Under the direction of former golf pro Matt Melville, ground breaking for the Beaver Island Golf Course began in 1957 on land once farmed by ‘Big’ Tom McDonough.
A man with a rich and varied background, Melville first came to the ‘north country’ on a golfing expedition to Charlevoix with longtime politico Adlai Stevenson. The pair had traveled to play the Belvedere course which was quite well-known in the 1950s as an elite course. He later first visited the Island while working as Boatswain on the ore carrier Wilford Sykes.
Once here and convinced by a group of locals that the Island needed a golf course to lure more summer tourists, Melville agreed to provided the layout and golfing expertise while locals Gary McDonough and Pete ‘the Swede’ provided the initial labor.
The course, which Melville wanted to name Shamrock Hills, was completed and open to the public in 1959. However, that name never stuck and since its opening has simply been known as the Beaver Island Golf Course.
In the mid-1960s Dr. John Ludwig, who at the time also owned and operated the Beaver Lodge, purchased the course, hoping to lure tourists to the Lodge with a golf package. Melville, and his ever-present springier spaniel, Freckles, remained onsite as manager, greenskeeper and local pro, providing Island golfers with tips, lessons, and daily good humor.
John Works, Sr., an Island summer resident since 1960, purchased the course from Ludwig in 1978 and began the slow process of improving its overall condition.
In 1983 John Works, Jr. and family moved into the farmhouse whose front room acted as the course’s clubhouse during the years Melville resided there.
While John, Jr. helped his father around the course in his spare time for many years, it wasn’t until 2001 that he took over as full-time manager. In 2005 John, Jr. became the principal owner of the course as well.
Over the past few years, John, Jr. has worked steadily to improve the course conditions. Spring 2005 saw a major effort directed an revitalizing the greens—work that in the spring of 2006 appears to be paying full dividends.
Another 2005 project that is extending into the current season, is the trimming of the bottom branches of the many cedar trees that line the rough areas between the fairways on holes two and three, as well as between seven and eight.
While the course has seen numerous owners and changes during its nearly 50 years of operation, the competent leadership of John, Jr. appears to have the course running smoothly and improving steadily.