Editor's note: This story originally was published on October 19, 2021, and is being rerun in advance of this week’s KPMG Women’s PGA Championship at Baltusrol.
SPRINGFIELD, NEW JERSEY | Baltusrol is perhaps best known for being the site of multiple major tournaments, having hosted 16 USGA championships and two PGAs since its founding in 1895. The Scottish professional Willie Anderson and American amateur great Jerome Travers won U.S. Opens here, and Jack Nicklaus captured two of his at Baltusrol, in 1967 and 1980. When Mickey Wright prevailed in the 1961 U.S. Women’s Open at the club, it marked the third time in four years that she had taken that title. And Phil Mickelson’s triumph in the 2005 PGA gave him his second major, with several more to come.
That’s quite a legacy. But of equal import is Baltusrol being where designer A.W. Tillinghast created for the first time in America two different but architecturally equal, 18-hole layouts on the same grounds. Dubbed the Lower and Upper Courses, they enhanced the club’s already strong standing as a top golf association and led Tillinghast to implement his “dual course” concept shortly thereafter at Winged Foot, across the Hudson River in New York’s Westchester County.
A few years ago, the powers that be at Baltusrol turned to designer Gil Hanse to restore both the Lower and Upper using the original designs – and design intents – of Tillinghast. It was a bold move, and some club leaders likened it to the decision founder Louis Keller made nearly a century ago to replace its original Old Course, which had hosted a number of majors in its own right, with the “dual courses” Tillinghast proposed to build in its place.
Hanse began work on the Lower in the fall of 2019, and the course opened to play to rave reviews.
“What Gil has done is remind us of the subtlety, strategy and rolling beauty of the Lower,” said David Normoyle, the historical consultant who has been advising the club. “And he has made it tremendously fun to play.”
Now, those are not words golfers typically use to describe the course that has been the site of more major championships (10) than any other at Baltusrol. Difficult, yes. Demanding, too. But not fun. Yet Normoyle does not shy away from employing that adjective
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