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Baltusrol Golf Club is the latest in a long line of historic venues to undergo a restoration at the hands of Gil Hanse. The golf course architect led the efforts at the Lower Course, which was returned to its original, century-old layout. The one originally envisioned by its first architect, A.W. Tillinghast.

Baltusrol will, for the first time since its restoration was completed in 2020, host a major championship with the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship being staged at the storied venue for the first time. It’s only the third time in the history of women’s golf that one of its major championships will be played at Baltusrol, which twice hosted the U.S. Women’s Open, most recently in 1981.

“It’s been a long time since major championship golf has seen the Lower Course at an A.W. Tillinghast golf course and it’s back,” said Greg Boring, the Director of Grounds at Baltusrol. “We’re very excited to let the golf world see what A.W. Tillinghast built here many years ago and that’s what I think they’ll be presented with the week of the championship.”

Baltusrol’s Lower Course opened in conjunction with the Upper Course in 1922. The original images of Tillinghast’s design were utilized by Hanse and his team to inform their changes throughout the course. Although Hanse has been a part of restoring other Tillinghast layouts like Winged Foot and Quaker Ridge Golf Club, he didn't want to make any assumptions based on those designs when it came to Baltsurol. Instead, he relied on the course’s extensive archives to determine the appropriate placement of bunkers, mounding, and green complexes.

“What did he specifically do at Baltusrol?” Hanse said, questioning Tillinghast’s original intent at the club. “It was trying to restore the golf course to Tillinghast design with as high a level of specificity that we could, while also understanding the game has changed dramatically since he laid out the golf course. So, ultimately how do we position bunkers off the tee and how do we set the tees in which they're going to provide the appropriate challenge.”


The most dramatic change has been to the green complexes, which have been significantly expanded. The increased size has allowed Boring and his team to utilize previously lost hole locations, which will no doubt be featured during the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship. Bunkers surrounding the greens were also redesigned to bring the walls down so that the green became the high point of the complex, not the sand traps.

“Getting that context back in shape and then restoring some of those lost hole locations I think will make the greens the most important part of Tillinghasts’ story at Baltusrol,” said Hanse, who expects the winner of the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship to be determined by their performance on the greens.

“Major championships are always determined on those putting greens. And when you have a set of greens that are wonderful as what he created there, that’s the great equalizer,” Hanse said about Baltusrol’s new putting surfaces. “Even if we get the tees back as far as we want or we can’t put all thebunkers in the fairway that are appropriate, at the end of the day it comes down to making putts and those greens are going to be a significant challenge.”

The biggest challenge will be over Baltusrol’s closing stretch, holes Nos. 16 - 18.

The stretch begins with No. 16, a difficult par 3, which Boring says can play as long as 200 yards and will force players to carry the ball the entire way in order to reach one of the most undulated greens on the property.

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Boring says No. 17 is the most difficult of the par 5s on the golf course that requires accuracy off the tee. Players who don’t find the fairway will be forced to lay up with their second shot short of the hazard, which will leave more than 200 yards into the green, which like No. 16, requires total carry to the putting surface.

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The daunting stretch ends with No. 18, another par five, but one that presents an opportunity to make a birdie or an eagle. Hanse and his team removed a bunker which guarded the front of the green, which allows players to run their ball up to the putting surface.

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“It could come down to that 18th hole. In those last three holes a lot could change Sunday afternoon,” Boring said about the closing stretch.

Expect the rough to be up for the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship, as Boring says that’s the state of the rough year round at the club, which typically keeps the rough at three inches. He says in working with Kerry Haigh and the PGA of America that he expects the rough to be at a height of two and a half to three inches. Boring expects his team will likely make a final cut on Wednesday before the championship and then wait again until after the cut is made to make one more cut.

“One of the things that Baltusrol has always done is identify the best ball strikers. You've got to be able to put your ball in play, you've got to stay out of the rough,” Hanse said. “And so you've got to be able to do that and with the expanded greens and the ability for these hole locations to be put in places that are difficult to access it’s going to be important to have good iron play. The best ball strikers are the ones that are going to have the most success there.”

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Baltusrol is one in a long list of historic venues to recently undergo a restoration. And how the best golfers in the world will take to that test, how they’ll be challenged by its renewed layout, is keeping Boring and Hanse in anticipation of the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship.

“It’ll be interesting to see the women work through the challenges this golf course presents,” Hanse said of his project at Baltusrol. “We’ve seen them at major championships for men, but I think it’s going to be interesting to see how these women work their way around the golf course and tackle all the challenges that Tillinghast put forward from tee all the way through the green.”

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