Belvoir Park, described by its esteemed designer Harry Colt as “a course affording an excellent test, and at the same time, one that will give maximum pleasure to golfers”. There is no doubt that Belvoir Park Golf Club is one of the definitive, classic parkland courses in Ireland.
Formed in 1926, Belvoir Park Golf Club was fortunate to have Lord Deramore as its first President, because it was he who leased one hundred and sixty three acres of his family estate to the members for the construction of a course.
The club were even luckier in having the foresight to appoint Harry Colt, one of the world’s leading golf course architects of his day, to set out the eighteen holes. His timeless design features are as valid today in the modern golfing era as they were over eighty years ago.
The members are rightly proud of playing on a course that has been largely unaltered since it was first laid out through magnificent stands of mature oak, beach and fir trees. Other varieties of tree, like Scots Pine, Larch and Cypress have been planted since, with Dr J A Smiley, Club Captain in 1958, largely responsible for this, particularly between the 7th and 15th fairways, an area which is known as “Smiley’s Wood”.
The great pity is that the vast majority of visiting golfers who come to Northern Ireland may arrive at the nearby City or International Airports in Belfast then make a beeline for the coast to play links golf without ever giving a thought to the pleasure of playing such a stunning parkland track like Belvoir Park.
The lush fairways, meandering streams, wonderful bunkering and super putting surfaces make Belvoir Park a delight to play. The quality of the general landscape is such that it really deserves to be on any serious golfer’s Belfast itinerary, along with Malone and Royal Belfast – now there’s a tasty threesome!
A programme of course improvements was started in 2020 under the guidance of William Swan of Swan Golf Design, concentrating mainly on the re-design and construction of bunkers. The intention was also to replace all tee box complexes over the following five years. A woodland management plan was also implemented, clearing scrub to open up areas to airflow and help with the return of native flora in these areas.
For the international visitor, you can be on the 1st tee in under an hour from collecting your bags from your flight arriving at the George Best City Airport in Belfast. Belvoir Park though is much much more than just a course with a convenient location when in and out of Northern Ireland as a guest.
The club is a serious example of tradition and history meeting with the modern world and embracing it - a hard job to get right but essential for the clubs that evolved back in the golden age of course design.
Who doesn’t like an opening hole that carries a stroke-index of 18 - here is a 280 yard hole that we should all score well on. The early enjoyment continues with another par-4, this time from an elevated tee but a much tougher hole than the first. The course bites back at the 3rd and an early contender for best hole on the course - 417 yards in length and from a slightly lower tee, the tee shot needs length to reach the brow of the hill, then the dogleg to the left kicks in, the fairway then goes down and then up to the green - the third is what is known in the trade as a big hole.
All par-3’s at Belvoir are very pretty and are a great set of short holes - certainly four different clubs for most players from the tee - the 4th kicks them off at 187 yards to a strongly bunkered green where tee shots must carry all the way; no run up option here.
The middle part of the front nine (5-7) is the only part of the course where I would say is a slightly, very slightly drop in the high standard of the rest of the course…. This could be improved with a couple of strategically placed bunkers, especially on the 5th and 7th (I hear that the one that was on the left of the 7th fairway has been removed - mistake for me as it is crying out for one to define that side of the hole).
I always enjoy a par-3 / short par-5 finish to a front nine and yet another plus point, Belvoir has just that - even with somewhat high stroke indexes both offer up chances to smarter up your scorecard ahead of the back nine.
It is clear all around the course and the club, that attention to detail is high on the agenda - yes they have a decent designed course but they are all doing their best to make the experience as good as can be; I don’t think they quite have the scissors out cutting bunker edges yet, but who knows in the coming years?
If you use the wonderful clubhouse before golf, you will obviously look out of the windows overlooking the course and guess what? you will see the ‘beautiful view’ and do remember that is just what ‘Belvoir’ translates to. The best hole from this view is the 10th - it could be lazy writing but it is very Augusta like; trees, definition and some serious elevation change that is not so obvious until you play it on first glance - a brilliant short par-5 hole.
Many have said that that last third of this course is the strongest - I think I agree but would even start this run from the 12th tee…. these holes twist and turn, they dip and rise and are a joy to play and will test your game big style. The 17th for me goes up against the 3rd hole for ‘course best hole’ - both are serious tests with very measly stroke indexes - the 17th though may just nick it for me. This hole is one of those; 430 yards with a slow dogleg from start to finish, add in some serious ‘dip’ from about 200 yards out and then up to the green and without a doubt, Belvoir Park’s penultimate hole, is a beast - fact, (great fun though).
The home hole at 388 yards is a fitting end to a delightful course - this one moves to the right just after half way and the approach plays to a strongly bunkered offset green.
This is most certainly a tree lined, parkland course but just wait a minute, it has a rather sandy base which only assists now that the rainy times are a touch more severe in the world.
If there was enough light when I played, I would have gone around again.
A very good parkland course. There are no weak holes and the collection of par 3s are particularly strong. I was very impressed with the conditioning for the time of year. The greens ran very true and had lots of subtle breaks. A definite must play if in the area and I will definitely be heading back to play it in the summer when I suspect that this course could earn another ball in terms of its rating.