Belvedere Golf Club dates back to 1925 and within two years of its formation, Willie Watson, the architect of the Lake course at the Olympic Club, had fashioned eighteen fairways for the members with the assistance of five teams of horses and a workforce of one hundred and fifty men.
“Belvedere is exactly the kind of course golf needs more of,” commented Tom Doak in his Little Red Book of Golf Course Architecture, “but that no one is building. It’s basically an old farm. There’s no wow factor, except in the detailing around the greens which is exceptional.
Goes with the flow of the land. Very simple bunkering
which must cost pennies to maintain. Great greens, and great greens surrounds
for chipping. Simple to build, simple to maintain.”
For a number of years Belevdere was the host course for the annual Michigan State Amateur event. And there was good reason to do so. Opened in 1925, the semi-private layout has been updated recently and the contrasting nines make for vintage old-time design inclusions.
The strength of the course is the artful movements found at many of the putting surfaces. The need for accuracy with one's approach shots is a constant requirement at Belvedere. There's sufficient room off the tee but you quickly find out that angles matter in order to gain a better opportunity in scoring.
Belvedere is split by a local road and the outward nine, while good, is not as sound as the inward half. The opening hole begins from an elevated tee and you see the entire hole below.
The requirements intensify with two long par-4s in succession followed by a demanding long par-3 at the 4th. The dogleg right 6th is a good hole because placement not brawn alone wins the day.
The qualities of the front side really jump noticeably with the devilish long par-4 7th. The hole slides uphill and the green is one of the layout's most intricate. Plenty of other architects would have overwhelmed the hole with a bombardment of overkill – to Watson's credit that did not happen here.
The inward half excels with two notable exceptions -- the par-5's at the 10th and 15th are just ordinary in their presentation and requirements. The remaining seven holes are a quality mixture. The uphill par-4 11th at 394 yards is a great example on how holes less than 400 yards can still work well. The only downside to the hole is when the sun is setting you'll have to fight the light in your eyes.
The short par-4 16th is rightly touted as one of Michigan's grand short holes. Playing just 346 yards the player has to decide how far and on what angle to play the tee shot. The more left you go the better the angle -- go too far left and rough is quick to add its impact. The green is a sheer delight -- resting on a knob and running on a diagonal from lower left to top right. The putting surface is relatively narrow and heaven help any player too aggressive as the penalties for such boldness will be not treated kindly.
The final two holes conclude the round in a fine manner. The par-3 17th at 179 yards features a smallish green with plenty of subtle movements. The concluding 18th at 456 yards is bolstered by a green that is layered with all sorts of different movements and vexing chip shots for those unable to find the surface with one's approach.
Belvedere is refreshing for the myriad of details it offers at a number of the greens. But, the downside is that there are also a number of lackluster holes that are not helped by land, which in certain spots is simply vanilla in character. Nonetheless, Belvedere is a worthy stop for classic course lovers and what's interesting is that the Michigan State Amateur will be returning in 2025. Kudos to the club for being a relevant contributor to today's top-level players.
by M. James Ward