The ghost of Baltusrol Golf Club: Baltus Roll, his murder and the legend
PGA Championship

The ghost of Baltusrol Golf Club: Baltus Roll, his murder and the legend

Credit: ESPN.com
Credit: ESPN.com

Baltusrol Golf Club in Springfield, N.J., site of the 2016 PGA Championship, is said to be haunted by the ghost of a murdered man who is, effectively, the namesake of the club.

Baltus Roll farmed the land on which the club now sits, in the shadow of the Baltusrol (First) mountain, which is really just a big hill. His family had immigrated to the United States and had maintained the farm with oxen over the years, leading some in the area to believe the Roll family was wealthy. Convinced of this, two men, identified as Peter B. Davis and Lycidias Baldwin, went to Roll's home on the Baltusrol mountain on Feb. 22, 1831, to try to get him to share the location of his fortune. Roll, 62 at the time, was tied up by the criminals and beaten after refusing to cooperate. His wife escaped, but when she returned with help, the men had left and Roll was dead in an icy pool of water.


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“We were awaken [sic] at about midnight by a loud pounding on the door, and then the door burst open and two men came in and dragged my husband out of bed, punched and beat him, and took him out of the house," Roll's wife testified at the time. "They seemed to ignore me, but I could see the face of the larger man - a full face with large whiskers and light blue eyes. I watched them tie my husband and choke him and throw him on the ground, and not knowing what to do, I hid myself in the woods and wandered about until daylight. Then I went for help to a neighbor's house."

No one was ever convicted of the crime. Baldwin went to a tavern in Morristown and apparently overdosed on a narcotic. Davis was tried but not convicted because a number of pieces of circumstantial evidence were declared inadmissible. Davis eventually went to prison on a forgery charge and died in Trenton State Prison.baltus-roll-grave-tombstone

Roll is buried nearby, with a tombstone that reads:

IN
MEMORY
OF
BOLTUS ROLL
WHO
WAS MURDERED FEB. 22
1831
IN THE 62 YEAR OF HIS AGE

And at the bottom of the tombstone, there's a poem:

Ye friends that weep around my grave
Compose your minds to rest
Prepare with me for sudden death
And live forever blest

Fast forward 60 years, and that's when New York Social Register publisher Louis Keller bought the land that is now Baltusrol. The club was announced on Oct. 19, 1895, with the club's original nine-hole design opening that year. The George Hunter-designed Old Course, which no longer exists, was made into an 18-hole course in 1898. The club now has Upper and Lower courses, both of which have hosted major championships, that were originally designed by A.W. Tillinghast.

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