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 U.S. 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 U.S. 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 U.S. 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 U.S. Open returned to the State Park in 2009. Only time will tell how tough the Black will be set for the 2025 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 Black is a treat to any municipal golfer. The reason behind this is based on my upbringing in municipal golf. No matter the level of quality courses one has played, this will be on every golfer's top 10 courses. The history, environment, and envy that it produces to private clubs is the one reason why this course is a true national treasure.
It is rare for a course with expectations like Bethpage to exceed them, but I can say with 100% confidence that Bethpage did just that. The first thing you notice while playing Bethpage is the scale of the property.
Although many of the corridors are large, the fairways are not. Instead they are squished by the infamous rough, that is thicker than anything I’ve experienced before. Any shot hit into the rough will almost certainly require a layup.
The bunkering is extraordinary and demanding, especially on holes 10 & 11.
Almost every green is an island in a sea of sand and rough, which requires you to carry your shot all the way to the putting surface. This is where I believe much of the Bethpage’s challenge comes from as most of the greens are extremely flat.
The conditioning of the course is superb with grass everywhere, however, the greens are quite slow by championship standards but still run true.
Bethpage is a public course with very reasonable green fees, but it is difficult for out of state golfers to secure a tee time. That being said everyone should add it to their bucket list of courses as it lives up to the hype.
Favorite Hole: #4 (view from 3rd green is one of the best reveals in golf)
Other Notables: #6, #15, #17
Bethpage Black will beat you to your knees and you will still want to go back and play again. Conditions are always great year round and is very affordable for anyone looking to play.
As the Open was coming to the Black, I desired to finally give it a go. At the time playing as an out of state player created either a pay too much to a service or go get a parking spot in the lot. So I drove to the lot and parked and got spot 7 at 5:00pm the night before I desired to play which was the next to last day the course was open for play prior to the open. There are just 6 4somes so being 7th meant I might miss. After chatting with all the drivers parked ahead of me I realized one was going to play the Red. The starter comes out at about 5am and whoever is standing next to the car parked gets a bakery chit numbered and the first 24 will have the first 6 tee times. My son drove up and met me just before 5am so we were good to go. We got in line and paid and the sky opened up and it poured. If you recall that first open at the Black the course was crazy wet. My son and I played with two young men who were good players and those 3 wished to play the full course. So I joined. 7600 yards of wet ball plugging debauchery. The course is a wonderful array of challenging holes. Predominantly the greens are relatively flat. It's a course which is special and I'm so glad I got to experience the full monty.
Plenty have raved appropriately. Falling in love with this home course has been the best abusive relationship of my life. I just can't quit Beth.
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.