Bethpage Black a "simply fantastic" golf course, reader says
On Dec. 19, I played Bethpage State Park's Black Course ... from the tournament tees!
First off, my friend Mark called up and got an 11:57 a.m. tee time. It was $55 for the round. They don't allow carts, so everyone walks either with a pull cart you can rent, or you can ask for a caddy with 24 hours notice at $40 plus a $20-$25 tip. The clubhouse and pro shop are terrific. I dropped $200 on logo shirts before I even teed it up.
We were matched up with two single digit players who turned out to be great guys. Other than my buddy, none of us had ever played Bethpage, so we agreed to walk back to the tournament tees and play from the yardage plates, even though no tee markers were set up.
We decided to go with the experience and see the course from the pros' standpoint. I play to a nine, and my goal was to break 90.
The Black Course is simply fantastic. Besides being in great shape, the course is probably the most interesting layout I have ever played. It is magnificent to look at from almost every vantage point.
The card lists the blue tees at 7,468 with a 76.6/144 slope rating with a Par of 71. The card, however, doesn't account for two new tees. I have no idea what the yardage is from the tournament tees but suspect it is around 7,580.
This is the hardest track I have ever played, bar none. There is thick rough and natural traps framed with fescue, and a big variety of large, mature trees framing the course. Some of my favorite holes include the 230-yard, par-3 third, the 608-yard, par-5 13th and certainly the uphill, 411-yard, par-4 18th coming into the clubhouse.
And then there is the No. 1-rated, par-4 15th. The card says 490 yards from the blue tees ... who knows what it is from the Tourney tips, but it's a magnificent view looking out to the fairway (you need binoculars to see the green). It's looooooong. The real view is when you look back to the tee from the green and see what you just played. Wild.
I can't imagine this course when it is set up for the U.S. Open, where they grow the roughs another 3 inches, narrow the fairways to 20 yards on many holes, lengthen the roughs off the tee, where, in some cases, it's a 240- to 250-yard carry to the fairway, and the greens are a 13 stimp.
This course is a bear to walk now. To do it four days in a row with an Open set up is unfathomable to me. These guys will need to be in the greatest shape ever and mentally sharp.
This is a public venue open to one and all. If any of you decide to make the trek and have the chance to play Bethpage, you will not be disappointed.
It's just a brilliant test of golf in every way. I achieved my goal of breaking 90, scoring an 87 as the golf gods let me score a number of up and downs. I felt privileged to have had the experience.
- Elliot DeBear
January 12, 2009