The Black Course at Bethpage State Park in Farmingdale, New York has quickly become one of those pilgrimages every golfer has to make at some point in their lives. The Tillinghast design was built in 1936 and has always been a great course that has had a cult status in the golf community. The Bethpage complex has five courses with the Black Course being the most popular.
Bethpage hosted its first US Open in 2002. It was a big deal that such a prestigious event was held at a municipal golf course. Rees Jones undertook some remodeling for the Open. The Black Course also hosted the US Open in 2009 and The Barclays in 2012 and 2016 with Patrick Reed being the winner of the recent event. The PGA Championship will be held there in 2019 and the Ryder Cup in 2024.
The Black Course slope rating off the ‘regulation’ blue tees is a staggering 145 and ‘only’ 152 off the pro tees. The blue tees play 7,468 yards, the white tees 6,684 yards and the red tees 6,223 yards. The narrow fairways, thick first cut, high rough, well placed bunkers and small greens help to make this an extremely difficult course. I love the warning sign that is positioned near the entry to the pro shop.
The first hole eases you into your round with a right-hand dogleg par 4. You soon realise the importance of staying on the fairway with your drive as the first cut is thick.
The 4th hole is a great hole with strategically placed bunkers across the fairway that will test amateur golfers with their second shots. It’s a great hole with lots of choices.
The 8th hole is a very picturesque par 3 that plays 210 yards off the blue tees. The tee shot is hit from an elevated tee to a green 40ft below. The green is very narrow and protected by a pond that will catch anything short which makes it important to have the right club in your hand.
The 17th hole is all about carrying your ball onto the green with any shot short landing in one of the many bunkers. This hole is like playing to an island green but without the water surrounding it. It’s a very daunting tee shot playing 207 yards off the blue tees.
The 18th hole is a very pretty finishing hole with a reasonable length par 4. Standing on the tee, all you can see are the left and right bunkers on driving length and the narrow entry to the green with more bunkers. I managed one of my very few pars of the day here and walked off satisfied but punished by the course. I’m looking forward to taking the challenge again on a future visit to New York.
If you’re a New York resident, getting a tee time is pretty easy but it’s a struggle for anyway from overseas. You can register online and then call the booking service two days before your desired day of play. There’s also the camp out option as there are a handful of tee times kept open every day for “walk-ups”. I arrived at 6:30am in June this year and was lucky enough to get a rare 8:30am tee-time. The cost for overseas visitors is US$130 on weekdays and US$150 on weekends. The Travelling Golfer can access a block of tee-times for group bookings.
Bethpage Black deserves its World Top 100 Course status.
It is a Travelling Golfer ‘must-play’ .
However, I think I will play off the shorter, white tees next time!
IG June 2016
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