The Members of Belvoir are all to be thankful for the vision and determination of that group of gentlemen, who in 1926, in a period of depression, worked together to form Belvoir Park Golf Club. In December 1926 at a meeting in St John’s Hall, Newtownbreda a motion was passed approving the formation of the Club. A committee was appointed and the Lord Mayor of Belfast, Sir William Turner was chosen as chairman. Sir William Turner was to become the first Captain of the Club and was Captain in 1927, 1928 and 1929.
The first President of the Club was Lord Deramore, whose family had for generations owned the land that was to become the golf course. The Club purchased 163 acres of the Deramore estate on a 10,000 year lease. By permission of Lord Deramore, the Club was permitted to use his family coat-of-arms. The course was opened by Lord Deramore in June 1929 with Sir William Turner hitting the first shot.
A persuasive figure in the formation of the Club in the earliest days was the Attorney General, Mr A B Babington (later to become Sir Anthony Babington whose family have long been associated with Royal Portrush Golf Club). He was a first-class golfer and a member of several clubs throughout the British Isles and it was on his advice that Mr Harry S. Colt was employed as course architect. Mr Colt reported, “I consider that it will be possible to make a course affording an excellent test and, at the same time, one that will give maximum of pleasure to players”.
Those of us who have played a lifetime’s golf at Belvoir Park believe that he was right. His skill as a golf course architect continues to be seen in a golf course which has remained largely unaltered since its design. A photograph in the Clubhouse, that was taken in the 1950’s, shows clearly that the changes over the past 40 years have not been to the layout of the holes, or to the magnificent mature oak, beach, fir or other trees, some of which have stood for at least 200 years, but have been brought about by the planting of thousands of young trees. The holes on the course have been shaped and separated by thoughtful planting of many new varieties of species of trees.
In large part this was due to Dr J A Smiley, Captain of the Club in 1958, who was involved in the planting of 40,000 new trees, such as Scots pine, Douglas firs, Larch, Cypress and many other varieties. The forest between the 15th and 7th fairways was largely planted by Dr Smiley personally, and has been affectionately known as ‘Smiley’s Wood’.
Many famous golfers such as Rory McIlroy, Peter Allis, Fred Daly, Christy O’Connor Senior and the world renowned golf writer Peter Dobereiner, have rated Belvoir Park as one of the best inland courses in Ireland, if not the British Isles.