Club + Resort Business’ Second Annual Awards recognize Bellerive Country Club in St. Louis, Mo. for transforming a wedge range into Tucker’s Trail—a plot of land that has become home to a short course with three greens and three sets of tees to each green. “The members and juniors are utilizing the course as a place to practice, play and enjoy the facility, whether it’s friendly competition or just a nice walk with your kids or spouse,” says Director of Golf Mike Tucker.
The December 2020 issue of Club + Resort Business features the 2020 Innovation Awards, recognizing club and resort properties that have conceived and implemented concepts that have paid real dividends in the form of enduring member and guest satisfaction and loyalty.
This property was recognized for innovative achievement in the Golf Operations category:
Following its hosting of the 100th PGA Championship in August 2018, Bellerive Country Club in St. Louis, Mo. began a 22-month series of projects that included enhancements for its golf course, clubhouse and other facilities that were all completed this year, even with the temporary disruptions of the pandemic.
C+RB featured Bellerive on an episode of The Road Back in July 2020 and as its cover story in September 2018 (https://clubandresortbusiness.com/finding-the-perfect-balance-at-bellerive-cc/)
On the golf side, Bellerive rebuilt and reseeded all of the golf course’s greens, expanded the practice-range tee and added a new three-hole short course, called “Tucker’s Trail.”Tucker’s Trail, which can also double as a wedge range and be used for practice and instruction as well as play, was an idea Director of Golf Mike Tucker and architect Bryce Swanson discussed many years ago, says Carlos Arraya, CGCS, Bellerive’s Assistant General Manager. And once things were set in motion to finally make the course a reality, choosing a name for it didn’t take much time at all.
“The Board [and] club desired to honor Mike and Jerry Tucker, the brothers who have led golf operations at [Bellerive] for many decades,” Arraya says. “Their short-game excellence and teachings also aided in making the name connect.”
Jerry Tucker was the club’s PGA Head Professional from 1987 to 1996 before handing over the reins to his younger brother. “Although the course is named ‘Tucker’s Trail,’ I actually believe it’s 90% for Jerry and 10% for me,” Mike jokes.
Situated on approximately three acres, Tucker’s Trail is located to the north of Bellerive’s 18th hole and west of its 10th tee. It can be accessed following a round of golf for a 19th-hole experience, or before starting a round.
“The area was previously the wedge range and the location of a nursery green for the club’s agronomy team,” says Arraya, who was previously Bellerive’s Director of Grounds & Agronomy before becoming AGM. “The previous wedge range consisted of greens made of artificial mats—a great idea for winter practice, but that did not fit the championship feel or conditioning of the club.”
When it came time to design the new short course, Swanson provided the plan and Arraya designed it on the field with the contractor’s shaper.
Tucker’s Trail was designed to be played as a 9-hole course, with a scorecard created for that purpose. The holes range between 20 and 65 yards long.
“The yardages fit the ‘Tucker Short Game Test’ that my brother Jerry created many years ago,” Mike Tucker explains. “It challenges all aspects of the short game, which we have espoused throughout the years.”
“It’s a unique routing,” Tucker adds of the nine-hole design. “You play the first green from three different tees, then move on to the second green, then the third green in similar fashion. With each group on one green at a time, it eliminates crossfire and a dangerous situation with multiple golfers. It has worked well so far.”
The course can also be utilized as a warm-up wedge area, Arraya adds, where the yardages can be extended, but only for specific times in peak season. “It’s where our junior golf program will surely grow and also for golf beginners at a later age in life, minus the intimidation,” he says. “In the future it will also be used as a training ground, to make our caddie program even more robust than what Mike and his team have created.
“I believe it may also be an avenue where corporate outings can be hosted and golf and business can be conducted,” he continues. “During the pandemic, it has also been used as an outdoor wedding venue. The club plans to run power for lighting and add possible food-and-beverage components, as local COVID mandates permit.”
Since its opening, member feedback for however Tucker’s Trail has been used has been extremely positive. “There are several senior members who can now [use it to] walk a nine-hole course, where physical limitations don’t allow them to enjoy the walking portion of the game on our championship course,” Arraya notes.
And Mike Tucker has seen the course used in myriad ways that go beyond learning golf. “The members and juniors are utilizing the course as a place to practice, play and enjoy the facility, whether it’s friendly competition or just a nice walk with your kids or spouse,” he says. “Make it whatever you want it to be, is our philosophy.”