This is a challenging opening hole that plays as a par 5 for the members but has been converted to a long par 4 for championship play. Shunpike Road flanks the left side and is out of bounds, while new bunkering pinches the landing zone. A long drive will carry the fairway bunkers and reward the player with a view of the green; otherwise, a slight rise in the fairway hides the putting surface. The green is relatively small by Baltusrol standards and is tightly bunkered.
A classic A.W. Tillinghast short par 4, No 2 demands precision off the tee to thread out of bounds on the left and a large fairway bunker on the right. Cross bunkers located 275 yards from the tee eliminate the driver for most players. A well-positioned tee shot will leave a short iron to a large, well-bunkered green that slopes sharply from right to left. Keeping the ball below the hole on this green is imperative.
There are arguably five stout par 4s at Baltusrol, and this is one of them. The hole bends to the left as it runs downhill, so a drive that finds the fairway will pick up extra yardage and lighten the load on the approach shot. Trees and thick rough on both sides of the fairway make an approach played from there formidable. The green is generous, yet a ridge that runs down the middle deflects balls to the left and right. A creek that runs across the approach to the green could force a lay-up in the event of an errant drive.
The Famous Fourth, one of the legendary par 3s in the game of golf. The pond stretches all the way to the front of the green, so the player’s shot is do or die. As Jack Nicklaus said, “You know where the hazard ends and the green starts.” This famous hole was the scene of one of golf’s most memorable vindications when Robert Trent Jones was criticised for design changes in 1952 that made the hole too difficult. In response, he took a group of critics to his new tee to play the hole. After knocking in a four-iron for an ace, Jones remarked, “Gentlemen, as you can see, the hole is eminently fair.”
This is a short par 4, not unlike No 2 in the precision it demands. There are more options off the tee but fairway bunkers line both sides. The approach shot to the green is one of the most demanding at Baltusrol; pin-point accuracy is required to hold this green with its significant false front and a back left corner that feeds shots into a collection area. The fairway bunkers on this hole have been recently restored.
One of those stout par 4s, No 6 features a blind tee shot over a hogback fairway. Long balls will hit the down slope on the other side of the hogback and pick up extra yardage, provided they have the proper line. Fairway bunkers lie at the bottom of the hogback on the left and right sides to receive slightly errant shots. The approach is over flatter terrain into a large, well-bunkered and slightly undulating green.
The other par 5 on the front side, this hole is played as a par 4 in championship competition. It is important to find the fairway in order to have confidence in hitting the green; a boundary fence on the left will have players steering right, where a long cluster of fairway bunkers awaits. This is the largest green on the course – it is kidney shaped and can offer extreme left and right hole locations tucked behind bunkers.
The shortest par 4 on the course, No 8 should be a birdie hole. Precision off the tee is required, but players likely will hit hybrids or fairway woods to steer clear of bunkers that line both sides of the fairway. A small green is surrounded by sand, with the most imposing bunker guarding the green in front. A tricky green with subtle breaks will require just the right read and speed.
Two tees on this hole dramatically alter the angle of the shot to this medium-length par 3. The narrow green is situated at an angle with an opening in front but otherwise guarded by bunkers. Hole locations at front left and back right will pose the most challenge.
The inward nine begins with another of the difficult par 4s on the Lower Course. A partially hidden fairway from the tee narrows to a bottleneck with a creek on the right side that encroaches toward the fairway. The green has a narrow ramp opening in front that can kick balls in any direction. This green is difficult to hit because it, too, is partially blind and runs away from the player.
The sharpest dogleg at Baltusrol, No 11 turns severely to the left. Fairway bunkers await at the inside and outside corners of the dogleg. Big hitters will try to launch a drive over the trees to cut off the dogleg. The green is the most undulating on the course with tough-to-read ridges and humps, and is blind from the fairway if the player lays back off the tee.
This hole has been improved recently by expanding the rear of the green to its original dimensions and adding a collection area for shots that go over the green. A long-iron tee ball will have to be struck well to carry a large bunker fronting the green and land softly to hold the green, which slopes from front to back. Most of the green is not visible from the tee.
One of A.W. Tillinghast’s greatest hole designs – the oblique. This hole runs on a diagonal from left to right, with a cluster of bunkers guarding the left side of the fairway and a creek crossing the fairway and running up the right side. This oblique angle will require a precisely shaped tee shot to a narrow landing area. Once the tee shot has been negotiated, the approach to the green is short and fairly routine. Bobby Jones’ upset loss in the 1926 US Amateur was cemented on this hole when he found the creek off the tee; the design became his inspiration for No 13 at Augusta National.
This is an elbow-shaped par 4, a design used more often by Tillinghast than the more pronounced dogleg. The most direct route to the green is over the elbow formed by fairway bunkers on the left side. A drive that takes this route and finds the fairway will be rewarded with an open view and shorter approach to the green. A safer drive to the right will leave a longer approach and partially blind one, as well.
One of Baltusrol’s most picturesque holes, this straightaway par 4 is beautifully framed by fairway bunkers and a rising, heavily bunkered green complex. The green is large but has a subtle false front. Two solid shots here will produce a good chance for birdie.
This is a brute of a par 3 from a chute tee down the hill to a green surrounded by bunkers. Recent green restoration work here will allow for additional hole locations. This hole was the site of Lee Janzen’s famous chip-in at the 1993 US Open, which he went on to win in a dramatic duel with Payne Stewart.
One of the longest and most famous par 5s in championship golf, No 17 sets up the unusual back-to-back par 5 finish at Baltusrol, which can fuel high drama for players in contention coming down the stretch. A long, accurate drive is necessary to be able to carry the cross bunkers on the second shot. A pot bunker lurks out of sight on the left side 100 yards out from the green; players willing to challenge this bunker will be rewarded with an open view to the green for their third shot. Otherwise, the shot faced into this green will be uphill and completely blind. The longest of hitters will have a go at this green in two.
Much shorter than the preceding par 5, this hole is eminently reachable. But the drive, one of the most exacting on the course, needs to be negotiated first. Water dominates on the left and fairway bunkers on the right. Under pressure, this fairway is difficult to hit, but if done so, getting home is the clear objective. At the 2005 PGA Championship, Phil Mickelson tapped the Nicklaus plaque in the fairway for good luck. His 4-wood to the green came up just short, but he was able to wedge out of greenside rough and make birdie for the victory, his second Major Championship.