A proud and storied centurion, the Bellerive Country Club was originally founded in north St. Louis back in 1897 and moved to its present home west of the city in 1960, where a new layout was designed by Robert Trent Jones on a pleasantly undulating property he had helped the club select.
Dubbed the ‘Green Monster’, the Jones course was uncommonly long and demanding when it opened and noted for its massive, often elevated, green complexes. For decades the course remained a fierce test of golf, but the need to keep pace with the modern game and issues with flooding on its low lying areas, forced the club to undertake a substantial upgrade with Jones’s son Rees. Completed in 2006 the program involved re-grassing fairways, greens and tees, upgrading the drainage system, adding a number of back tees and reducing the size of several targets. He also enlarged the pond on the 2nd hole to create both a driving and second shot hazard and added fairway undulations and a nasty new green site to the 7th.
The immense targets remain the key feature of this course, the greens generally guarded by large bunkers cut into the surrounding slopes and built with ridges that divide the putting surface into distinct areas. This is the sort of course where GIR’s only tell part of the story, three-putting a very common frustration for those sloppy with their approach play. Better holes include the nicely undulating 5th and the steeply rising 9th, which is noted for an uphill approach played into a wide target dissected by a valley. On the back nine solid par threes like the 13th and the dangerous, all-carry 16th standout, as does the two-shot 15th, a stiff driving test over a slight crest that then heads down to an attractively bunkered green.
With its difficult greens and long, tightly treed fairways, Bellerive is a ready-made tournament venue, though it isn’t really in the same league as America’s best championship courses. The ambience and wonderful facilities, however, make it a highly desirable club for those living in this part of the country.
When Bellerive was awarded the 1965 US Open it was the youngest course ever to receive the honor, South African Gay Player defeating Australian Kel Nagle in a playoff that year. The club has also hosted other significant events, such as the 1981 Mid-Amateur Championship, the 1992 PGA Championship, won by Nick Price and the 2004 US Senior Open won by Peter Jacobsen. The club was supposed to host the 2001 American Express World Golf Championship, scheduled for September of that year, but the event was cancelled due to the terrorist events of 9-11.