Belvedere Golf Course Restored, A Review
I first played Belvedere Golf Club, in Charlevoix, Michigan in 2015 (see my original Belvedere Golf Club review). Designed by William Watson in 1925, it had old school charm, but was tough, with tight fairways and small, crowned greens.
Watson is a legendary golf course designer, having designed — among others — Olympia Fields in Chicago, Interlachen in Minneapolis, and The Olympic Club in San Francisco. He built Belvedere with five teams of horses and 150 men. I find it hard to imagine the work that had to go into golf course construction prior to mechanized earth moving equipment.
A year after I played the course, Watson’s original plans came to light when they were discovered in an old building in Charlevoix that was slated for destruction. The club took advantage of this fortuitous event, and engaged golf architect Bruce Hepner to supervise a restoration project. Hepner, a Tom Doak disciple, and course superintendent Rick Grunch brought Watson’s 90 year old course back to life, reclaiming greens surface, removing trees, expanding fairways and approach areas and replacing bunkers that had disappeared over the years.
Belvedere’s wider fairways and larger greens are noticeable, and welcome. Finding the fairway and hitting the greens are less daunting tasks than before. That does not mean, however, that Belvedere is significantly less difficult. Golfers now are tasked with choosing the best route to the hole for their game, rather than having the path dictated. Larger greens are both a blessing and a curse. While they are easier to hit, a poorly placed shot can leave the ball many yards from the hole.
One of the things that I like best about the new Belvedere is that its large greens are open to the front — though usually constrained by bunkers. That allows golfers to get creative in playing a variety of shots into the green. Flying a shot in — a shot that is derigueur on so many courses — is just one option, and not always the best.
Of note is the restoration of the sixteenth, a short par 4. Expanding the green, the fairway and approach area on this hole revived the original strategy of approaching the green from the left. I took advantage of this quite by accident. My memory of the hole was that I needed to hit a drive over the bunker on the right, then loft a high shot into the green and pray that it held. A poor drive on my part, however, sent my ball left. Imagine my delight when I discovered the new approach. Of course, any shot left has to take into consideration the re-emergence of the bunker on that side.
None other than Gene Sarazen is reported to have spoken highly of this hole (in its original design), even in the later years of his life.
In my initial assessment of the course back in 2015, I gave Belvedere a grade of B+. I’m going to upgrade it now and give Belvedere a solid A.
I am grateful to live in a such a golf rich state as Michigan. As I have noted many times, I won’t ever get a chance to play Augusta National or likely even Crystal Downs, but I can play an Alister Mackenzie course several times a year at the University of Michigan. I can choose from a variety of publicly available Donald Ross courses. Similarly, I won’t ever get to play Olympia Fields or Olympic, but I can play a William Watson course any time I happen to be in Northern Michigan (which is often).
Belvedere Golf Course Restored, A Review was first published August 6, 2018 from a round played on August 4, 2018.