19 Meacham Street,
Massachusetts (MA) 01267,
- +1 413 458 3997
150 miles W of Boston
Unaccompanied guests may play daily by prior arrangement
Wayne Stiles, John Van Kleek, Gil Hanse
Laid out on the Williams College campus in the Berkshire Mountains, Taconic Golf Club is one of the best collegiate courses in the country. A rudimentary 9-hole course was laid out in 1896 which was extended to eighteen holes in 1928 with a par of 73, but the layout was revised in the mid-1950s and it now plays to a par of 71.
Designed by the Boston company of Stiles and Van Kleek – which was responsible for the construction of more than fifty courses between 1924 and 1932, mainly in New England – the eighteen holes here at Taconic are set in one of the most beautiful locations in the state of Massachusetts.
The front nine – short and very pretty – is where a score can be made, despite the relatively tight fairways and greens elevated above fairway level. The outward half ends in spectacular style with a downhill par three that plays to a green set in a hollow below the clubhouse.
The back nine comprises many of the holes completed by Stiles and Van Kleek with fairways laid out over higher ground and magnificent mountain backdrops for many of the tee shots A rock engraved behind the 14th tee pays tribute to a Jack Nicklaus hole in one during a practice round for the 1956 US Junior Amateur Championship which was held here.
Gil Hanse recommended a restoration project to the club in 2006 which involved the relocation of cart paths, upgrading of drainage, expansion of green sites, widening of fairways, installation of fairway bunkers and removal of a substantial number of trees throughout the property – all alterations designed to return the course to the way it was intended to play by its creators.
In the book The Life and Work of Wayne Stiles by Bob Labbance and Kevin Mendik, the authors reckon Taconic “is the most highly regarded of any course designed by Stiles and Van Kleek“ though they also contend: “not to belittle the excellent course… but there are many others designed by the firm that are just as good. Taconic has the resources to enhance and improve the condition of the course, unlike most of the other courses of the same ilk.”
Gil Hanse is also quoted in the book as saying: “the routing is perhaps the strongest feature of the design. The golf course perfectly traverses the rolling terrain and the diversity of the layout is inherent in each shot played”. The architect continues: “Taconic Golf Club has outstanding greens [and they] possess all of the bold undulations and imagination that mark greens built by classic golf course architects.”
Any student lucky enough to go to Williams College in Massachusetts may well have the best college golf course in America at Taconic Golf Club. Wayne Stiles routed a fabulous looking course with epic green-sites, which was only further improved by a recent Gil Hanse restoration.
Two of the greatest architects brought this piece of land to world-class levels. Constant change in direction across huge slopes and challenging bunker complexes make this course visually appealing with outstanding design features.
You need to be really accurate to play well on this tough layout as judging distance becomes exceptionally tricky as the target landing areas rise and fall before you.
Taconic is a great educational case study on the genius of routing on a rolling topology. Its isolated location makes it far from everywhere, but the 18 holes are worth every mile of the journey.
If America's college golf courses were ranked like its college football teams, then Williams College's Taconic Golf Club would be playing for the national championship. Their opponent would probably be The Course at Yale. Both are truly great golf courses.
Taconic, like many layouts in the Northeast, was built on farmland. It was started quite humbly by three men in 1896 who sought permission to place some tomato cans on a college athletic field so they could play golf. It wasn't until 1927 that a Williams alumnus secured additional land and hired an architect to build an 18-hole course.
Wayne Stiles of the golf course design firm Stiles & Van Kleek was the man commissioned to design and construct the new course. Stiles and Van Kleek may not have the cachet of Yale course architects C.B. Macdonald and Seth Raynor, but what Stiles created in Williamstown may have been his masterpiece.
Many of Taconic's greens are elevated and although the course is generally not tight from the tees, the real challenge is found in hitting to the greens. With significant slope from back to front, you're usually better off playing short of the hole.
In 1956, a teenager named Jack Nicklaus made a hole-in-one at Taconic in the U.S. Junior Amateur. In 2008, Gil Hanse was hired to do a multimillion dollar renovation of the course. This is a classic you may not have heard of but will make sure others do after you play it.
While there are only a handful of tee times available each day to non-members, that makes Taconic technically a public course and in my view, the best public course in New England and among the best of any kind in Massachusetts.
The routing sends the golfer in all directions and all but two tees are a short walk from the preceding green. Wayne Stiles has provided great variety off the tees and equally strategic choices approaching each green. Above the hole is an evil place to be on many greens, most notably 3, 4, 6, 10, 12, and 17.
The course is usually in excellent conditions (as inferred from the sign by the Shop "No preferred lies. We play golf here."The views of the Berkshires are splendid. With the exception of a handful of seaside courses, the visual appeal is the best in the state.