Established in 1927 and designed by course architect Willie Watson, who created such American classics as the Olympic Club, Harding Park and Olympia Fields, the Belvedere Golf Club is located in Northern Michigan and somewhat of a forgotten treasure in this part of the world. Aside from trees and added tees, the golf course at Belvedere has changed very little since Watson’s original routing and its test is preserved by a combination of firmer, faster greens than the designer would have intended, and narrower fairways that punish golfers straying too far from center-fairway.
Built on either side of a regional road, the layout at Belvedere is noted for some really quirky undulations and Watson’s decision to bring much of that ground movement right into his holes. There are fairways here that heave and fall, and others that are angled left or right. The green complexes also feature plenty of natural movement, and on the eastern side of the road are especially dangerous. Despite much to recommend about Belvedere, most visitors are likely to walk away from a round here with one particularly strong memory of the golf course. The 16th hole is one of the sternest short par fours in all of America, and features a truly sinister green set into a hillside and angled toward the fairway below. What makes this hole so tough is that the green is extremely skinny and missing short or right is death, but missing long or left might leave your ball short or right on the subsequent chip. Walking away with a par here feels like a major victory.
Although trees intrude a little too far into play at times, the Belvedere Golf Club has done a good job preserving Watson’s original design and the condition of the course when we saw it was close to perfect. It’s unlikely to be the first course visitors think about when golfing in Michigan, but those who add it to their itinerary are likely to be in for a pleasant surprise.