The Forecaddie has been hearing about the struggles with Bellerive’s greens for nearly two years and finally got a first-hand look Monday. In a nutshell, the 2018 PGA Championship course will feature slow and tender greens that by Sunday may resemble a war zone.
Adding to Bellerive’s issues: Recently resodded zoysiagrass collars transition briefly to dirt on most greens before plunging down huge and healthy short-grass areas. The various stages of struggling turf leads The Man Out Front to comfortably declare that Bellerive is no putters’ paradise. Scoring, however, should be excellent given the softness of greens, immaculate fairways and dense zoysiagrass short-grass surrounds conducive to spinning lob-wedge recoveries.
A locker room notice also warns players that practice round conditions will be slower than the competition days, meaning the PGA of America is slowly easing into the week in hopes of not pushing the greens in Monday’s stifling 98-degree heat. But this also means stressful practices will kick in Thursday in the hopes of picking up some speed and smoothness. With such tender and leafy greens getting hit with 156 players a day and more stress, The Forecaddie fears things could turn bumpy.
The PGA of America, always loathe to set a bad example with silly Stimpmeter speeds and other extreme maintenance practices, has taken every step possible to improve Bellerive’s huge surfaces. The greens here were last rebuilt with A-4 bent in 2006 by architect Rees Jones. More recently, the Forecaddie heard 18 temporaries were played for a member-guest after the club had been employing first tee closures when the temperatures hit 90. Subsequently, club dues have been picked up by the PGA of America for July and August after play was halted entirely in an effort at turf salvation.
How poorly the green complexes play in the context of other August PGAs remains to be seen. But certainly the weakness of the greens — The Forecaddie saw light pitch shots leaving dark grey bruising — are bad enough to bring back memories of previous PGAs held in hot climates with cool-season grasses.
On the bright side, the agronomic struggles outside St. Louis should help validate the PGA’s move next year to May.