Second only to the 18 holes on the Black layout at the five-course Bethpage State Park complex, the Red course is known to some as “Baby Black,” giving ample indication of the challenge that awaits here.
“Had the Black course never been built, the Red,
with its many strong doglegged holes, might have received similar acclaim,”
commented Tom Doak in The Confidential Guide to Golf Courses. “It hasn’t
got the big, bold bunkering of the Black, but the opening and closing holes are
far superior, the 5th is a fine long hole, and the short par-4 6th gives
aggressive tee shots the cold shoulder.”
Top100golfcourses.com is the best website when it comes to golf courses rankings. The sole reason I made an account is to save its reputation from being tarnished.
Although Bethpage Red is a solid course when compared to other courses across the country, especially public, it is no where near top 40 in the state of NY. Most would agree Montauk Downs, ranked in the 80s, is a better course. It is very disrespectful to put this course ahead of courses such as Huntington Country Club and Laurel Links, whose architecture and maintenance both exceed that of Red's.
That being said, Red, in absolute perfect condition would probably be worthy of 4 stars, and with a few architectural tweaks, maybe 4.5. But until then, please place Red where it belongs.
Golf.com has Bethpage Red as the 4th best muni in the US. It has Montauk Downs in 17th place.
But I agree, Top100golfcourses.com is the best website when it comes to golf course rankings
Your comments are 100% spot on in terms of your statements. Bethpage Red is a fine layout but the bar for golf in The Empire State is very, very high and the Red certainly does not merit a top 40 position statewide.
I have a long history with Bethpage stretching back 40+ years and the complex has clearly come a long ways since those times. No question, the Black gets the lion's hare of plaudits for obvious reasons.
You outlined a number of other Long Island layout that are truly meritorious and beyond the likes of the Red.
Montauk Downs, which you mentioned, is also talked about by a number of people but also suffers from many of the same elements the Red provides. There are other public course in New York that clearly rise above both and are worthy of more attention and rightful fanfare.
One last thing to offer -- the treasure trove of superior private club golf on Long Island is beyond amazing and I mean beyond just the usually named courses at the highest of levels. The Red is a good outlet for the non-affiliated player to enjoy -- but any person who thinks the course is a top 40 layout in New York need to play a number of other courses to expose the shortcomings of their thinking.
BB: The folks at GolfCom are in need of doing some serious legwork in terms of the conclusions regarding municipal golf. Neither the Red nor Montauk merit the lofty levels they occupy. The quality of municipal golf in the USA has risen dramatically over the last 25-30 years and I can tell you categorically as someone who began one's play as a dedicated muni player there are other far more worthy candidates that merit that rightful stature.
The Red at Bethpage is not remotely among the top five and I am more than happy to provide a listing of candidates
Having not played any of the courses you counterpoint with, Michael, I'm not looking to argue about the relative merits of each. As a writer, however, I'll suggest that your argument would go a lot farther if you had provided actual architectural anecdotes for *why* Bethpage Red doesn't deserve it's lofty ranking. Likewise, writing an actual review for Montauk Downs might help provide clarity as well. Again, it's not that you're wrong...you just need to provide reasons why you're correct.
Regardless of which course is better, it's incorrect to suggest that "most would agree"...as BB noted, GOLF magazine thinks very highly of Red (as do my collection of admittedly "woke" hipster golf friends on Long Island). I would counter Mr. Ward's point by pointing out that a host of appreciated architects (Doak, Hanse, Coore) are panelists for GOLF but I would also acknowledge Mr. Ward's point in that it is possible these individuals are unfairly biased toward "Golden Age" architects like Tillinghast.
Would appreciate that list M James. Will be playing some golf in New York next April (yes, will have my bobble hat with me), and as I’ll be restricted to the Medicaid of Golf courses, would be lovely to know what to play ahead of Bethpage Red
Fair point. Maybe I meant to say “You could make the case that the Downs is a better course than Red”. After more thought, they are probably a toss up, but it’s not because Downs is ranked too low. Here’s a few reasons why Red is ranked too high:
Not well maintained. Greens that are slow with many divots. Bunkers that are unkempt and sometimes lacking sand is never a good thing. To be fair, Red gets a ton of play but it is no where near the condition of the neighboring Black course.
