Everything about Baltusrol is impressive: the courses, the clubhouse, the rich history and its fine reputation; needless to say, I was extremely excited as I drove through the gates and up the drive to the drop off. Generally speaking, the chances of playing golf in the northeast before mid April are somewhat unpredictable and I fully expected bad news when I phoned the pro-shop to see if the courses were open; they had both been closed the day before. Thankfully, the frost was not too severe and after a few hours of delays, the courses opened for play at 1100.
It was somewhat of a relief to hear from the starter that I was playing the Lower. It is the championship course and includes some phenomenal holes. Of note the par 3 fourth and the par 5 seventeenth. The fourth requires a long iron to hit the green 190 yards away, every inch over water. Once on the green the battle is only half won, it is a huge and severely sloped green complex. The seventeenth is the longest par 5 in US Open Championship history measuring a whopping 650 yards from the tips (according to my caddy a mere 3 wood, 1 iron for John Daly!). Unusually the course finishes with back-to-back par 5s and they are the only par 5s on the course for the pros. Thankfully, for mere mortals the first and sixth holes are also played as short par 5s.
Regardless of the hype, I found the course quite bland. It is certainly challenging and is fully deserves its place on the roster for major championships. However, there are only a few holes I can recall in detail, only 2 days later, and for me at least that is a mark of monotony. The only holes that stand out in my mind are more memorable because I played particularly good shots on them. Of note, the sixteenth is a fabulous par 3: 230 yards from the tips, it requires some muscle to tame it! Anyway, the bottom line is that although it is a very good golf course I am somewhat surprised that the Lower holds such a high rank in top 100 golf lists. It seems to not live up to expectations.
The Upper however is a different matter altogether. Considered by many to be the second course at the club, I absolutely loved it. The ground it runs over is fantastic and unlike the Lower it requires more finesse than brute force. The first six holes are carved into the side of a hill which has a significant effect on every shot, especially the greens. Unfortunately, I only played the first and last six holes since the fading light was against us. I hope I get the chance to head back one day to play the full eighteen.
Date: April 05, 2011