The most amazing aspect of Bethpage State Park is its inception. A mega 90-hole public complex encompassing nearly 1,500 acres of land, located on the border of Nassau and Suffolk counties, was initiated during The Great Depression. Spearheaded by Robert Moses, the man responsible for a range of major public projects during that time period, Bethpage State Park was truly ahead of its time.
The various courses use a colour to highlight their name. The most enduring - and most demanding - is the aptly named Black Course. Things can get especially “black” if one’s game is not up to the task.
The grandeur of the Black’s layout is its impressive scale. The 18-hole layout does not return at the halfway point. Instead the Black provides a healthy journey where significant golf challenges await.
When concluding play at the short par-3 14th you descend downhill for a short walk across Round Swamp Road. Upon crossing the road you enter a gate opening back onto course property and then you see what lies ahead.
Although there are no official names for the holes at the Black — the 15th should be rightly named “Mount Olympus.” The hole turns slightly left in the drive zone with the final 180 yards moving uphill. The green is literally perched on a high precipice - 50-feet above the fairway with two distinct tiers on the putting surface - the green sloping diagonally from rear left to front right. Although the back tee area is 478 yards, in the two earlier US Opens played in ‘02 and ‘09 the hole played 459 yards. For the ‘19 PGA the hole was extended to a maximum of 484 yards.
The most crucial element starts with the tee shot. Failure to find the fairway likely means no real opportunity to reach the green in the regulation stroke. For those hitting the green the key is being near enough to the pin so massive breaking putts are avoided. Should one miss the green - either short, left or, worse, long - the penalties can be exacting.
Starting with the ‘02 US Open, the fairway cut on the left side was extended further out - therefore putting players on notice to respect the penalty for missing on that side. How tough was the hole for the ‘02 US Open? The stroke average was just over 4.6! In short, the need for exemplary execution is central to one’s success.
Bethpage’s Black Course will return to the competitive scene in 2021 when hosting The Northern Trust event on the PGA TOUR - the opening event for the FedEx Cup Playoffs. And more importantly, Bethpage will host the ‘24 Ryder Cup Matches. Count on the 15th hole playing a major role in that encounter between the American and European teams.
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