Dog leg city. 11/14 of the holes are some sort of dog leg. It’s ironic that 2 of the 3 holes that aren’t doglegs are often regarded as the strongest holes on the course (1&18). After you play your 10th dog leg of the day, it feels a bit redundant.
Maybe the dog-legs would not feel as redundant if the greens were semi-interesting. The signature Burbeck pancake greens do not compliment Red as well as they do Black. At Black, the flat benign greens act almost as a reward for reaching the green. However on Red, there are more than a few holes where a little undulation and shaping of the greens could go a long way.
I also think Red only having 2 par 5's is another let down. The shot variety of the par 3's also could use more dispersion. I think last time I played I used the same club on 3/4 of them.
That being said, Red is still an enjoyable course and hands down the best course at Bethpage besides Black. It is a good challenge from the tips and offers some nice elevation changes at times.
According to the site, 3.5 balls signifies ”a commendable course worth playing if you're in town”. It also implies there are “a few noteworthy holes" and that the course is "fairly maintained” (due to the amount of play, I agree it is ‘fairly maintained’).
But here’s the thing: 3.5 balls, or even 4 balls if you are being generous, is not nearly enough to be in the top 40 of New York. It probably puts a course in the 70-90 range due to the amazing concentration of golf here in NY.
I'm satisfied, Michael, thank you! For what it's worth, your use of the phrase "signature Burbeck pancake greens" has won you a badge of legitimacy in at least my book...just yesterday I was explaining the likely truths and untruths of Ron Whitten's theory to a pal...and assigning credit/blame for the greens to Burbeck gets an "100% likely."
I hope to see more reviews from you in the future, and not just on courses where you disagree with Top100!
BB: Enjoy yourself when coming to Long Island next April. In regards to a possible golf itinerary -- the Island is the bastion of the best private golf in terms of overall depth in the United States. If Long Island alone were rated as a State it would easily make the top five given the range and architectural brilliance of so many private courses.
Conversely, the public side is a different matter, Yes, there is Bethpage Black which leads the way -- but the drop-off from that gem is quite noticeable. I have opined on Bethpage Red and it's a quality layout but far too many people have waxed that it is some sort of Bethpage Black "lite" and it's far from that.
Montauk Downs is quite a trek to get to and candidly I have been there countless times and the layout, while good, is hardly deserving of the plaudits it receives If one did a top 100 for just New York State the only public course o Long Island that would make the grade is the Black.
Fortunately, there are a number of public courses worth checking out if your access to the private side is limited or nonexistent.
You can check out Oyster Bay in Woodbury -- Tom Fazio took the grounds of a former estate and was able to get a complete 18-hole layout located on the tight acreage. Oyster Bay is just 15-20 minutes away from Bethpage.
Eisenhower Park in East Meadow is also worth checking out. The facility has three 18-hole layouts -- the main one to play is the Red Course -- formerly named Salisbury GC and opened in 1914. The course was originally the handiwork of Devereux Emmet. The course hosted the '26 PGA Championship won by Walter Hagen and was also the site for a few Champion Tour events on the PGA Tour side that was last held in 2008.
If you check out my review of Spring Lake in Middle Island you will see another public course that's fun to play. Further out on the island is Timber Point in Great River. The history of the property is fascinating and although the present day layout is not what was originally envisioned it's still interesting to play given its close proximity to the water.
You can also check out Island's End in Greenport. Decent layout and generally in good conditioning. There's also Pine Hills and Sawn Lake -- both in Manorville. I do like the consistency of Pine Hills for its design and conditioning.
If you have to remain in the Nassau County area -- you can check out the following -- Harbor Links in Port Washington -- just understand the "links" usage is more marketing than reality. The golf courser, if memory serves, was brought into being after the land site was used for a garbage site disposal.
