Belvedere Golf Club
Guestblog written by: Grant Welmers
- Published on this site: 05-09-2020 11:47:00Share on twitter
Belvedere Golf Club
Restoration of the club, following the discovery of lost drawings from Watson in 2016, brought back the historic feel of the club and the course...
“ Well you can’t tee off yet, the mowers are still on the third hole, give them a half of a hour or so. Maybe 45 minutes,”
”45 minutes?! Do you mind if I warm up on the range then? Are there balls out there, or do I need to pay for a bucket?”
”Nope sorry the cart attendant that sets up the range hasn’t gotten here yet, putting green is just over that way though. We really dont see too many guys here this early?”
Architect: William Watson 1927; restored 2016
Greens Fees - $60-109
Yardage - 6909
The sun was just coming up as I left our rented condo in Charlevoix in early August of last year. My wife and I were up for our anniversary and I had made it a point to get the first tee time of the day at the oft-praised Belvedere Golf Club just south of town. A miscalculation in the drive time had me knocking on the door of the 800-square-foot club house, what some would call aggressively too early. After a solid five minutes of knocking and stalking the front door, the pro greeted me as if I were a bible salesman, asking “Can I help you?”, as if no one should possibly be wanting to tee off 45 minutes before their tee time.
Yes, I would be able to tee off early; No, not right away; no, the range wasn’t available yet; no, we do not have any coffee ready yet; yes, the putting green is just across from the first tee though so knock yourself out, but you cannot tee off for 45 minutes.
Being as excited as I was for a sunrise round at the historic Belvedere Golf Club, spending more than five minutes on the practice green seemed like a arduous task. Like a child on Christmas morning, I must have check my watch thirty times in the 45 minutes that the pro gave me before the mowers were clear and I could finally tee off. After an honorable 25 minutes of watching a family of deer trot across the 9th green, reading and re-reading the William Watson plaque, and watching the sun finally make its way over the horizon, I snuck over and launched a driver down into the quarter-pipe valley that is the first fairway. After all that waiting at least the drive was solid…
The Watson plaque on the first tee helps you appreciate the history of the course and club at large. Few Northern Michigan courses have the kind of history that BCG does.
Sunrise over the Lake Michigan horizon - sprinklers still on - mowers in the distance - and the promise of a good score still on the table
William Watson, the architect of such famed courses as The Olympic Club, Interlachen, and Harding Park, was brought on in the mid-1920’s to add a golf course to the Belvedere Club in Charlevoix. Overtime, his original greens and bunkers were lost to the ages and it wasn’t until his original sketches were discovered, in 2016, that the club was restored to Watson’s vision. Greens were expanded, bunkers rehabbed, and, as always needed, trees removed to revitalize the club to what it once was. This was a course that felt the shots of many a golden age legend and is a favorite of Tom Watson, who spent many summers in the area and ranks it in his top 5 courses in the country. The original club house remains and is home to a private contingent that is able to have access. The public are able to get limited tee times if they are willing to pay the often over $100 greens fees, but it is most definitely worth it.
The view from the first tee. A slicer will find some relief with a massive hill to the right that will kick shots back to the fairway. There is little help on a difficult green though.
The front nine winds it’s way through the west side of the property. The routing is suburb and a small creek runs through many holes, restricting a golfers ability to just pound drives and ensures that you have to think over carry distances, as well as roll out more so than normal. There are a pair of challenging par 3’s, which require longer irons that are accurate. The theme of the course for me was that the greens are subtle and there are few guaranteed two putts. I routinely found myself thinking that putts were clearly breaking one way only to have it snap off in an opposite direction. I could see how multiple rounds would lead to drastically better scores., or even playing a group where you can get reads off of your partners. The front finishes with a fantastic par 5 along the road with dramatic bunkers around the green and some scary green undulations.
The sweeping views on the 8th tee box - the green may be wide and inviting, but there are few easy putts on this green
The back sends you east across the road to a much more rolling terrain. There are gettable holes on the back and a few that if played poorly will lead to huge scores. #15 and 16 are great back-to-back holes that definitely favor the seasoned golfer, as they put a premium on course knowledge and shot making. The only let down in the round was that 17 and 18 were relatively unremarkable holes and made little use of the land as the rest of the routing had.
I putted out on 18 to cap off a very speedy 2 hour 20 min round and, as I loaded my clubs into my trunk, I immediately felt a jealously of those on the first tee about to head out for a fresh round. As with any round, it helped that I scored well and that the weather cooperated, but Belvedere lived up to what I had hoped for. What the club did with the restoration and the atmosphere of the club made it feel like I had gone back in time for a few hours. I can’t wait to head back with the other guys in the group to play. If you are fortunate enough to be in Northern Michigan and are looking for a round don’t hesitate and call Belvedere for a tee time. Make it early, watch the fog lift and the sun rise, take in the deer and dew and the history, and let the course transport you.
Downhill approach into #12 seems straightforward and a good drive will put wedge into your hand, but you better miss on the right side.
The history and ambience are fantastic. The layout and routing are great. Greens are challenging, but not tricked-out. Staff are friendly and accommodating, especially for being a semi-private course.
First time through can be tough to navigate the course, especially the greens. Clubhouse, despite its charm, is sparse for non-members.
Fieldstone - Auburn Hills, Mi; The Old Course at SugarLoaf - Cedar, Mi
Par 4 1st hole is such a great opener. Elevated tee ensures that you get some pop on your drive and the green has some solid character. It is a nice introduction to the course and what to expect.
Put it on every Northern Michigan list and prioritize playing. Maybe even bring a set of hickory clubs if you want the full experience. Just make sure that you don’t there too early.
Overall #30/US #22
About the author...
5 and Fore
Author: Grant Welmers