In 2017, the historic Belvedere Golf Club turned back the clock thanks to a find that has purists and golf aficionados alike looking to experience the fine layout.
In the summer of 2016, the demolishment of an old building in Charlevoix led to the discovery of the famous architect’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.
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.
Examples like the 16th hole can now be found throughout the golf course. The restoration has clearly brought the course’s historic strategy and challenges back into play while still maintaining the playability and fun for all levels of players.
Belvedere was recently named 2016 Michigan Course of the Year by the Michigan Golf Course Owners Association. The course is also ranked among the Top 10 courses in Michigan.