ST. LOUIS — Golf course conditioning has been a recent theme at majors, with a lack of watering wreaking havoc during the U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills and burnt-out grounds of Carnoustie creating some curious dynamics, and optics, at the Open Championship. That narrative may return this week in St. Louis, as players arriving at Bellerive Country Club for the 100th PGA Championship were greeted to burnt, patchy greens on Monday.
The following photos were snapped by Golf Digest in a practice round stroll around the property.
While this part of the country is always steamy from June to August, the summer of 2018 has been particularly brutal, as both June and July finished in the top-five highest-recorded months in Missouri history. Local courses have battled the conditions as much as possible, but there's only so much you can do to combat Mother Nature. Even with the resources at its disposal, that includes Bellerive.
"With this heat, it's not surprising," Joe LaCava, caddie for Tiger Woods, told Golf Digest. "That's the Midwest. It's a shame it looks like this. But what can you do?"
That Bellerive has some of the biggest greens in golf—more than 10,000 square feet, according to PGA of America's Kerry Haigh, chief championship officer—doesn't help. A source, a member at Bellerive, said the greens have been closed for much of the summer to get them in good repair.
As the pictures illustrate, the perimeters of Bellerive's greens took the brunt of the stress. A stripe of sod lines most greens, creating an interesting transition from crisp zoysia, to a more healthy fringe cut, to hard, dried-out greens. Don't be surprised if players opt for a wedge instead of their putter when missing greens once the competition begins.
Conversely, there are a handful of greens that are crusty all over. The ninth hole, in particular, seemed burnt, as did patches on Nos. 10 and 18.
However, despite less-than-desired aesthetics, the players making their way around Bellerive early Monday didn't seem overly concerned.
"The greens are fine in the middle, it's once you get to the edges where things get fun," said Matt Dobyns, a club professional competing in his fifth PGA Championship. "Kinda rough in the areas they spray-painted green, too.
"They will cut everything down by Thursday, and I'm sure they'll footprint a bit, but overall we should be able to handle it."
A caddie, on request of anonymity, briefly told Golf Digest on the practice green that, while surprised at Bellerive's greens, they're not worse than what players faced at the Scottish Open at Gullane. "Just factor in [bumps] as part of the read," he said.
In his practice round Monday morning, Dustin Johnson and his caddie/brother Austin noted some of these patches, although Dustin, on multiple occasions, could be heard saying, "Not a big deal."
At the time of this article's publication Haigh and Bellerive superintendent Carlos E. Arraya had not responded to requests for comment.
UPDATED, Tuesday, Aug. 7—Kerry Haigh issued this statement regarding the greens to Golf Channel: "We are continuing to monitor the heat and humidity and will modify our mowing and agronomic practices accordingly to help protect the putting surfaces for the championship rounds. We notified the players yesterday that due to several weeks of extreme temperatures and high humidity, the green speeds will remain slower than planned. We are hopeful that with the forecast calling for less extreme temperatures starting on Wednesday, the greens will get quicker and smoother."
(This story will be updated with further player reaction.)