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.”
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