An appealing aspect of A.W. Tillinghast’s work is, strangely enough, the lack of identifying characteristics. The player would be hard pressed to tell that the same architect designed the courses at Winged Foot, the courses at Baltusrol, San Francisco Golf Club, Bethpage (Black) and Somerset Hills. Think of the striking features of each: Winged Foot (West) with its length, raised, severe greens and deep bunkers; Baltusrol (Lower) with its low-profile look; San Francisco with its flashy bunkers stylishly spread at all sorts of angles in the broad fairways; Bethpage (Black) with its huge, sprawling scale and Somerset Hills with its terrific set of greens and its charming layout.
Tillinghast’s style (or lack thereof) is an indicator that, unlike many of today’s architects, Tillinghast was not hell-bent on leaving his ‘mark.’ He fit the course onto the available land without forcing his imprint onto the land. (Or, in view of his eccentricities and erratic behavior, perhaps the designs just reflect his severe mood swings!)
Variety is the key to Somerset Hills in Bernardsville, New Jersey: variety of terrain, variety of length of holes, variety of approach shots and variety of greens. With the fairly open front nine laid out on and around an old racetrack and the back nine through rolling wooded terrain with streams and a pond, one would think the course would have a Jekyll and Hyde character (as with, for example, Spyglass Hill). However, the course flows well, and members are split over which side they prefer. The par threes are perfectly balanced at 175, 220, 145 and 165 yards while the par fours have several big two-shotters (the 1st, 4th, 7th and 13th), several short ones (the 5th, 17th and 18th) and those very appealing ones in between.