Major Frank Newton was the driving force behind the establishment of Taunton & Pickeridge Golf Club, founded in 1892. The Major played his golf at Burnham & Berrow and was fed up with the lengthy journey to the links, so he commissioned his friend – Herbert Fowler – to lay out nine holes across ground formerly used for lime mining and sheep grazing. Fowler was one of the club’s founding members.
Fowler and his associate Tom Simpson added nine further holes in 1925. This course remained in play until the late 1950s when further land was made available and Fred Hawtree remodelled the layout.
The course starts rather dully until you reach the 5th where the ground aspect on the tee of this short par five changes with a drive across rumpled mine workings. You may be forgiven for thinking you’re walking across links land as you approach the stroke index one’s 7th green. Old mine workings again must be avoided on the one-shot 8th where short is not advisable.
Driving off adjacent to the halfway house at #9 (the longest hole on the card) in no way prepares you for what lies ahead. The fairway undulations are simply remarkable and the bunkerless greensite with its depressed trench to the right is genius. This hole is more akin to a duneless Burnham than an inland Taunton and Pickeridge.
Mine workings continue to provide character on the next few holes, exemplified by the approach to the cunning green complex at #11 which is set prettily within wooded surrounds at the northernmost point of the property. Fairway undulations continue at the two-shot bunker-free 12th and at #13.
Heading for home, the layout continues strongly with two dogleg left par fours, one short at #15 and one long at #17, before the course finishes uninterestingly, as it started, at the innocuous short par four home hole.
Returned in September 2020 to play the full course. Playing in a mixed open the course condition was much better than on my last visit. Greens were in generally good condition (of average pace) and certainly provided some interesting putts with quite a few tricky breaks.
Thought the course did not start well with the first three holes seemingly out of character and quite different to the rest of the course, including dry fairways and fringes with some bare/dodgy lies; reading the detailed club history on the website this is explained as these are newer holes on fields purchased in the 1960's. After this the fairways are much better and the mounded/rumpled fairways caused by old mine working are quite a feature on the middle part of the course. Whilst they are aesthetically pleasing to the eye, they do cause the ball to bounce off at various angles and at least a couple of times during our round good straight drives ended up in the trees which seemed a tad unfair. In parts the course was quite congested (particularly in the middle) and seemed hemmed in, not helped by a lack of views which was a bit disappointing as it is in a nice area of countryside and I imagine beyond the trees bounding the course the views would be extensive.
I thought the best part of the course was the middle holes from hole 4 to 15, with holes 16-18 a disappointing finish including the steeply sloping fairways on 17 and 18 which threw the balls off sharply to the side. Six par 3's altogether, with holes 3 and 6 similar, 16 a bit of a fill-in, and the other three probably the pick although none of them classics. The number of par 3's means quite a short yardage at 5968 off the yellow tees, but it is tricky and suits accurate play rather than anyone wanting to open their shoulders.
Of the three par 5's, the 5th is straightforward and birdeable and the 13th a good hole with a tight tee shot largely because of the overhanging trees and fairway mounds. Pick of the par 5's though is the 9th where a blind approach over a severe step /gulley just short of the green and a sloping green await the unsuspecting first time visitor. Some good strong par 4's in the middle section including the 4th, 7th and 15th (short dog-leg par 4 with rippled fairway and an extremely tricky undulating green). My favourite hole on the course was the 11th, a par 4 (SI2) requiring a slight fade off the tee and the green protected by a severe gulley at the front which once again caught the first time visitor unaware.
Overall I thought the first three and last three holes let the rest down. Probably just preferred Taunton & Pickeridge to Enmore and Tiverton which I have also played this year, but if in the Taunton area I would personally choose Oake Manor for a game.
Keith has asked for more raters to see Taunton & Pickeridge. Well I did on a beautiful evening in April 2019; cricket in Taunton finished early so it seemed a good time to play it !. Course condition was barely average with slow greens. Nothing much to get excited about on the first six holes and I decided to miss a few holes out which (looking at Keith's review) must have been the better holes. The par 5 13th was arguably the best hole with an intimidating/tight drive between tees, and the short dog-leg nr 15 was quite a nice hole. Walking down hole 5 it looked like the sharply dog-legged 17th would be the feature hole but when I got to it it seemed a bit bizarre; the tee was maybe 40 yards beyond/behind the tee of the short 16th so from 16th green you would have to walk back maybe a hundred yards and one can only imagine the safety and delay scenario's; even if you miss the pond on the angle of the dog-leg and hit the fairway, the second shot is off a steeply sloping fairway making it (I would imagine) a potential card-wrecker. Sorry but overall have to say I was a bit underwelmed (maybe I played it when it was not at it's best ?)
Skipping the best holes and then rating the course as mediocre is unhelpful and unfair. Suggest you go back and play the full course and re-post when you've seen it all.
Sorry I didn't at the time realise I was skipping the best holes and didn't mean to be unfair or unhelpful but thought I'd played enough of the course to give a reasonable opinion. I would have given a 3 ball but on the day I played the greens were disappointing (but I do appreciate this varies from time to time). Anyway in hindsight apologies to the golf club and (lesson learned) I will in future not post a review unless I have played all 18 holes
I’d love to get more of our raters to see Taunton & Pickeridge as I think it’s a course that has plenty going for it. Should you be passing Taunton on the M5 motorway you should consider making a short detour, I doubt you’ll be disappointed.
The starting few holes and the closer are hardly noteworthy, but in between there's a lot of good stuff going on. The limestone workings (some say calamine) provide unrivalled inland interest, perhaps only matched at Yelverton.
T&P flies well under the radar and I think this is one of Somerset’s best courses where Herbert Fowler was the driving force behind much of the design, assisted later by his associate Tom Simpson. You can see the join very clearly between the newer Hawtree holes and the old originals, which is a shame, as this course would otherwise be a strong contender for English Top 100 consideration… certainly Top 200 potential.
The fairway and greensite at #9 is pure theatre and most of the six one-shotters are interesting holes. I also like the boomerang-shaped, 280-yard short par four 15th which is way more tricky than its yardage might suggest.
T&P is unheralded, understated and underrated. Play it and beg to differ.