Golf Course Architecture - Issue 66, October 2021

68 P er his own request, you won’t see Gil Hanse’s name on the scorecard for Baltusrol Golf Club’s Lower course, but the thorough work he and his team did recently to bring back AW Tillinghast’s original design at the storied New Jersey club has left an indelible imprint. In fact, when interviewing with the club for a renovation project, Hanse put forth the idea of a complete Tillinghast restoration of the Lower and Upper courses, which both debuted on 17 June 1922 as the first dual-designed courses in the country. The Lower has hosted numerous major championships, with upcoming events including the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship in 2023 and a third PGA Championship in 2029. “We were glad to be under consideration but told the club if you want to hire us, we will propose a full restoration to Tillinghast on all 36 holes,” says Hanse. “If that’s okay, or something you want to pursue, then we’d be interested. If not, then you probably need to find somebody else. They were very enthusiastic about that thought process.” Implementing the Lower course project last year during a pandemic only raised the challenge. “It was the strangest of strange times,” says Hanse. “But we worked our way through it.” Hanse was joined by long- time colleague Jim Wagner, associates Ben Hillard and Kevin Murphy, and Baltusrol superintendent Greg Boring, plus contractors Tanto Irrigation and Total Turf Golf Services. The project included the widening and twisting of fairways, eliminating existing bunkers and creating new ones, installing new irrigation throughout, and adding a PrecisionAire subsurface air system for every green, all of which were rebuilt. Balancing member needs and championship play at such a high- profile club is, as Hanse puts it, the magic sauce for architects. But that was not his primary focus at Baltusrol. “We trust enough that he [Tillinghast] was able to strike that balance,” he says. “If the golf course is designed properly, that means on any given day you can set it up to play as difficult or as easy as you want. Those architects got that. We do our job right by moving some things around and putting bunkers where they are more relevant today, but at the core of it is that Tillinghast got it right.” Despite previous experience restoring Tillinghast’s work at multiple courses ON S I TE In restoring Baltusrol’s Lower course, Gil Hanse relied on the principle that original architect AW Tillinghast got it right. Tom Mackin reports Trusting Tillinghast BALTUSROL , NEW J ERSEY