Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Baltusrol (Lower)

4th and 18th - photo by Larry Lambrect - courtesy of Links Magazine

Baltusrol is a really good course. There is not a single weak hole, the conditioning is second to none and it is easily a championship test even on a daily basis. I don’t think it’s a top 100 course in the world and this is why…

The par three holes are all the same length. I found none of them to be particularly interesting, including the highly overrated and out of context 4th green. I was stunned that Tillinghast used the par threes as connector holes to help you get to better places where the land was more interesting for par fours and fives. This removes the opportunity to create an exclamation point with the threes making them collectively disappointing.

2nd green - Photo by Russel Kirk, courtesy of Planet Golf

The fours are stunningly similar, long, strong and very well bunkered. The sum of the fours is an impressive examination of whether you can hit great drives and accurate solid approach shots all day. They are repetitive in their presentation and strength. While they do turn in different directions and feature some really solid detail work in the bunkers, nothing memorable beyond a few interesting ditches in play on the 10th and 13th. The 5th is the one that stands out and the first few are memorable for difficulty created by the trees not for the quality of holes.  I will have issues remembering any four after the 5th.

The fives are actually the strength. The 1st and 7th are nothing special, but the final two are the two best holes on the course. I happen to think both are exceptional fives and perhaps that is what has makes the course memorable in many eyes. The final hole is brilliant, although I wish the fairway came to the pond on the tee shot.

I admire the course as a test of golf, the exceptional conditioning, the fine bunker work and the fact there is not a single weak or poor hole on the course. That’s rare in golf. But I was disappointed that there was not one exceptional hole that belongs in the discussion of the best of the game. The uniformity of “green colour” only reinforced the sameness that overwhelmed me. I admire the course, but there wasn’t a single element that I will take from it to my own designs and that is one of my critical measures of excellent design.


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