Under cloudy skies, I arrived for the first time at Riverside Country Club. Walking past the beautiful and expansive clubhouse I made my way toward the two tallest men warming up on the driving range. It was obvious that while playing golf with Jeff and his son Caleb Bellach, I would be the least athletic and shortest guy in this threesome.
I’ve known Jeff and Caleb for a couple of years now through basketball. Jeff is the basketball and golf coach at Manhattan Christian and was recently inducted into the Montana Tech Athletics Hall of Fame for his fantastic career as an Oredigger where he set all of the school’s three-point shooting records. Standing a couple of inches taller than Jeff and with a long and lanky build is his son Caleb who is going to be a senior at Manhattan Christian this fall and has been turning heads with his highlight reel dunks the past couple of seasons. In the past school year, this father and son combo recently took second place at the Class C State Basketball Tournament and won a State Golf Championship this past May.
Riverside is a beautiful parkland style golf course that weaves its way through beautiful homes and past the East Gallatin River. Pine trees along the edges of the fairway force tee shots to be shaped both right-to-left and left-to-right to find the fairways throughout the round. The mountain ranges around Bozeman create an immersive effect that makes golfers feel as if this parkland wonderland will never end.
The second hole at Riverside Country Club is an exciting 392-yard par 4 that slightly doglegs to the right. With a long drive golfers can find themselves in birdie range if they can clear the grouping of pine trees in the right rough 100-yards from the green. This back-to-front sloping green forces second shots to stay below the hole for birdie putts to be realistically makeable.
Riverside is a golf course that is full of slight doglegs that allow players different options off the tee. Shorter hitters can aim for the widest areas of the fairway while long hitters can attempt to cut the corners and bite off large chunks of yardage in hopes of making birdie.
On the back nine, Riverside presents the day’s best opportunity for birdie on the par 5 10th hole. This straightaway par 5 is protected by a tight fairway lined with pine trees. Reachable for most players the second shot on this hole must negotiate the bunker to the left of this tiered green and the pond that sits in the front right of this putting surface. A hard-sloping left-to-right green can quickly make eagle or birdie putts the kind of putts you only want to get close enough to the hole that you can walk away without a three putt.
We wrapped up our round at Riverside on the long 467-yard par 4 that doglegs right back toward the clubhouse and past a crop of tall pine trees on the right. This tee shot is made even more difficult by the dangers of losing a golf ball that awaits on the left side of the rough. Requiring a fade off the tee this long par 4 will give you at best a mid-iron into a crowned green with a bunker on the left.
After the round Jeff and I talked about how great of shape Riverside Country Club was in. There wasn’t a spot on the course where a blade of grass was out of place and the greens putted with a consistency that is hard to obtain in Montana.
I could see why Riverside is held in such high regard around Bozeman for it’s facilities and golf course. Sitting in the bar after our round, Jeff and I visited about everything from golf and basketball and his team’s chances going in to the next basketball season.
I’m going to say Jeff and Caleb Bellach will have a good shot at state titles in both basketball and golf next season. If they keep playing the spectacular Riverside course, golf will be a cinch.
And being the tallest and most athletic guys I’ve teed it up with won’t hurt your chances on the court either.