Everything about Bellerive Country Club screams big. Big golf course, big fairways, big bunkers, big greens. The first time Bellerive stepped on a big stage was in 1965, when, just five years after its opening, the golf course played host to the 1965 U.S. Open. South African Gary Player won, completing a career Grand Slam at age 29.
Bellerive also played host to the 1992 PGA Championship, which was won by Nick Price, one of the premier ballstrikers of his era.
As we ready for the 100th PGA Championship at Bellerive Aug. 9-12, here are three key holes where a contender will need to come up big:
No. 6: Par 3 — 213 yards
The takeaway from Bellerive’s very first major championship in 1965 was that the sixth hole could ruin a round in a hurry. The field average that week was 4.02 strokes.
The hole ranges in yards from 190-209 yards, the green is guarded by a pond on the right side, and there are bunkers short left and long. There is very little bailout space. “I hate to say this, but if our fans want to see good challenges and potential train wrecks, that would be the hole to see,” says Mike Tucker, Bellerive’s head professional.
No. 10: Par 4 — 508 yards
There are plenty of challenges here. The 516-yard hole is shaped right to left, and a good tee ball is required to get far enough out to the corner to have a good look at the green. The green is challenging, wide but quite shallow, and is protected by bunkers. A creek runs in front of the green, only adding to the challenge for those players attempting to get there from the thick Bellerive rough.
The Bellerive members play this one as a par-5 hole, and the pros in the PGA field are going to wish they had the extra-shot cushion. Whereas the front nine eases a player into his round with three inviting holes, the 10th will be a bucket of cold ice water to those beginning rounds there on Thursday-Friday. They can get behind in a hurry.
No. 17: Par 5 — 597 yards
This hole could be a last opportunity for a player to make a significant move on Sunday. The hole will measure from 603 yards down to 530, with the latter distance offering a majority of the field a chance to get home in two shots and putt for eagle. During a significant Rees Jones renovation in 2005-06, a pond that guarded the front of the green was removed. There is a cross bunker to negotate, but players have room to run an approach onto the putting surface. A creek runs along the right side of the hole. Buckle up for some late-Sunday fireworks here.