It may seem ridiculously early, but it’s not too soon to make your plans for the 2016 PGA Championship to be played at nearby Baltusrol Golf Club in Springfield, New Jersey on July 25 to 31, 2016. The 100th playing of the major tournament (the very first was at Westchester’s Siwanoy Country Club) is sure to sell out, so the PGA of America opened online registration for tickets June 1.
Baltusrol was the site of the 2005 PGA Championship, won by Phil Mickelson. It’s also hosted 15 other national championships, including seven US Opens, four US Amateurs, and two US Women’s Opens. The club was founded in 1895 and retained then up-and-coming A.W. Tillinghast to design two courses, the lower and the upper, that opened in 1922, a year before his masterpieces at Winged Foot in Mamaroneck.
To get tickets for the 2016 championship, you’ll have to register at pgachampionship.com prior to August 17. Registration is free and doesn’t obligate you to purchase tickets, but you can’t get them without registering. Championship Director Ryan Cannon explains, “The earlier fans register, the better their chances of getting the most popular tickets.” Ticket prices will range from $25 practice rounds to $115 for weekend finals. A $575 Wanamaker Club ticket package provides access to the ground and the upscale Wanamaker Club pavilion for all seven days.
Championship Chairman Rick Jenkins, a third-generation Baltusrol member, points out the “greatest players in the game have competed here.” Jack Nicklaus won two of his four US Opens at Baltusrol (in 1967 and 1980). Nicklaus dueled Arnold Palmer in 1967, finally winning the title with a perfect one-iron and spectacular 22-foot putt on the 18th hole.
A.W. Tillinghast’s classic designs for Baltusrol’s courses have been updated over the years to match the modern game. One of the most significant renovations was completed in 1952 by Robert Trent Jones, Sr., who stretched the lower course to 7,000 yards and updated the bunkering on several holes. The fourth hole, a beautifully landscaped par three, got two new tees and a legend to go with them.
Dave Donelson takes dead aim at Baltusrol’s lower course fourth hole.
When the hole was opened for play, many of Baltusrol’s members criticized Jones for making the fourth hole too difficult—it now required a full carry over water of 185 yards from the tips. The prickly Jones said, “Let’s go play the hole and see if there is anything that needs to be done.” He took one of the critical members to the tee along with head pro Johnny Farrell and C.P. Burgess, chairman of the 1954 Open Championship. They all took their swings and, after Farrell and the two members put their balls on the green, Jones swung his 4-iron. The result: a hole in one! He turned and said, “Gentlemen, I think the hole is eminently fair.”
Jones’ son, Rees Jones, recently completed another renovation of the lower course that lengthened it yet again, this time to 7,500 yards. Jones also moved and removed bunkers and deepened some of them, as well. To match Tillinghast’s original playing strategies for the course, he also restored some of the “ramp approaches” to several greens to accommodate run-up shots.