Rees Milikin

Rees Milikin's Take on Baltusrol Golf Club (Upper)


Baltusrol Golf Club (Upper)

Architect: A.W. Tillinghast
Year: 1922

201 Shunpike Road , Springfield, New Jersey 07081
(973) 376-1900

driving range available
walking only - caddies available
on-site accommodations


I first visited Baltusrol a few years ago to play the Lower Course which is the club’s best known course and one that is always highly ranked on all of the Top 100 lists. Normally, if a club has two courses I like to try to play them both, but in this case the Upper Course was in the midst of a renovation and not open for play. My host on that visit assured me that I would be back to play the Upper Course as it was likely to be included on the Top 100 once the renovation was complete. Well, he couldn’t have been more correct because once the course reopened and started getting some buzz it didn’t take long for it to pop onto the Golf Digest Top 100 list which means that I would most certainly be back.

At the time of this posting Baltusrol is one of only two private clubs that have both of their courses listed in the Golf Digest Top 100. Baltusrol shares this distinction with Winged Foot Golf Club in Westchester County who, like Baltusrol, features a U.S. Open pedigree course and then a shorter and sportier second course.

As the golf season kicked off this year I found myself with only seven Top 100 courses remaining to visit and I was hopeful that this might be my year to complete my quest and declare victory before the list changes at the end of the year. That meant I needed to get to work on arranging those last few courses. A couple of years ago I met a fellow golf nut name Bob and posted an interview with him here on GolfTripper. “Golf Nut” does not quite do Bob justice. He has played the Top 100 in the US, the world and even played the Top 100 in the world in 100 days. If you haven’t read my interview with him click one of the links in this paragraph to read it. He has got a pretty amazing golf resume.

As luck would have it, Bob is a long time member of Baltusrol and he extended an open invitation to come visit the club and play the Upper Course with him whenever I was ready. I know Bob’s golf schedule is pretty crazy so early this year I contacted him and we picked a date for the upcoming summer. It was a long wait until the day finally arrived and when it did I was excited for the day. Two of my friends from Pittsburgh joined us to round out the group. We all arrived the night before to enjoy a nice dinner in the clubhouse and spend the night in the sleeping rooms located on the second floor. The next morning we were up bright and early to take on a 36 hole day consisting of the Upper Course in the morning and the Lower Course in the afternoon.

After a hearty breakfast a few miles up the road we returned to the club, hit a few balls on the range and headed to the 1st tee. We opted to play the par 72 course from the member tees which measure out to 6,558 yards. Once the group in front of us cleared, we were off.

Hole 1 – 468 yards – Par 5
The course begins with a very friendly short par 5. The hole does run uphill so it plays a little longer than it would appear.
 
Baltusrol Golf Club
 
Below is a view into the green from about 200 yards out.
 
Baltusrol Golf Club
 
Hole 2 – 404 yards – Par 4
Next we have a healthy par 4 with a drive to a blind landing zone.  
Baltusrol Golf Club
 
The approach shot into the green pictured below.
 
Baltusrol Golf Club
 
The photo below was taken from the 3rd tee.
 
Baltusrol Golf Club
 
Hole 3 – 165 yards – Par 3
Our first one shot hole was a medium length shot and a fairly straight forward hole. No real danger ahead other than the bunkers so take dead aim and don’t fear missing.
 
Baltusrol Golf Club
 
Hole 4 – 395 yards – Par 4
Here we have a moderate length par 4 that is best played with a bomb up the middle.
 
Baltusrol Golf Club
 
The approach shot into the green.
 
Baltusrol Golf Club
 
Hole 5 – 400 yards – Par 4
This hole is a good length par 4 that bends around to the right. I love a hole where a properly shaped drive will provide an advantage on the approach shot.
 
Baltusrol Golf Club
 
Drives that end up on the left side of the fairway could potentially have some tree issues to deal with on the approach into the green.
 
Baltusrol Golf Club
 
Hole 6 – 407 yards – Par 4
Here we have a long par 4 that is straight away. Hit it up the middle and keep it in the shortgrass.
 
