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.”
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