Belvedere Golf Club might be Michigan’s most underrated course

Golfweek, part of the USA TODAY Network, released it’s rankings Wednesday of the top public-access golf courses in each state in the US

Michigan’s top 20 list saw many familiar names, as well as some interesting new ones.

But when surveying some of the most knowledgeable and experienced golfers in our state, one course kept coming up as a must-play, despite ranking barely inside the top 10.

The Free Press connected with some of Golfweek’s raters in Michigan – the publication utilizes a network of more than 800 vetted raters across the country to develop its course-ratings panel – and Belvedere Golf Club in Charlevoix was by far the most common name among the first three public courses they’d play in Michigan.

The Belvedere came in No. 8 this year, up one spot from 2021. Michigan’s top five remained unchanged from a year ago:

  1. Arcadia Bluffs
  2. Greywalls
  3. The Loop at Forest Dunes
  4. Forest Dunes
  5. Eagle Eye

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Built in the early 1920s on rolling farmland by golden-age golf architect William Watson, Belvedere opened in 1925 and quickly rose to prominence hosting the Michigan Amateur, with Walter Hagen, Bobby Jones and Gene Sarazen among its early fairway strollers. It was famously Tom Watson’s home course when his family spent summers in northern Michigan from childhood through his college years, and the eight-time major champion considers it one of his three favorite courses in the country, behind Augusta National and Pebble Beach.

“This (William) Watson gem doesn’t get anywhere near the credit it should,” rater Dennis in Linden wrote. “I think it’s the second best public course in Michigan, and I make sure I play it at least once every summer.”

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The parkland style layout – named 2016 Michigan Course of the Year by the Michigan Golf Course Owners Association – has winds off both Lake Michigan and Lake Charlevoix, and is known for its vexing green complexes. Improbably in 2016, William Watson’s long-lost early drawings of the course were discovered during a demolition of a nearby building. The course in 2017 was then restored, with tree removal and greens expanding closer to the original sizes, led by architect Bruce Hepner and former course superintendent Rick Grunch.

Now, the property looks better than ever, according to those who have played it, and counts television broadcaster Mike Tirico among its membership.

Strategy is once again crucial on the course since the restoration, perhaps most evident on the standout No. 16 hole. It’s a shorter par-4, featuring an elevated putting surface set into a hill on the left, with a treacherous slope to the right that only the most precise approach shot can conquer.

“This is a truly classic, old design course with true character,” rater Steve wrote. “Excellent use of the ‘upper’ and lower portion of the land and the hills to provide great variety in the holes.”

“Fun green complexes, birdies are there, but bogeys lurk if shot isn’t executed,” rater Kyle in Birmingham wrote.

“The renovation of the course to restore the original greens makes it a joy to play,” rater Jason wrote. “The ball moves on the ground at this course, and you must pay close attention around the greens.”

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Belvedere last year made’s best US courses you can play for $ 150 or less, ranking No. 10, and is priced at $ 88 for walking through the end of June and $ 110 from July-September. A riding cart is $ 113 in June and $ 135 for the summer.

The course was featured last year by the popular “No Laying Up” crew on Episode 6 of the “Tourist Sauce” series, chronicling their exploration of golf in Michigan.

Other courses that multiple raters mentioned they’d most want to play were highlighted by Greywalls – “unreal setting, the way that course works around the cliffs, the stone walls, dramatic drops and rises” – and both of Forest Dunes’ 18-hole courses – “a truly pure golf experience, great mixture of holes from the Forest on the front 9 to the Dunes on the back (Weiskopf course).”

We also asked raters which courses left off the top 20 in Michigan should have made the cut (see Golfweek’s full list below).

The Gailes at Lakewood Shores in Oscoda was the leader.

“Feels like you have immediately transported to the links in Scotland,” rater Chris in Canton wrote. “Gives a true links feel and the ability to play some creative shots along the ground, which isn’t always available in Michigan.”

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Others garnering multiple mentions included The Mines in Grand Rapids, Shepherd’s Hollow in Clarkston and Tullymore in Stanwood, which ranked No. 20 last year.

“The Mines is one of the coolest courses you can play in Michigan,” rater Doug in Clinton Township wrote. “To have a public course at extreme value designed by a world class golf course architect (Mike DeVries) would be enough to get on the list for me. … The rolling natural topography is amazing on the front but when you get back where the old Gypsum mine once was … this is when the course turns from traditional to an adventure.There are some epic holes that put you in the mindset of Tobacco Road.The course is pure fun but has amazing holes and world class greens. “

Golfweek’s top 20 public access courses in Michigan

* New to the list this year

  1. Arcadia Bluffs (Bluffs), Arcadia
  2. Greywalls at Marquette Golf Club, Marquette
  3. The Loop at Forest Dunes (Red & Black), Roscommon
  4. Forest Dunes (Weiskopf), Roscommon
  5. Eagle Eye, Bath
  6. Arcadia Bluffs (South), Arcadia
  7. Bay Harbor (Links / Quarry), Bay Harbor
  8. Belvedere, Charlevoix
  9. Stoatin Brae, Augusta
  10. Sweetgrass, Harris
  11. Pilgrim’s Run, Pierson
  12. University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
  13. *American Dunes, Grand Haven
  14. *Harbor Shores, Benton Harbor
  15. Hidden River, Brutus
  16. TimberStone, Iron Mountain
  17. Orchards, Washington
  18. Treetops (Signature), Gaylord
  19. *Diamond Springs, Hamilton
  20. *Sage Run, Bark River

Visit Golfweek’s state-by-state rankings.

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Golfweek’s Best course rankings are developed from more than 800 vetted raters. Players evaluate based on 10 rating categories ranging from memorability of par 3s to the shaping of features built into the ground. They also compile one comprehensive rating for each course, and those overall ratings are averaged together to produce a final rating. Each course is then ranked against other courses to produce the lists. The diversity of the rater network ensures Golfweek’s rankings cater to a wide variety of thought and skill level.

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