If you’re looking for a true test of golf in the New York area, Bethpage Black is the course to play. It challenges every part of the game from tee to green. On the first tee, golfers are greeted by the notorious sign: “Bethpage Black is an extremely difficult course, which we recommend only for highly skilled golfers.” In other words, put away the ego before teeing it up.
Bethpage has established itself as a beast of a golf course. From the elevated tees and greens to the steep sidehills, it’s quite the hike. Golfers who play the long ball have an advantage. Also, the rough is incredibly thick and the ball sits down in it, which creates the makings for a tough shot out. And if you hit it in the extra-tall stuff, then you might as well declare a lost ball. That said, hitting fairways and greens is especially important at Bethpage, as errant shots aren’t forgiven.
The 2002 and 2009 US Opens were held at Bethpage. Poor weather plagued the tournament this summer, which turned the course into a marsh — it was like Woodstock for golfers! But it didn’t take away from the magical environment and experience. I was lucky enough to attend and I braved the mud and rain 7 of the 8 days. I was taken aback by the great energy that comes naturally with a major championship and there’s just something special about Bethpage that awed me.
Like the other ‘09 major championships, it came down to the wire. David Duval almost made the comeback of the decade. Phil Mickelson almost brought the trophy back to his family. Tiger Woods almost completed one of his famous Sunday comebacks. But in the end, the unassuming Lucas Glover prevailed.
I’ve never played the course, but I hope to soon. The only kicker, and it’s a big one, is that it’s practically impossible to grab a tee time — unless you’re willing to camp out in your car and wait for an attendant to hand out tickets around 4:30AM. Yes, it’s going to extreme lengths to play golf, but it’d definitely be worth it, not to mention quite the experience.