I will recheck and see if I missed any others of note -- but as I stated at the outset -- Long Island is ground zero for private clubs and the sheer depth of the ones located there is nothing less than mindboggling. The public side is well represented with Bethpage Black but the gap between the two categories is as wide as the Grand Canyon.
Let me know if you are looking for a game when here - happy to connect.
M. James - many thanks for taking the time to provide such a comprehensive travel advice - greatly appreciated! I did stumble upon the history of Eisenhower Red, but that’s as far as I got, so definitely lots of options now. The chasm you describe feels very real. The dates are set so I’ll happily bug you for 18 in 2022
Bethpage Red is better than Montauk Downs. Montauk is a good course but if you are complaining about repetitiveness, the greens at Montauk Downs take the cake. By the 12th time you are playing to the same uphill, front-bunkered greens the course loses luster. Both courses are on nice properties, but the best holes on the Red are very memorable and strategic and are a class above the better holes at Montauk.
Very nice course at an excellent value in great condition given the number of rounds it hosts. It would be ranked higher in my book if not for the absolutely dreadful pace of play. A 5 hour round is something to be thankful for here.
Because the Black course is "The Black Course," few are lucky enough to have experienced Tillinghast's next-door gem called Bethpage Red. Long-time host of the Long Island Open, The Red course is actually preferred by many over the Black and has incredible architecture throughout. Arguably the strongest collection of Par-4s on all of Long Island, the Red is a balanced challenge that is the ultimate definition of old style parkland golf. While the Black course is both majestic and brutally hard, the Red is more interesting than the Black and has more memorable holes as well in my opinion. I am not saying the Red is "better" than the Black, but you will never find a person playing the Red who does not think it's an awesome course. It’s such a shame that so few golf course architecture lovers take the time to play it.
Bethpage Red is the little sister, but still a fine golf course
The first hole is a bruiser. From an elevated tee this 450 yard par four plays all of it. Fairway bunkers right. If you are even after one, buy a lottery ticket. Sanity prevails on the dogleg left 2nd. A high draw is the weapon of choice off the tee. There is a greenside bunker left. The 3rd is just about opposite hand of the 2nd. The first par three is mid-length with a long deep front bunker. The first par five is reachable for big hitters. A dogleg right with bunkers on the outside elbow and trees on the inside a high fade is the preferred ball flight off the tee. The sixth is a sharp dogleg left, when I say sharp almost 90 degrees. For first time players the best option may be to lay up. I said to heck with it and tried to hook it around the corner. That ended up poorly. The 7th is blasé par 3, mid-length bunkers left and right. The 8th is a long straight away par four with fairway bunkers on both sides. The green is well-protected as well. The 9th, like 1, is a beast. A slight dogleg left the best tee shot is over the bunkers on the inside corner. This will give you a chance to go for it but the green is well protected with moguls and bunkers. Tough hole.
The back starts with two long doglegs right, the 10th has more bunkers and the 11th utilizes trees. The 12th is the longest par three. Two bunkers left and one right and yours truly went bunker to bunker twice. Not my favorite hole. I really liked 13, even though I did not birdie it. Just left of center in the landing area is a colony of bunkers. Left provides a better angle and a shorter approach, but there are also bunkers left. Right has more room, but your approach will need to carry a deep bunker. The 14th is along dogleg left with bunkers on the inside elbow. Best tee shot is a high draw over the bunkers. How does a 482 yard dogleg right par four sound? Welcome to 15. An elevated green with bunkers right and long. The par 5 16th was my favorite hole. A reasonable length par 5 dogleg right. Two mediocre shots and a great (lucky?) wedge gave me an insta-birdie. The 17th is the shortest par 3 but it does have a ball eating front bunker. It should be no surprise that 18 is another long par 4. Both the tee and green are elevated and the fairway is squeezed on both sides by bunkers. The two-tiered green also has bunkers on both sides.
Tough course, the length of the par fours was almost demoralizing. Good value.
Bethpage Red a quality course, overshadowed by the Black course which runs adjacent to the Red. Bethpage Red is a strong course in its own right, holding up as a player’s course. Strategic ball placement and accuracy off the tee are vital to score well at the Red.
