Major – it’s a title tailor-made for Baltusrol. From Jack Nicklaus’s final US Open victory in 1980 to Phil Mickelson’s dramatic PGA Championship success in 2005, AW Tillinghast’s classic design has been a test for every celebrated figure in the game.
There was a Major championship in Springfield, New Jersey, in all but one decade of the 20th century – a proud tradition unmatched in American golf.
Baltusrol opened its doors for the first time in 1895, named after a former farmer who had been murdered 60 years earlier in an attempted robbery on the property.
It quickly gained prominence, hosting its first US Open in 1903, and in 1918 the Old Course was so busy that Tillinghast was brought in to work his magic on a fresh 318-acre site.
The celebrated architect formed the ‘dual course’ concept, the principle that would make his name. The Upper and Lower courses were the result.
Tillinghast tried to entice players into crafting their shots in a particular way. The fairways are generous with ample room off the tee but fail to find the right spot and the next shot becomes treacherous.
Quickly eclipsing the older sibling, the Lower has became the standard at Baltusrol and has hosted nearly every elite prestigious contest since 1954.
Stiffened through the years to cope with the demands of modern technology, thanks to the work of Robert Trent Jones Jr and then his son Rees, in the first few years of the millennium, the Lower Course is equipped to cope with the new demands. It will be a brute.
Where the PGA could be won..
Could the 17th hole be the key to the PGA Championship? The Lower Course’s 650-yard par 5 may well play a defining role in the destination of the Wanamaker Trophy.
Revamped for the 2005 tournament, it was then the longest hole in PGA history and
dubbed by media as the ‘Beast of Baltusrol’.
While its length might make it a three-shot hole for all but the very biggest hitters – and they will need two mighty strikes to get there – it is still a genuine birdie chance.
With the 553-yard 18th also offering chances to pick up at least one more shot, the 17th could form part of a thrilling climax late on Sunday.
A slightly imperfect contact from the tee will force players into a decision as their second shot takes on the fearsome cross bunkers that form such an important feature of the hole.