CHARLEVOIX, MI – Ernie Ernst said the key element in selecting a host course for the U.S. Hickory Open, or to simply have a great hickory-shafted clubs’ tournament, is going where they want you.
“That’s Belvedere,” he said.
Historic Belvedere Golf Club in northern Michigan, which has hosted an annual Society of Hickory Golfers major championship since 2006, will host the major among the majors, the 2019 U.S. Hickory Open on June 20-22.
“Belvedere members embrace the event, and they completely shut down the course for three days allowing us to compete with complete access,” said Ernst, chairman of the U.S. Hickory Selection Committee who lives in Neenah, Wis., and winters in Phoenix.
“That’s unheard of almost anywhere else for a hickory tournament. Belvedere caused a real buzz when the application first came out. It was clear you better get online early or you were not going to get in. I guess the proof in the popularity of Belvedere was that registration filled up in just a little over two days. That’s also completely unheard of.”
The U.S. Hickory Open annually attracts an international field of golfers who play with antique pre-1935 hickory shafted golf clubs or authentic replica hickory clubs. Belvedere is the only club in the U.S. to have as many as 44 antique hickory club players. Competitors dress in period appropriate apparel, including knickers, ties and jackets. The Society of Hickory Golfers celebrates and promotes the hickory game of the 1910s – 1930s.
“Belvedere hosts a great hickory tournament, so we know the quality up there, and we know it is a tremendous historic venue and the golf pro, Marty Joy, runs a quality tournament,” said Ed Ronco, the current Society of Hickory Golfers president and a regular competitor from Wyandotte, Mich.
“Plus, you can’t beat the scenery in Charlevoix. The players and their wives are excited to go there. The club plans a great weekend for everybody with things for everybody to do in addition to the golf.”
Dennis “Marty” Joy II, the head golf professional at Belvedere and a competitor in hickory tournaments, said the club is more than excited about the U.S. Hickory Open.
“Here at Belvedere we have the most hickory society golfers of any club in the country,” he said. “We have 44 men and women who are members here who play with antique hickory golf clubs. A lot of our members will be playing in the U.S. Hickory Open.”
Conservative estimates of the total number of hickory players in the world now total about 3,000. And the number is growing. Ernst said there is growing popularity in hickory golf, and it happens in a homegrown manner.
“It’s homegrown in the sense that you don’t seek out hickory golf and say I want to play that way, but you get introduced to it,” he said. “It is not for everybody. It’s more for the person who loves the game, especially enjoys the history and hickory allows a tremendous outlet for that passion. I always tell people my love of the game got me into it, the thrill of searching for the authentic hickory-shafted clubs and fixing them up drives me to stay in it, and finally the people you meet keeps you in it. It’s a great group of people.”
Ronco first got involved in the game in 2011 and has seen steady growth.
“I fell in love with it and the biggest difference between 2011 and now is the number of tournaments you can play in has grown tremendously,” he said.
The former educator treats hickory golf like he did his craft.
“One of my goals in teaching was giving kids opportunities, and so in golf I give back by giving people opportunities to play hickory golf,” he said. “One of three things happen. They say it’s wonderful, but not for me. Or, they say it’s great and I have to do that again. Or, they get completely into it.”
Belvedere is a perfect fit for those who are all in for hickory. The Belvedere Hickory Open has been played 13 times at the course and is considered one of the four major championships by the Society of Hickory Golfers. It will not be presented in 2019 because the Open is coming to Belvedere.
Belvedere, like many of the historic courses in Great Britain, allows some limited public play during the golf season. The course was established in 1925 and designed by renowned golf course architect William Watson. It has been recognized as one of the best golf courses in the Midwest and is best known in Michigan for hosting 40 Michigan Amateur Championships. It will also host the 2025 Michigan Amateur during Belvedere’s centennial year.
In 2016, the original hand-drawn architectural plans by Watson were discovered and a two-year restoration plan returned the golf course greens, fairways and many of its tees to the original design of 1925. The changes were completed with architect Bruce Hepner’s help in time for the 2017 Belvedere Hickory Open.
Ernst said when a tournament is at Belvedere the historic grounds and clubhouse combined with the players dressed in authentic clothes transports a person to another era.
“It’s quite a sight,” he said. “Some guys wear the clothes to honor that era of golf. Others wear the clothes because they really like to dress up. The bottom line is it announces our presence. You can’t miss a group of us on the golf course.”
For information about Belvedere visitor call 231-547-2611
For information about the Society of Hickory Golfers visit
Kevin Frisch PR