201 Shunpike Road,
New Jersey (NJ) 07081,
- +1 973 376 1900
12 miles W of New York
Members and their guests only
Mr Baltus Roll once farmed this land in the 19th century but the Dutchman was bludgeoned to death by two thieves in search of his cash. After his untimely murder, the estate later found its way into the hands of Louis Keller, owner and publisher of the New York Social Register. Keller eventually decided to build a golf course and, in 1895, the Baltusrol Golf Club opened for play.
Today’s Baltusrol bears no resemblance to Keller’s original Old course layout, which was scrapped to make way for the two new courses. Both the Upper and Lower courses at Baltusrol were originally laid out by the legendary A. W. Tillinghast in the Roaring Twenties and the Lower was stiffened up ahead of major championships by Robert Trent Jones in 1952 and, some forty years later, by his son Rees. The Lower course is not as hilly as the Upper layout. The fairways of the Lower course undulate in a pleasant manner and they are generously wide. The greens are once more trickily contoured and very tough to read.
Millions watched the 1954 US Open on television in utter amazement as Ed Furgol won the title by playing two different courses during his final round. After a wayward tee shot, he played via the 18th fairway of the Upper course before putting out on the 18th green of the Lower to save par and eventually win the title by a single stroke. Uniquely, the US Open has been played seven times on three different Baltusrol courses, the Old, Upper and Lower courses. It’s unlikely that this amazing record will ever be beaten.
Golf Digest billed The Lower course ahead of the 1993 US Open, which was won by Lee Janzen, as “the longest yawn”, but Baltusrol’s Lower course is the epitome of what is required of US Open venue. Deep bunkers, thick rough, slippery greens and length are the ingredients required to test the world’s best pros. The Lower course has it all in spades.
Perhaps Tillinghast was the first architect to use bunkers in an aesthetically pleasing manner. Not only is the bunkering at Baltusrol artistic, but also plentiful. More than 120 bunkers are positioned precisely, some say the bunker placement is cruel. It will therefore be interesting to know how Rees Jones's latest bunker renovation programme stands the test of time.