Unveiling Baltusrol Golf Club: The Hidden Gem of American Golf Courses!

The Baltusrol Golf Club is a private access 36-hole golf club in the eastern region of the United States, situated in Springfield, New Jersey – about twenty miles due west of New York City. It ranks amongst the most expensive and exclusive club set-ups, with an initiation fee in the region of $150,000 to which annual dues of $18,500 need to be added. It is an invitation only club.

Founded in 1895 by Louis Keller, who originally used it as a city retreat for himself and his acquaintances, the prestigious club offers two 18-hole golf courses, the Upper and Lower Course. Both have hosted major championships, and which of the two is the best course rather depends upon personal taste and preference. It was named after Baltus Roll, who farmed the land upon which the popular club was built. At the time of its opening it consisted of a single 9-hole course.

It wasn’t until 1922 that the modern courses were opened, both of them designed by A.W. Tillinghast. The golf club is listed in the National Register of Historic Places, and has been designated a National Historic Landmark in recognition of Tillinghast’s illustrious career as a course designer.

A Brief History of Baltusrol Golf Club

As well as being a most exclusive club Baltusrol is also one of the oldest country clubs, indeed one of the oldest golf clubs, in the United States. Originally opened as a single nine-hole course designed by George Hunter, it emerged as a fully fledged golf resort with two 18-hole courses in 1922. Both have served as the venue for major tournaments in the years which have followed.

The story behind the name is especially interesting. Baltus Roll was a farmer who worked the land upon which the private club was subsequently built. Roll was murdered in 1831 by two thieves who believed that he had hidden treasure stored at his mountain farmhouse. One of the suspects committed suicide, but the other was acquitted of murder although he was found guilty of forgery and sentenced to 24 years in prison, where he remained until he died.

The 9-hole golf course became an 18-hole golf course in 1898. This became known as the Old Course, and is no longer in existence. It was in 1918 that A.W. Tillinghast was commissioned to redesign and modernize the facility, and the result was the creation of the Upper Course and Lower Course which opened up in 1922.

Major Championships Played at Baltusrol

As far back as 1901 the Old Course was hosting the US Women’s Amateur, and two years later the US Open itself (which it hosted a second time in 1915). Following its replacement, both new courses provided the venues for major tournaments in subsequent years. In 1936 the US Open was played Baltusrol’s Upper Course, as was the US Women’s Open in 1985.

The other course has however been the site of the majority of Baltusrol’s championship impressive portfolio of events. Extended by Robert Trent Jones in 1948, and again by his son Rees Jones in 1992, it is the perfect location for playing tournaments of national import. The US Open championship has been played their four times, the most memorable of which was probably the nail-biting victory of Jack Nicklaus over Arnold Palmer in 1967, and Nicklaus would go on again to win the Open for the last time at Baltusrol in 1980.

In 2005 Phil Mickelson triumphed on the Lower Course in the first of two successful PGA Championships. And the tournament returned to the course in 2016 where Jimmy Walker defeated Jason Day.

In all Baltusrol Golf Club has been the site of seven US Opens, two PGA Championships, four US Amateurs, two US Women’s Opens and two US Women’s Amateurs.

Do Members Get Their Money’s Worth?

$150k to play golf is a lot of money by most people’s standards. And that is just the initiation fees. Add to that $18.5k in annual membership fees and there is no doubting that this is indeed a high end private club.

But this vintage club is certainly more than just a country club with a couple of golf courses which just happen to be amongst the finest venues in American golf and host to Open tournaments and PGA championships.

The first clubhouse burned down in 1909, but it was swiftly replaced and just three years later became the first to entertain a US President when it was visited upon by William Howard Taft. A strict dress code is enforced throughout the grounds – no denims, cargo pants, leggings, short skirts, flip flops, sandals, shirts without a collar or not tucked in or (in the clubhouse) hats, visors or caps.

Inside the clubhouse there are locker rooms, a pro shop, and fitness center and a range of dining options to satisfy most tastes.

Care is also taken to maintain at all times the exceptional quality of the playing area. There is a published course etiquette which requires the replacement of divots, the repair of play marks on the green and the raking of bunkers. Golfers are even asked to shake sand from their shoes when exiting a bunker.

Membership of Baltusrol Golf Club

Membership of this exclusive private golf club is strictly by invitation only. It is difficult to achieve acceptance and when you do it will cost you top dollar. Sometimes guests are allowed to perform on the course, but only when accompanied by a paid-up member. Baltusrol is in every regard an exclusive sports club, and to be accepted as a member really is a big deal.

Before considering taking out membership though, it is worth remembering that both annual dues and a not inconsiderable green fee are also payable. Potential members will need to be sufficiently well-off to be able to absorb the costs.

When you play golf at Baltusrol you play on a course (whichever of them you should choose) which has seen PGA events and major tournaments aplenty. You will also know that you are playing at one of the most historic and highly rated country clubs anywhere in the United States.

Luxury and Iconic

The driving range at Baltusrol is a state of the art facility, allowing for perfect practice. Additionally there is a putting area which includes a number of chipping and putting greens. And the course itself is famously luxury and iconic.

Inside the clubhouse the pro shop offers clothing and equipment featuring some of the very top brands in the sport of golf. The fitness center boasts the most modern and up to date weight training and cardio equipment, with personal training available upon request.

Baltusrol Golf Club is also a much sought-after venue for private functions such as weddings and corporate events, and exclusive parties and fundraisers are frequently held in which members can freely participate.

In many ways Baltusrol is less just another golf club and more a community and a way of life for those fortunate enough to be able to enjoy its facilities and to take part in all its activities. It quite unashamedly offers real quality at a price.

Phil Andrews
Phil Andrews

Phil Andrews is an English-language article writer and author of the 1970s nostalgia fiction novel The Best Year Of Our Lives. His special interests are current affairs, economics and sport - in particular soccer, boxing and golf.

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