Bethpage Red’s par 4’s varies from fair to notoriously long, the Red is in my opinion the most playable course for single digit handicappers. Challenging doglegs and bunkers on approaches into greens, the Red is a quality venue.
What holds the Red course back are is the green complexes, as mentioned the Red course if great off the tee, and into the greens. Putting however leaves a lot to be desired, generally uninteresting green complexes is the biggest handicap to the Red.
Overall, however when thinking about Bethpage, a round on the Red is a must, Bethpage Red offers some delightful holes, with #1 #13 and #18 being my favorite holes all for different reasons.
#1 Is a long par 4 to start off 471 yards from the back tees, an uphill approach into a smallish green is like a punch in the stomach, welcome to the red.
#13 a blind shot off the tee with two fairways, bunkering splits the two fairways right down the middle. Strategically it doesn’t get any better than the 13th off the tee, hit it right if you want and easier tee shot and a more challenging angle of approach to the green, left if you want to challenge yourself off the tee but leave an easier approach into the green and straight if you want a double bogey.
Lastly #18 a strong finishing hole, a beautifully massive and deep bunker guards any shot hit right, an immensely attractive target off the tee. The pay here is to aim at the bunker and draw the ball over to the fairway, easier said than done of course. The green is perched and guarded uphill like a castle flanked with moats all around. The red is a must play for all who come to Bethpage, and I can say that I was happy to save it as my last course in my quest to play all Bethpage courses. Mission accomplished!
Outstanding track that would be known as a gem if it were not for the Black looming next door. Plays very different than the Black, with trees tighter and the rough kinder, but in every respects a must play. Great greens across the board and a few holes worth weighting home about (especially #18).
Bethpage Black's notorious warning sign gets all of the attention on the clubhouse patio, yet the opening hole that merits such a sign belongs to the "Red" course.
The 460-yard opener does well to remind players upfront that it is "Baby Black" in the same sense that Venus is the second-best player in the Williams household. Although it lets up—mostly—following what some argue is the toughest opener in golf, the "Black-lite" references remain relevant.
The yardage is long, and there are only two Par 5s to water it down. Tillinghast's bunkering takes a more merciful approach to mid-handicappers, and almost all of its greens will accept a run-up...at least more graciously than Big Brother. Still, several holes offer passable passes for the Black experience. No. 13 features its own "Great Hazard," and the "Red Redan" at No. 4 might not live up to Black No. 3, but it certainly surpasses the average municipal Par 3. And, at the end of the round, as has been stated countless times before us, is a Par 4 that is reportedly under consideration to sub-in for Black No. 18 come 2024.
If you thought Black's greens played rather boring for the PGA Championship, Red's will induce considerable yawns. But, if you ask the average Long Island resident, a simple two-putt is appreciated after challenging these fairways. Indeed, Red is the preferred route for lifers, while Black is a once-a-year treat/punishment.
Any golfer venturing to the 90-hole complex at Bethpage will no doubt be playing the famed Black Course and for good reason. The two-time US Open layout will host the '19 PGA and '24 Ryder Cup Matches and is one of America's superior layouts.
What many golfers need to do is be sure to play the course that is adjacent to the Black -- the Red Course.
The design is quite testing but not as intense as the carries one faces when playing the Black. The Red features a number of dog-leg holes and being able to position shots -- not just brute strength alone -- wins the day when playing the layout.
The opening hole at the Red is a stout hole and even better than the opener at the Black. The hole goes downhill off the tee and then you must reach an elevated target that sits high above the fairway. When you come to the 1st tee at the Red -- be prepared to play right away. The same can be said for the closing hole. The dog-leg right finished on the Red is a solid test to conclude the round and is clearly superior to the finishing hole on the Black.
The issue one faces at the Red is that the putting greens are generally fairly pedestrian in their demands and the scale and impact of the bunkering is far less than what the big brother Black Course provides.
The Red is often forgotten by visitors but those who play at the complex will quickly promote the qualities found on the Red and for good reason. A quality layout -- lacking in the aforementioned areas -- but still worth playing when at Bethpage.
by M. James Ward