Baltusrol Golf Club
 
Lots of bunkers around this green. This turned out to be a theme for most of the morning!
 
Baltusrol Golf Club
 
Hole 7 – 192 yards – Par 3
Lots of bunkers out there protecting this green which is not an easy one to hit. This is going to require a long iron or hybrid for most players.
 
Baltusrol Golf Club
 
Hole 8 – 518 yards – Par 5
This is an interesting three shot hole that bends around to the right. The bunkers on the left and right are definitely in play off the tee.
 
Baltusrol Golf Club
 
Unfortunately, I didn’t get any photos that really show the character of the hole. Below is a look at the green from about 100 yards out.
 
Baltusrol Golf Club
 
Hole 9 – 323 yards – Par 4
This is an interesting little hole that has a ton of options for playing it. Go to the right, the left or over the lake . . . pick your poison.
 
Baltusrol Golf Club
 
Hole 11 – 540 yards – Par 5
Unfortunately, I didn’t get a photo of the 10th hole which is a 149 yard par 3. There was some distractions going on as one of the players in our group discovered that one of his clubs had been left somewhere behind. On to the 11th hole which is a long par 5 that is going to be a three shot hole for all but the most elite players. Aim to the right of the bunker fuzz that can just barely be seen in the distance.
 
Baltusrol Golf Club
 
Here is a view into the green from the left side of the fairway and just short of the fairway bunker.
 
Baltusrol Golf Club
 
Hole 12 – 333 yards – Par 4
Next we have another short par 4 that gives the player plenty of options off the tee. Anything from a driver to a 7 iron can work on this tee box.
 
Baltusrol Golf Club
 
A view into the green from the right side of the fairway.
 
Baltusrol Golf Club
 
Hole 13 – 385 yards – Par 4
This hole requires a well hit drive to go straight over the water and have the shortest shot into the green. Players who want to bail out to the left are able to do so, but their approach shot will be much longer.
 
Baltusrol Golf Club
 
I guess the water got into my head because my drive was snap hooked and below is the view I had for my approach.
 
Baltusrol Golf Club
 
Hole 14 – 372 yards – Par 4
Here we play straight downhill which means that the hole plays a little shorter than it would appear from looking at the scorecard. Be sure to avoid the bunkers on the drive.
 
Baltusrol Golf Club
 
A look at the approach into the green.
 
Baltusrol Golf Club
 
Hole 15 – 144 yards – Par 3
The last one shot hole on the course is a short one with a pushed up green and a number of bunkers in front and on the left side that need to be avoided.
 
Baltusrol Golf Club
 
Hole 16 – 397 yards – Par 4
Here we have a straight forward hole with a little length to it. A good drive down the middle that avoids the bunkers is the best call here.
 
Baltusrol Golf Club
 
Hole 17 – 523 yards – Par 5
the closing par 5 is another one that is not going to be reachable in two for very many players. This one plays a touch uphill too so getting home in two requires two exceptional shots. The photo below was taken from the tee.
 
Baltusrol Golf Club
 
Here is a view of the green from about 120 yards out.
 
Baltusrol Golf Club
 
Hole 18 – 443 yards – Par 4
The closing hole is a beast of a par 4. It is only 25 yards shorter than the 1st hole which was a par 5. This one requires a good drive out of the chute to get the hole started right.
 
Baltusrol Golf Club
 
Below is a look at a long approach shot into the green from the right rough. You have to love the Baltusrol clubhouse. I think it’s one of the most beautiful and iconic structures in golf.
 
Baltusrol Golf Club
 
After we finished our round we headed inside for a quick lunch before going back out for another 18 on the Lower Course. My overall sense of the Upper Course was that I really liked it. The routing was great and the terrain was well used. Looking back through these photos I don’t feel like they show just how good the course is. The greens are really quite interesting and that is not shown at all in this set of photos. I like courses that are fun to play and provide scoring opportunity and that is exactly what I found this course to be. I really enjoyed it and if I were to go back to Baltusrol I feel pretty confident that it would be my first choice of the courses there.

We’re on the home stretch here folks. Only six Top 100 courses left to visit. Next Stop Hudson National Golf Club!