For more than 90 years, the Belvedere Golf Club in Charlevoix has been a historic landmark in Northern Michigan, and this summer the club, members, and local officials paid tribute to that history with a re-dedication ceremony.
The event recognized the recent restoration work done to the William Watson-designed course, a project which made use of the original lost plans that were found last summer during the demolishment of an old building in Charlevoix. While aerial photos existed from the late 1930s, there was no actual documentation of the original parkland design with its classic flowing fairways, strategic bunkers, and subtle greens.
More than 125 members of the golf club and Belvedere Club gathered and celebrated the history of the course and recognized key individuals for making it happen so fast. Bruce Hepner, the consulting restoration architect, and course superintendent Rick Grunch, who both coordinated the entire project, were recognized for their dedication to preserving this historical course and landmark.
Hepner, a former Tom Doak disciple, has been involved with restorations of classic courses by legendary designers such as Ross, Tillinghast, MacKenzie, and now Watson, to name a few. Grunch, who received a special recognition citation from the golf club for his work on the project, has been a fixture at Belvedere for 25 years. Living in the farmhouse along the seventh fairway, one might say that he has become part of the fabric of the historic course.
The Belvedere Golf Club noted that Grunch’s knowledge of the course, studies of the plans and aerials from 1938, and construction work were vital to the success of the project. This included building new bunkers, reshaping contours to tie in with existing ground conditions and flow of the land, as well as re-establishing all the expanded areas around the green complexes. The restoration work has brought back many of the strategies for playing the course that Watson originally intended.
"The restoration was a labor of love for me,” said Grunch. “To return the course to what Watson originally envisioned was a special gift. The Belvedere is my life."
The highlight of the recent celebration was the unveiling of a new dedication plaque noting William Watson and his work on the Belvedere Golf Club. The historic plaque will now reside on a large stone adjacent to the first tee.
Watson, who handled Belvedere's original course design in 1923, is famous for classic and major championship designs across America, including Olympia Fields in Chicago, Interlachen in Minneapolis, The Olympic Club in San Francisco, and others. The Scotsman was assisted by five teams of horses and 150 men in turning a farm on Charlevoix's outskirts into the Belvedere course.
The course has long been a favorite of numerous golf greats, including legend Walter Hagen, who won the first Great Lakes Open at Belvedere, and five-time British Open winner Tom Watson, who as a youngster honed his game playing summers at Belvedere. He remains a member today and enjoys returning to play the 16th hole, which he describes as one of the great par fours in America.
Home to the Michigan Amateur for 40-years and the annual Belvedere Hickory Open, the course was recently named 2016 Michigan Course of the Year by the Michigan Golf Course Owners Association.
Source: Petoskey News-Review