(Pictured: The Field House)
Following its hosting of the 100th PGA Championship in August 2018, the St. Louis, Mo. club began a 22-month succession of projects that included enhancements for its golf course, clubhouse and other facilities. Changes have included transforming a “typical” tennis facility into a multi-faceted racquets complex that now includes lights and has led to a dramatic rise in tennis and pickleball play; rebuilding and reseeding all of the golf course’s greens, expanding the practice-range tee and adding a new three-hole short course; re-envisioning all dining concepts, including the creation of a new stand-alone casual “Field House” restaurant, which has helped to boost food-and-beverage usage to an all-time high; and adding a new “Sport Conditioning Center” fitness facility.
Following its hosting of the 100th PGA Championship in August 2018 (https://clubandresortbusiness.com/finding-the-perfect-balance-at-bellerive-cc/), Bellerive Country Club in St. Louis, Mo. embarked on a 22-month journey to plan, approve, and execute over $19 million in improvement projects for its golf course, clubhouse and other facilities.
The goal of the journey, according to Michael A. Chase, Jr., CCM, Bellerive’s General Manager & Chief Operating Officer, was to bolster the club’s position to meet its dual mission statement of being the “preeminent family country club in St. Louis” and of “maintaining a nationally recognized golf course” well into the future.
“With all the improvements being completed, the club now serves all of its membership demographics with quality sporting amenities and in varied settings, ranging from formal to informal, along with appropriate gathering and event spaces,” Chase says.
After garnering 79% membership approval for the proposed plans in December 2018, projects for Bellerive’s golf course, clubhouse and racquets facilities were executed between March 2019 and July 2020. All projects were managed by club staff and committees, with various contractors and general contractors utilized on key project elements.
While construction was mildly impacted by typical project inconveniences such as permit delays and weather, according to Chase, more significant impacts were felt after the coronavirus outbreak at the start of 2020. Despite these challenges, Chase reports, multiple elements of the project opened early and those that opened later than scheduled generally opened as soon as COVID-related restrictions would allow.
Beginning in March 2019, Bellerive’s “typical” club tennis facility was reimagined and rebuilt as a best-in-class racquets facility, including state-of-the-art clay courts and a hard court, standalone pickleball courts, platform tennis courts, multiple social patios, racquets shop and Paddle Hut. Since opening the improved racquets facility, Chase reports, usage of tennis and pickleball has risen dramatically, both in organized programming and instruction as well as casual member play.
“The racquets complex has turned into a lively amenity, both early and late in the day, thanks to the addition of lights on most courts, and has provided another reason for friends to gather at the club,” Chase says.
Beginning in June 2019, Bellerive’s 20 Championship greens (18 championship holes, putting green and short-game green) were fully rebuilt to recapture their original 2005 Rees Jones size and contours, as well as to improve championship conditioning. During the project, the greens were seeded with T1 bentgrass to improve their summer heat tolerance given St. Louis’s typical hot, wet, and humid summer conditions.
Since reopening this spring, initial course usage has been the highest in the club’s history, Chase reports. In addition to rebuilding the greens, Bellerive also rebuilt and expanded the practice range tee, to improve drainage and add hitting stations. The club then built a new three-hole short course, named “Tucker’s Trail,” which can also double as a wedge range, and will be utilized for practice, instruction, and play by a variety of players of all ages and abilities.
Beginning in August 2019, Bellerive embarked upon ambitious facilities projects that re-envisioned all of its clubhouse’s dining concepts, refreshed and improved its private-function areas, added a new fitness facility, built a new and improved Halfway House, and built a new standalone casual restaurant benefiting golfers, pool users, families, and casual diners.
Since opening all areas, food-and-beverage usage has been at an all-time high, even with COVID-related spacing and restrictions in place, Chase reports.
The new fitness facility, named the “Sport Conditioning Center” or “SCC,” is a space developed to appease both the traditional gym goer, as well as the golf or racquets enthusiast devoted to functional fitness. The SCC features state-of-the-art cardio equipment, traditional strength equipment, and a variety of functional features and open floor space. Located adjacent to the practice-range tee, pool, and locker rooms, the space provides a warm-up/cool down area, and serves as another reason to visit the club.
The new standalone restaurant, coined “The Field House,” is a unique concept to Midwestern clubs as a standalone entity and “brand within a brand,” Chase says. The facility has its own logo and a distinctive menu and feel, compared to the main clubhouse. In addition to operating as a casual restaurant, the facility facilitates a high volume of poolside chair and table service, and the Halfway House is located on its lower level.
In addition to enhancing amenities, the projects at Bellerive also included a significant nod to the club’s history and championship legacy. Flags for the eight championship events that Bellerive has hosted in its 123-year history now fly proudly behind the expanded range tee. Dining rooms were renamed after past golf course designers Robert Foulis and Robert Trent Jones, Sr.
The trophies of six major events played at Bellerive are now proudly displayed in the casual foyer of the clubhouse, and a “Heritage Hall” featuring key memorabilia and imagery from Bellerive’s major championships has been created.
“The Field House” name harkens back to Bellerive’s original name as “The Field Club,” when the club opened with 166 members in 1897 (later incorporating as Bellerive Country Club in 1910). The “Tucker’s Trail” short course was named after brothers Jerry and Mike Tucker, who have led Bellerive’s golf department for the past 34 years.