guard the right side of the fairway, while if you miss left in the rough, it’s essentially a pitch out.
The worst thing about the 14th at Bellerive is that once you are done, you have to go play the 15th!
How’s 495 yards of par 4 with a tiny green protected by large bunkers? With a hole that long that’s typically into the wind, you can gather how tough hitting the green in regulation is.
Unfortunately, the severe right-to-left slope of the putting surface makes pitching, chipping, and putting the ball problematic. A bogey won’t kill you here. However, a lack of focus and commitment, and you’ll make double or worse in a blink of an eye.
We could tell you the 16th hole is a cinch, but why would we lie to you? It’s a cakewalk of a hole as long as you can rip some sort of driving iron or fairway wood 240 yards into the wind and land it softly onto a perched-up green. If you can do that, then the hole is no problem!
On the other hand, for us mortals, there’s a high likelihood that even a well-struck tee shot will wind up in one of the two front bunkers. Once you dig your feet in, you will be lucky if you can even see the top of the flagstick. Any player who makes a par at 16 at Bellerive is gaining ground on the field.
The 17th is over 600 yards, but the fact that it’s the last par 5 on the golf course means it will be susceptible to allowing some birdies, perhaps even the occasional eagle for some of the bombers.
They’ll need to favor the left side, as a creek that borders the right edge of the fairway runs down the entire length of the hole. Keep in mind that when a Major Championship is played here in the hot and humid summer months, the fairways will be firm and fast if there hasn’t been any recent rainfall.
If the wind is down and a player catches one in the slot of the fairway, balls can run out over 340 yards, giving players a legitimate shot at making a birdie. They’ll be thrilled to pick up any insurance they can before they get to the 18th.
At 462 yards, it is imperative to hit the fairway on the 18th hole at Bellerive if you envision having a look at birdie. The tee shot bends to the left, favoring a right-to-left shaped shot that can avoid deep fairway bunkers that guard both sides of the landing area.
Even if you hit the fairway, the battle is far from over. The next task is negotiating four more bunkers that surround the putting surface.
Pay close attention to the leaderboard at a Major when the leaders get to the start of The Ridge. The trouble that lurks means a whole lot can happen.
Speaking of Majors, it’s time to take a look at three Major Championships that called Bellerive Country Club home.
Major Championships at Bellerive Country Club
Bellerive Country Club might be a quaint country club in the Midwest. Nevertheless, this place turns into an absolute beast of a golf course when a Major Championship comes to town. Let’s get straight to it and tell you about all three instances it has happened.
1965 U.S. Open
Simply put, this golf tournament won’t be forgotten about anytime soon. Gary Player became just the third man in history to win the career Grand Slam, arguably the most coveted accomplishment in the entire sport.
Despite making a double bogey on the 16th hole on Sunday and relinquishing his lead, the South African was able to fend off Australian Kel Nagle in an 18-hole playoff the following day.
The 1965 United States Open at Bellerive CC was also significant in that it was the first time in history that the tournament was played over the course of four days, culminating in an 18-hole final round on Sunday.
While this may sound like the norm to the younger generation of golf fans, it happened to be quite a big deal back then. Before this event, the tournament was held over three days, with the 3rd and 4th rounds being played on “championship Saturday.”
“The Black Knight,” as Gary Player is often referred to, deserves a ton of credit for navigating the 7,191-yard setup. At the time, this was the longest U.S. Open ever played. This may explain why nobody finished in the red for the week, as Player and Nagle went into a playoff at two over par.
For crying out loud, Arnold Palmer was in the midst of his prime, and he shot a pair of 76s to miss the cut!
To put this in perspective, this was the only occasion from 1962-1967 that Palmer didn’t finish in the top 5 at the U.S. Open. Jack Nicklaus even fired off four consecutive over-par rounds to finish the tournament at +19! Undoubtedly this was a brutal test of golf. Gary Player just happened to be the last man standing.
1992 PGA Championship
It may have taken 27 years for another Major Championship to take place at Bellerive, but if you ask Zimbabwean Nick Price, he’ll tell you it was well worth the wait. The 35-year-old won his first Major at Bellerive in the 1992 PGA Championship, comfortably winning by 3 shots over Nick Faldo and three others.
Believe it or not, at 7,148 yards, the course was actually 43 yards shorter than it was in 1965, not to mention the fact that the fourth hole was played as a par 5, making the course a par 71. Price’s steady rounds of 70-70-68-70 were enough for him to hoist the Wannamaker Trophy at week’s end.
