Make no mistake, Bethpage Black is a monster of a course, it requires not only supreme accuracy from the tee and the need to work the ball both ways but also be pinpoint with your irons or you’d better ensure your bunker and short game is sharp. Bethpage is an industrial sized facility with 5 courses and the infrastructure to process hundreds of golfers, don’t come expecting the feel of private country club, this is a proper public course. I played a month after the 2019 PGA, the stands and infrastructure were still being dismantled which gave some sense of the scale needed to host major championships. To avoid the crowds I played mid week, easy enough to book online and they do have space for walk ups blocked out as well. Standing on the first tee having enjoyed the warning sign you know a stern test awaits, do not for example try to carry the dog leg on the first, very few players will make it and your second shot will be a short iron to escape the thick rough at best. As mentioned earlier almost all of the holes need you to hit a long and accurate tee shot to surprisingly narrow fairways, even on the wet day I played the ball ran and often what seemed a great shot had made the deep stuff or at best the first cut. If you’ve made it to the primary rough don’t be heroic, take your medicine and grab a short iron, play for position and get onto the fairway at all costs! I don't think I’ve ever seen green complexes with such severe defenses, many elevated and protected by some of the most penal bunkers you can imagine, great fun to pit your game against them. Once you’ve made it onto the putting surface most of them relatively flat, I’m guessing Tillinghast thought you’d suffered enough getting onto the green without inflicting any further challenges with the short stick. They rolled beautifully true, even on a damp day they retained their pace, I don’t think I saw my ball bobble once. The course is carved from woodland but the trees don’t really come into play, it’s more of heathland set up than parkland, even the greens are frequently surrounded by brutal rough. I thought the hardest holes were the par 4’s, I played from the whites which meant they were nearly all over 400 yards, the back 9 had some of the toughest I’ve ever played. Despite its relentless toughness and unforgiving nature the black course is a must play track, not only with its history of hosting major championships it’s simply a brilliant design making the most of the terrain with the finest bunkering I’ve ever seen. I was 10 off my handicap and the weather was awful but loved every minute, if you're in the NYC area try and play, jump on the LIRR to Farmingdale to play one of the world’s best public courses.
Date: June 24, 2019