THE 100TH PGA CHAMPIONSHIP
ST LOUIS, MO. When the 100th PGA Championship commences Thursday the field of 156 players will be battling on a course few have ever played. Only three players are in the field — John Daly, Davis Love III and Vijay Singh — who played in the 1992 PGA contested on the St. Louis based course.
Bellerive first burst on the public scene when hosting the 1965 US Open — won by Gary Player. The course was the youngest in the modern era to have ever hosted the championship of American golf.
Yet, the history of the club goes much further back. Bellerive Country Club began in 1897 in north St. Louis as a nine-hole course with 166 members. In 1910, the membership incorporated as Bellerive Country Club, naming the club after Louis St. Ange De Bellerive, the last French commander in North America.
That same year, Scotsman Robert Foulis designed the “new Bellerive” in Normandy where the club remained for 50 years.
Led by Hord Hardin and Clark Gamble, the membership decided to move west in 1955, and allowed renowned architect Robert Trent Jones, Sr. to pick a prime farm location for the new site. The “Green Monster of Ladue” opened on Memorial Day, 1960.
The re-emergence of the club for the final major championship of the ’18 season provides plenty of questions that need to be answered. How will the course — updated by Rees Jones fare? Bellerive has clearly been ramped up to deal with the deeper talent base of players today. But when over an inch of rain fell Tuesday the overall turf surfaces will clearly be impacted — especially in the early rounds and it’s likely a birdie fest will be in full swing.
Bryce Swanson, vice president and senior designer with the Rees Jones architectural firm, is totally familiar with Bellerive and he has selected four specific holes meriting special attention. How the players handle these holes could very well determine if they will be hoisting the famed Wannamaker Trophy upon completion of the championship.
6th hole / 213 Yards / Par-3
The par-3 sixth hole promises some drama. A long and narrow green guarded by a pond and two bunkers. At the 1965 U.S. Open, it proved to be the most difficult hole in tournament history with a stroke average over four. No other par-3 in recent major championship golf history ever played that far over par. The green has even shrunk a bit since the renovation, making the front just as tough as the back-right shelf. At the ’92 PGA the hole played as the 3rd most difficult — a stroke average of 3.34. Nerves will certainly be tested early on for those in contention.
10th hole / 513 Yards / Par-4
The members at Bellerive play the 10th as a short par-5. For the PGA, it will be played as a par-4 at 513 yards. It will require a solid tee shot and a very good approach for a player to walk away with par. Failure to hit the fairway will likely mean a missed approach to the putting surface. The 10th also features a wide — but shallow green that will prove hard to overcome. Keeping positive momentum going into the back nine will be severely tested at the 10th.
On the par-4 11th hole, a pond lies alongside the green that previously sat in front of the green. Depending on where they place the hole location and which tee they use it could give players the opportunity to make a number of birdies. Or maybe even the boldest of plays resulting in eagle. How Kerry Haigh, the PGA of America’s chief set-up person, decides to play the 11th each day could result in a wide array of options and scoring outcomes.
Back in 2005-2006 during the renovation the green complex was reworked and a small blind pond short of the green was removed. The green complex was shifted to the right towards the creek to create a stronger connection. Players will have a very good chance to make birdie or eagle, as long as they can avoid the creek that protects the entire right side of this golf hole. There are two potential teeing grounds to make the penultimate hole interesting. Most will be laying up to the cross bunker that splits the fairway in two, leaving a wedge to a green sharply divided into three sections.