99 Quaker Meetinghouse Road,
New York (NY) 11735,
- +1 516 249 0700
Bethpage State Park, Farmingdale, New York
Welcome book in advance
Joseph H. Burbeck, A. W. Tillinghast
When the USGA announced that the 2002 US Open Championship would be held on the Black course at Bethpage State Park in New York, little did they know what they were letting themselves in for. Not only was this to become the first publicly owned and operated course to stage a US Open, but the pre-Open media hype suggested that the Black was far too easy and there would be record scoring. But they were wrong. Players unanimously agreed that the Black was one of the finest courses in the world, a supreme test of golf and eminently fair.
The 102nd US Open was a defining moment for Bethpage Black and it was fitting that Tiger Woods emerged victorious at Farmingdale in 2002. But Noo Yawkers in the know realised that this was the jewel of the Bethpage State Park’s 90-hole complex from the day the Black course opened way back in 1936.
Only one player bettered par in the 2002 event and only five players broke par when the US Open returned to the State Park in 2009. Only time will tell how tough the Black will be set for the 2024 Ryder Cup matches.
Joseph H. Burbeck, a superintendent at the State Park, was the driving force and the project manager who led the construction of the Black, and A.W. Tillinghast was his consultant. The Black really is as difficult and penal as the high slope rating suggests. It’s not for the faint hearted, with narrow fairways, tangly rough, plateaux greens and huge sculptured bunkers. You need to be on top of your game to score well on the "Black Leopard" as Tillinghast used to call the course. For all those macho men out there, it’s recommended that you play from the forward tees, which have a course rating of 73.1.
So, are you up for the Black challenge? If so, which tee will you choose?
Bethpage lives up to they hype of being a true, great test of golf. It's well routed with a huge variety of holes, terrific bunkering, cool visuals and it's reputation gives you the feeling that you've conquered something by just getting through 18 hols It isn't the most "fun" course, but at the same time playing less than horrible at Bethpage puts a smile on your face and leaves you wanting another crack at it.
Out of this world. Need to get there early to play and get a ticket but worth every minute. Great condition and was lucky enough to play 2 weeks after the US PGA so in great nick.
What can you say about Bethpage Black that hasn’t already been said. Historic, beautiful, and downright diabolical. The rough is beyond belief, especially when it grows out in peak season. Multiple picture worthy holes, especially #4, which is breathtaking when looking down the valley from the 3rd green. Not to miss, but hard to get on unless you are an NY resident (luckily I am). The biggest steal in golf for NY residents at 65-90 bucks. Do be aware, it is walking only, but that only improves conditions and the experience. Not to miss.
Incredible course and quite a unique experience to camp out in a van or panel truck overnight to get a tee time. Very hard course and I'd say one of the hardest in the Top 60-70. Clearly a name that I would prioritize in the northeastern US and at a price well under the cost of a single iron for NY residents, It has to be one of the best deals in golf.
The mid-2000s were not kind to my golf game. As noted on my review for Queenstown Harbor in Maryland, I lived a long distance from any public courses and as a result didn’t get out much. However, before I relocated from the East to graduate school back in the Midwest, I decided to make the trip up to New York and get a morning-of tee time at Bethpage’s legendary Black Course the year before it was to host the U.S. Open for the second time. Unfortunately, I got a late start that day and the first time available when I arrived around noon was at 2:30 p.m., so I took it.
Keep in mind that this was a time in which I did not spend a lot of time playing or practicing. In the preceding 22½ months, I’d played a whopping 54 holes, and didn’t go to the range more than once or twice a year. A little over a month prior to my trip to Bethpage, I shot my worst 18-hole score in eight years (97). My handicap index had lapsed, but what once was a 2.0 was probably playing in the range of 8.0 or 9.0 at that time. So, perfect timing for a round at a course notorious for its difficulty, and recommended only for “highly skilled golfers”, yes?
Speaking of difficulty, the famous sign on the first tee and all the people standing by it watching made for quite an intimidating shot – especially as a light rain began to fall. After a snap hook into the long rough, I made double bogey, and after an ugly bogey on #3 to fall to three over par very quickly it sure felt like another round in the 90s was coming on. (At least the rain stopped before we made it to the green on #3.) But then, something magical happened...
#4 is one of the best par fives I’ve ever seen. From the tee, you get a breathtaking view of the twisting fairway surrounded by bunkers leading up to the green – a green you can’t see from the fairway as it slopes front to back. And not only is it spectacular visually, it’s truly a great strategic hole, as it forces you to think through every action you take and its potential consequences. In my case, a drive into the fairway bunker left me with a debate as to whether to attempt to carry the cross bunker dividing the fairway in two at approximately 150 yards from the green. I decided to go for it. It was a very risky shot as a mishit would make for almost a certain bogey, but it worked out; I was barely able to carry my long iron into the fairway. From there, I stiffed a short iron shot for a birdie and gained a whole lot of confidence.