Nick was awarded the first-place check of $280,000, a far cry from the $26,000 that Gary Player received when he won the ’65 U.S. Open.
Now compare those figures to the whopping $1.89 million the 2018 PGA Champion is going to walk away with at Bellerive. It’s pretty safe to say that the game of professional golf is in a good place right now.
2018 PGA Championship
The 2018 PGA Championship is approaching, and boy, are we in for a treat. Rather than tease you with a few details about the fourth and final Major of the 2018 season, we want you to know everything there is to know.
Who’s playing well and how the course is going to play are just a couple of the questions we answer in our in-depth guide to the 2018 PGA Championship at Bellerive Country Club. If you want to be fully prepared to watch the tournament and attack the props at the online sportsbooks, you’ll want to click the button below.
Other Events Hosted at Bellerive CC
The 3 Majors at Bellerive Country Club haven’t been the only instances where the world’s best players gathered on one stage to compete. Camilo Villegas took down the 2008 BMW Championship here, the third of the four FedEx Cup Playoff events on the schedule.
Even though this was the first time the tour had been back since the 1992 PGA Championship, it was supposed to be the second.
The 2001 WGC-American Express Championship was scheduled to be played from September 13-16 at the private country club in Town and Country. The tragic events of 9/11 in New York City put everything in the country on hold temporarily, including the world of golf.
The Seniors Come to Bellerive
The Senior Tour decided to come to Bellerive in 2004 for the U.S. Senior Open and came back again in 2013 for the Senior PGA Championship. In 2004, Peter Jacobson shot -12 to beat Hale Irwin by a single shot and earn his first Major on the Seniors Tour.
The 2013 Senior PGA Championship provided an outcome that no one could have anticipated. Kōki Idoki from Japan came out of nowhere with a sizzling 65 on Sunday to surge past Kenny Perry and Jay Haas by 2 strokes.
This was Idoki’s first and only win on the “Over 50” tour. Hey, if you are going to win one tournament, why not make it a Major?
What’s Around the Area?
The better question would be what isn’t around Bellerive Country Club. Town and Country might not be the largest and busiest area, but the center of St. Louis is just a few miles east. Whether you want to catch a Cardinals game at Busch Stadium or you are sightseeing around the Gateway Arch, you’re only 20 minutes or so from the golf course.
The National Museum of Transportation is just eight miles directly south of the country club; just make sure you set aside plenty of time.
The 42-acre museum has been in operation since 1944 and showcases all sorts of vehicles from cars and boats to airplanes and locomotives. If you’d rather just hang out and enjoy some fresh air and beautiful scenery, head to Forest Park and unwind.
After a hot and humid day out at Bellerive CC, Forest Park is a perfect place to relax and reenergize. As far as getting to the vicinity of Town and Country goes, that’s easy.
Locals know Bellerive Country Club is just 25 minutes west of downtown St. Louis, and believe us when we say that there is no shortage of places to eat and things to do in the downtown area.
If you aren’t a local and will be flying in, all you have to do is focus on the St. Louis Lambert International Airport. It’s nestled in the perfect location for visitors, as Bellerive Country Club is about 12 miles southwest, and downtown St. Louis is about 14 miles southeast.
If you are thinking about playing the course yourself, we wish you luck. Don’t expect to show up and be able to get into the private country club without being in the company of a member.
If you do get the invitation or if the opportunity presents itself for you to play Bellerive, make sure to take full advantage and get out there.
A Short Review
Bellerive Country Club may have first opened in 1897, but what you see today at the exclusive country club in Town and Country, Missouri, didn’t materialize until 1960.
To be fair, that’s not entirely true because Rees Jones came in and made a few changes to his father’s work in 2005 and again in 2013. The final product is a stern test of golf, not for the faint of heart.
The course is more than capable of hosting Major Championships, as evidenced by the U.S. Open and two PGA Championships that have been contested here.
Elaborating on how difficult the final stretch of golf at Bellerive CC is should help you understand why this course has been selected to host such prestigious golf tournaments.
We hope you can one day make a trip to Bellerive, as the city of St. Louis is easy to get to and offers entertainment and activities for all personalities.
Going to Bellerive Country Club is something that all avid golf fans should have somewhere on their bucket list. Use this guide as your foundation if you ever get to cross it off.