PGA Championship Set to
Return to New Jersey
The Baltusrol Greens
New York holds the record for hosting the highest number of PGA Championships at thirteen, though Ohio and Pennsylvania aren’t far behind with eleven and nine hosting years respectively. New Jersey, by contrast, has hosted three. Of these three PGA Championships, two have been hosted at Baltusrol Golf Club in Springfield, New Jersey.
The course has come a long way since its founding in 1895. Both lower and upper courses were dubbed by Louis Keller as the Baltusrol Golf Club in honor of the farmer who once owned and tilled the land upon which the putting greens now sit. Sadly, the farmer, named Baltus Roll, was killed when thieves suspected he had hidden a treasure nearby.
Over two hundred years later, any golfer lucky enough to putt on the world-renowned greens would be surprised to hear about this storied past—especially considering most of the attention paid to the Baltusrol Golf Club comes from its association with A.W. Tillinghast.
The 36-hole course was designed by renowned golf course architect A.W. Tillinghast in 1918, a full twenty-three years after the golf club was established. In 2014, due to Tillinghast’s participation in the design of the course, it was designated as a National Historic Landmark. It’s even recognized by Audubon International for its exceptional water and land management.
However, focus on the Baltusrol green isn’t based on historical or environmental factors. Recently, the PGA announced that the Championship would be returning to the rolling courses in Springfield, New Jersey for the Women’s PGA Championship in 2023 and the 2029 PGA Championship.
Future of the PGA
According to a recent Golf Digest ranking for the top venues in New Jersey in 2019-20, Baltusrol ranks in spots two and three for its lower and upper courses respectively, ranked behind the Pine Valley Golf Club. It’s no surprise that the widely-followed PGA Championships would choose to return to such an idyllic, well-maintained course.
The last PGA Championship was held on the Baltusrol lower course in summer of 2016, when American Jimmy Walker took the title despite sharing the green with seven other champions from the likes of the US, Germany, Ireland, and Australia.
However, between the 2016 Championship and the one set for 2029, golf may not be precisely the same. Many forecast the sports climate in New Jersey will have changed drastically—though not how one might imagine.
In 2018, New Jersey legalized sports betting as the industry expanded from Nevada, where it was previously seated. And not only has New Jersey opened the books online and offline, but the USPGA has also anticipated the boom in sports betting aimed at golf. The association has signed contracts for official data-distribution channels and live record-keeping programs, trying not only to stay ahead of projected trends, but to actively spearhead them.
The putting greens at Baltusrol bring to mind the romantic origins of golf, especially considering it was founded during one of America’s sentimental periods in the late nineteenth century. Baltusrol Golf Club doesn’t bring to mind an air-conditioned boardroom, though such environments aren’t uncommon in the world of golf.
However, a bridge has been made between the sundrenched fields of Springfield, New Jersey and the boardrooms outside Jacksonville, Florida where the PGA Tour is headquartered. Recently, six of the largest US bookmakers have teamed up to buy official PGA Tour data under terms and conditions negotiated by the PGA.
This means that the PGA Tour will be selling data that can be used for in-play betting, which represents one of the fastest-growing sectors in sports betting in the US. While the PGA Tour is barred from participating in sports gambling itself, it can sell data to major betting companies.
Other major league sports are also getting in on sports betting by creating and refining technology that can deliver data as fast as 2,000 data points per second. For those not mechanically-minded, such feats are accomplished by putting sensors inside sports equipment like, say, a hockey puck. Or a golf ball.
By the time the 2029 PGA Championship returns to Baltusrol, it’s entirely possible that golf balls will contain minute sensors capable of transmitting data that can be redistributed to sports betting channels in the next second. If one cared to speculate, they might hint that the Baltusrol lower course itself might be implanted with such sensors.