Somehow, including (and thanks to) that birdie, I managed to play the eleven holes from #4-#14 in only two over par. It took some luck; I holed a long birdie putt on the short par four #6, chipped in for par on #10, and made a couple of ridiculous bogey saves before stiffing another iron on #14 with the pin in the front nook for yet another birdie. I was five over par through fourteen holes on one of the toughest courses I’d ever played – with a decent chance at shooting a score in the 70s – despite zero preparation whatsoever.
...and then it all fell apart. #15, as many have touted, is one of the toughest par fours anywhere. Showing 430 on the card from the white tees but playing 490 due to the hill, wind, and wet conditions, it’s a plain old brute of a golf hole. Hitting one’s tee shot out of bounds right doesn’t help. The provisional was solid and found the fairway, but even still left me with a 200-yard shot up a huge hill to a green I couldn’t see. Quite frankly, this was one of the most intimidating shots I’d ever seen in golf at the time, and needless to say, I did not execute it well. One miss led to another, and a short time later I walked off the green on #16 with my second consecutive triple bogey. The dream was suddenly dashed, but I loved every minute of those two extremely difficult golf holes. After a nice recovery for a par three on #17, I limped in with a double bogey on #18 for a round of 84.
Reflecting on that round today, I realize now that I had never played any course quite like Bethpage at that time. The terrain it’s on is unbelievable – even the flatter portions have wild and deceptive undulations to them – and Tillinghast used it well. The numerous blind shots were particularly harrowing; thankfully, my playing partners that day were regulars and helped me find my lines, particularly on the stretch of #9-#12, which is a frankly incredible set of unique par fours. The scale of the bunkering is immense and challenges most players’ perspectives – everything just feels “bigger” than most golf courses. There’s nary a weak hole on the course (if you squint, maybe #18?) so it’s hard to cite fault. I very much look forward to the next opportunity to return to Bethpage, hopefully with a more intact golf game.
Of the 210 golf courses I have played, Bethpage Black is the “best” by most rankings that I have experienced. While it is not a course I would want to play every day, its architectural genius sticks with the player long after their visit.
Growing up in New England, my friends and I did the overnight trek to Bethpage. The entire experience in the parking lot is surreal, and unlike virtually any other in sports today (outside of my time tenting for Duke basketball). As noted in interviews below, pace of play is an issue at Bethpage, but fortunately, we have always been able to tee off first.
Despite having played many U.S. Open venues, Bethpage’s challenge is unique in that it is clearly defined by the ability to keep the ball in the fairway. The greens are generally large, flat, and slow. However, Bethpage Black is by no means one-dimensional. While the rough is the most penal part of the course, many fairways do provide substantial width to encourage risk on the tee shot, ultimately providing better playing angles. And, while the tips are obviously beastly, playing from another set of tees will force the golfer to use all of the clubs in their bag, even if that means laying up on certain shots.
Standout holes on Bethpage from a topography standpoint include the 2nd, 5th, 9th, 15th, and 16th. The bunkering there is pure artistry, especially on holes like 4, 14, 17, and 18.
There is not much more to say that has not already been laid out wonderfully by Top100 rankers below. Bethpage is well worth the trip, and anytime you see it on television moving forward, you will forever be blown away by the professionals’ ability to tackle seemingly impossible shots.
Tough? Ufff, yes! But it is even tougher to get a tee time! We had decided a trip to NY almost 1 year ago and this one was one of the ones we wanted to play together with a couple of privates we got access to but as everybody knows, getting an anticipated tee time is almost impossible.
With some local knowledge and help we got a 3pm tee time but twilight was 7pm on that day and there is no way you complete this course in less than 4h40mins, we knew we had a tough job. As an alternative I got a couple of invites to Piping Rock and Deepdale which my friends declined (I was not happy with this) because they wanted a Major Venue (Our Whatsapp Group for the trip was called “US Open Courses 2019”). The days before we called to try and get an earlier time but again impossible.
We were staying in Greenwich which is not far from there so that day we arrived to Bethpage 10:30am with the hope of getting an earlier spot and after some chat with the supervisor we found our way and teed off 11:30 only 45mins after we arrived on a perfect sunny day in perfect conditions, couldn’t have asked for more!
I have played some other Tillie’s venues and this one is different: extremely tough from the tee (if you miss to the rough it is a lay up almost always), very difficult and demanding on approach shots at many greens are elevated quite a bit and very well protected by bunkers and not so tough on the greens despite a decent speed but with not many breaks or slopes as maybe Winged Foot. But one in all it is tough, you will not lose balls but if not very sharp forget scoring.
