Chip Shots

Golf Vacations - - Contents -

CHARLEVOIX, MI - Long rec­og­nized as a must-play ex­pe­ri­ence in north­ern Michi­gan, the his­toric Belvedere Golf Club has turned back the clock thanks to a find that has purists and golf afi­ciona­dos alike wait­ing in an­tic­i­pa­tion for this spring.

In the sum­mer of 2016, the de­mol­ish­ment of an old build­ing in Charlevoix led to the dis­cov­ery of fa­mous golf ar­chi­tect Wil­liam Wat­son’s orig­i­nal draw­ings of the his­toric course. While aerial photos ex­isted from the late 1930’s, there was no ac­tual documentation of the orig­i­nal park­land de­sign with its clas­sic flow­ing fair­ways, strate­gic bunkers and sub­tle greens.

The orig­i­nal course was de­signed in 1923 by Wat­son who is fa­mous for clas­sic and ma­jor cham­pi­onship de­signs across Amer­ica in­clud­ing Olympia Fields in Chicago, In­ter­lachen in Minneapolis, The Olympic Club in San Fran­cisco and oth­ers. With five teams of horses and 150 men, the bril­liant Scots­man turned a farm on the out­skirts of the small Lake Michi­gan vil­lage of Charlevoix into one of the most iconic and en­joy­able cour­ses in Amer­ica.

Af­ter 95 years, with the ge­nius of Wil­liam Wat­son hav­ing resur­faced, the de­ci­sion was quickly made to be­gin a restora­tion that would re­store much of what had been lost over the decades. Un­der the watch­ful eyes of golf ar­chi­tect Bruce Hep­ner and course su­per­in­ten­dent Rick Grunch the restora­tion pro­ject will be com­pleted for the 2017 sea­son. Hep­ner, a for­mer Tom Doak dis­ci­ple, has been highly re­garded in the in­dus­try as a spe­cial­ist when it comes to clas­sic course restora­tions by leg­endary de­sign­ers such as Ross, Tilling­hast, MacKen­zie and now Wat­son to name a few.

Hep­ner and Grunch spent a great deal of time study­ing the plans and walk­ing the golf course. That led to changes like ex­pand­ing putting sur­face ar­eas on many of the holes that were lost over time, and strate­gic tree re­moval. The tree re­moval has opened up the wind­ing creek that me­an­ders through the front nine and brought it back in play in cer­tain ar­eas. Other changes in­cluded restor­ing and ex­pand­ing lost fair­way and ap­proach ar­eas, as well as bring­ing back lost bunkers. The work has brought back some of the strate­gies for play­ing the course that Wat­son orig­i­nally in­tended.

The new de­sign strate­gies are most ev­i­dent at the his­toric 16th hole, a fa­vorite of leg­endary golfers like Gene Sarazen, who spoke highly of the hole even late into his life. The clas­sic short par 4, known for its well-po­si­tioned green set in the hill­side, lost some of its green com­plex over the years, as well as a strate­gic bunker and fair­way ap­proach area on the left side. Hep­ner has brought the ex­panded putting sur­face and left side bunker back in play chal­leng­ing the golfer up the left side for the best ap­proach an­gle.

Home to the Michi­gan Am­a­teur for 40-years and the an­nual Belvedere Hick­ory Open, the course was re­cently named 2016 Michi­gan Course of the Year by the Michi­gan Golf Course Own­ers As­so­ci­a­tion.

The course has long been a fa­vorite of many golf greats, in­clud­ing leg­end Walter Hagen, who won the first Great Lakes Open at Belvedere, and five-time Bri­tish Open win­ner Tom Wat­son, who as a young­ster honed his game play­ing sum­mers at Belvedere. He re­mains a mem­ber to­day and loves to re­turn to play the be­fore-men­tioned 16th hole, which he de­scribes as one of the great par fours in Amer­ica.

Belvedere is pure golf as it was meant to be played. If you haven’t ex­pe­ri­enced this won­der­ful his­toric course, make sure to add this on your next trip to north­ern Michi­gan.

Belvedere Golf Club

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