A meeting took place at the Royal Clarence Hotel in Bridgwater consisting of 12 gentlemen, where it was agreed to form the Burnham Golf Club. A 9 hole course was then designed and laid out by Charles Gibson, a 19 year old and Royal North Devon Professional, J.H.Taylor appointed Greenkeeper and Professional.
9 hole course opens for play
The course and the pavilion formally opened. A competition medal was played between J.H. Taylor and Horace Hutchinson. The course measured approximately 2,300 yards.
Taylor was born in Northam, Devon. He was a member of the fabled Great Triumvirate of the sport in his day, along with Harry Vardon and James Braid, and he won The Open Championship five times. Born into a working-class family, and orphaned as a boy, he began work as a caddie and labourer at the Royal North Devon Golf Club (also known as Westward Ho!) at the age of eleven. He was employed as a caddie and houseboy by the Hutchinson family and was tasked to carry the bag of Horace Hutchinson. He became a professional golfer at 19, and was employed by Burnham & Berrow Golf Club as Greenkeeper and Professional.
Course extended to 18 holes
The 18 hole course, laid out by Charles Gibson, opened and extended as far as the Church onto new leased land. The club name was officially changed to Burnham & Berrow Golf Club Club.
Extension beyond the Church
The course is extended again beyond the Church as far as today’s 7th & 11th greens. The extension took place under Walter Foord’s supervision and opened in 1901.
Course extended to over 6,000 yards
The Club leased more land and Herbert Fowler (a member and course architect) extended the course in line with today’s 8th & 10th greens. The course length is almost 6,100 yards.
Present Clubhouse Built
The present Clubhouse was built in 1910 and with Colt’s new course completed by 1923 the Club was attracting a good membership and many visitors.
Harry Colt asked to visit and produce a report on the course
13th August 1913 – The report recommends the removal of all blind shots and to make the course more challenging by replacing poor holes. This led to the new 1st, 2nd, 4th, 5th, 9th, 10th & 17th holes and gave the course its current shape. The First World War interrupted the programme of changes. Charles Hugh Alison became a partner in Colt’s business and is most likely to have supervised work after 1918. Hugh Alison was a member and also captain in 1907 & 1908. Most of the improvements were completed by 1922 and the new course opened in 1923. Other prominent architects were invited to produce reports including Herbert Fowler in 1921.
Dr. Alister MacKenzie consulted over course alterations
26th August – Dr. Alister MacKenzie consulted over 10th hole. 25th September – Dr. MacKenzie’s recommendation of a new 9th green to be carried out. 30th September – Dr. MacKenzie’s report approved 2nd December – General committee confirm work started on the new 9th green and a new bunker on the 18th following Dr. MacKenzie’s recommendation.
25th January 1923 – Dr. MacKenzie visits club to inspect the work and is satisfied. 24th February 1923 – 9th green completed.
Club Purchase Completed
In 1928 the Club completed the purchase of the golf club for £2,350 and in 1933 ladies were allowed to join the Club as Associate Members. The Ladies had their own course built in 1892, just south of the men’s course but in 1932 the lease was not renewed. As a result the men offered the ladies the opportunity to join the men’s Club provided they funded the necessary Clubhouse changes themselves. In 1934 the men’s membership was 400 and the ladies’ 91.
Bradbeer Open Success
Another golfing family inextricably linked to Burnham were the Bradbeers. Seven of the ten brothers made golf their life. Probably the greatest triumph as a group was when four of the brothers qualified for the final two rounds of the 1928 Open at Royal St Georges. The Bradbeers provided Head Professionals at Burnham for 60 years with Bob Bradbeer 1919 to 1938, Fred from 1938 to 1968 and Richard (Bob’s son) from 1968 to 1970.
Whitcombe Trio in Ryder Cup Team
The three famous Whitcombe brothers, Ernest, Charles and Reg – all born in a cottage next to Berrow Church played on the same Ryder Cup Team in 1935. The youngest, Reg also won the Open at Royal St Georges in 1938.
Channel Course Opens for Play
Another feature which has dramatically changed since the war is the shoreline along the western boundary of the course. The high tide line had moved a good 100 metres out to sea from its wartime position along the edge of the current 4th fairway. This opened up land which the club used for the development of a new nine hole course (18 tees) and has provided 100 acres for ecological conservation in the form of a salt marsh providing habitat for many rare species of flora and fauna.
The nine hole was designed by Fred Hawtree and opened in 1977.
MacKenzie & Ebert employed to deliver course upgrades
Leading golf course architects, MacKenzie & Ebert were appointed to deliver a long-term masterplan for upgrading the course in partnership with the Club. The project is being led by Martin Ebert who is synonymous for his work enhancing Open Championship venues. The work began with the extension to the rear of the 16th green in 2013 and followed with a redesign of the 6th green in 2017. Additional work in the ensuing years has seen the 8th, 9th, 12th, 13th and 14th holes receive significant upgrades that improve both the playability and aesthetics of these fabulous golf holes.