Golf has been played over the grounds at Baltusrol for over twelve decades, on its first nine hole golf course, the former “Old Course,” and on its current “Dual” courses, the Upper and Lower.
Baltusrol’s golfing grounds have been an evolving landscape. The courses have changed continuously to stay current with technological improvements in the game. The history of Baltusrol’s golfing grounds is a reflection of the history of golf in America – from the gutty golf ball, hickory shafts and wooden club heads to today’s golf balls, light weight graphite shafts, and high-strength metal heads.
The first course at Baltusrol was primitive to say the least. It was followed by Baltusrol’s “Old Course,” which evolved almost yearly into one of the best 18-hole golf courses in America. To alleviate overcrowding on the Old Course and meet the needs of its membership, the club retained A.W. Tillinghast in 1918 to build the “Dual” 18-hole golf courses, which are in play today. The “Old Course” was not lost totally, as Tillinghast incorporated many of the green sites into the designs of the Upper and Lower.
While Tillinghast’s Upper and Lower have been lengthened and strengthened for today’s tournament play, the changes designed after Tillinghast passed were overseen by two of the most preeminent architects to follow him – Robert Trent Jones and his son Rees Jones. Many of the recent changes introduced by Rees Jones under a master plan program have remained true to the Tillinghast design for both the Upper and Lower courses.
Every other early American golf course that hosts modern major championships has also been changed and modernized. The flexibility that Tillinghast built into the Upper and Lower has allowed these two courses to stay competitive without major green redesign, fairway rerouting or new hole construction. Many other early American courses have not been as fortunate – they have had fairways rerouted, green sites moved, and new holes constructed in order to stay competitive. No such changes have occurred to Baltusrol’s Upper and Lower. The Dual courses of today are very much the same, although longer with a few more bunkers, as the courses of yesteryear. The proof is in a comparison of aerial photos of Tillinghast’s Dual Courses in their early years to the Dual Courses today.