We played 7000+ yds tees (all of us very decent single digit golfers) and I have to say 2 things: it is a brutal test of skills, patience and accuracy. And if somebody things a scratch golfer is close to compete on Tour this is the perfect example that he is not. In many holes we had 40+ yds extra for the backest tees and sometimes from an even tougher angle and from there Brooks Koepka shot 63-65 in Championship Set Up conditions …
As for the holes there are many great ones:
- Par 4 2nd: strong dogleg left with a very elevated green, one of the toughest tee shots to get in the correct position.
- Par 3 8th: only water hazard on the course which for many doesn’t come into play, elevated tee to a very long green that if you misse sideways you will be challenged.
- Par 3 14th: not long, big square tee box with huge green with infinite pin positions and if you go long God help you.
- Par 4 15th: stroke index 2, I hit a perfect drive and 4 iron to a 30 feet elevated green, for amateurs it is a good par 5!
- Par 4 18th: not long, bit the view from the tee box intimidates. Maybe the easiest hole, but I loved it.
It was a hell of an experience, we lost the match 2&1 but who cares, another Major Venue ticked and a well deserved Top 100 spot!
Played the Black this summer after the PGA Championship. Greens where the purest I've ever played on. Beautifully maintained, fairways & bunkers. The course gets a lot of play which is even more amazing that the course is this well maintained. If you're searching for the garden of eden this may be your best shot to get through the gates. Would I play again YES! Would I make a trip to come out and play Yes, I did before and I'll certainly do it again.
I played Bethpage Black (and two of the other courses) on two separate occasions over the last few years, both times in the summer. The place is just awesome, it's a really fun destination with plenty to offer. The town itself is nothing special but once you get into the state park, things change quickly. The clubhouse sits atop a hill and all five courses start from there. I played the Black, (parts of) the Red (due to a thunderstorm) and Green and ran out of time to play the others.
I played as a single golfer and both times had no issues getting on the Black. You just walk up to the reception to see when the next available tee time is (there are monitors like in an airport) - then walk up to the counter, pay your fees (around $150 for out of state) get a bracelet and get ready to play. It's very simple. You might have more issues as a two-ball or with more people but as a single you can just rock up.
The range is somewhat makeshift but after all this is a public course. The putting green by the clubhouse is excellent.
Once your tee time is approaching, just walk up to the starter, join your group and off you go. I carried my bag but you can also take trolleys (I think).
The Black course is a beast. It starts with the first hole (and the infamous sign), but then just keeps pounding you. It is a BIG course. The second hole is unlike anything I've seen before and it gets better from there.
Pick your tees wisely otherwise it will be a long day for you and your playing partners. It's quite a tough walk, especially if the weather is hot and humid so drink plenty of fluids. Don't worry too much about your score, this course beats up the best.
I loved the course but what I really liked is the vibe at Bethpage. One of the fourballs I played it was made up of a guy in full Tour gear, blades, matching clothes and stand bag (+ a caddy) and two college friends who had about 10 Bud Lights by the turn. But that makes it fun. Once you return to the clubhouse after your round, you'll find plenty of people milling around from all walks of life. It's easy to hang out and have a few beers.
There are a few hotels in the area or you can take the train from NY for the day. Overall Bethpage in general and the Black in particular is an incredible golf destination and something for the avid golf fan.
Warning Experts Only - the truth is in the marketing in this case. A round at Bethpage is indeed a wonderful experience. The sense of space and scale of this beast are like no other course I have experienced. It may sounds funny but I had the feeling of being one of those pesky flies landing on an elephant that are really not noticed. The course is big and bold and my advice is to pick a set of tees less than you aimed to play. I played with 3 random strangers and was amused when the 7 hcp insisted on playing from the US Open tees. Given, nobody was doing that and there was a very strong wind, he didn't care about the advice of the caddies either. Suffice to say that was a rude awakening for him and he clearly didn't read the experts only sign. He also insisted on playing everything out. Fair enough, he wasn't really slow which was nice, the round was slow anyway and he managed to shoot the highest score I've ever seen played first hand on a golf course. 141 was the number. on several holes he didn't manage to make the fairway as there are couple that require in excess of 250 yd drives before the fairway stars and with the wind up that a tall order for even the best players.
Back to the course, there a lot to love out there. The second hole was unique and a wonderful zig zagging fairway through valley with an elevated green. My favorite hole however is the par 5, 4th hole which is reachable in two but not without a fair bit of risk and a blind approach. the massive bunkers build the closer you get to the green and perhaps the better play is out to the right leaving a short chip in if going for the green surface which is elevated well protected with bunkers and running away from the line of play.
I think it also has one of the best finishing stretches in golf. Starting with the excellent par 3, 14th, the two very solid 4's in 15 and 16 with the raised green and tee respectively, the challenging 17th to a wide and narrow green and the solid finish at 18.
It is a course where you need a fair bit of patience to play. I guess a min 5 hour round is standard but one of the beauties of it is that it's accessible for everyone with some advance planning.