The affordable, public gem, Bethpage Black.

In 2002, the world was made aware of Bethpage Black. Tiger Woods helped usher in what would become the best public unveiling of a major golf course in the modern era. A course that was known for decades as one of the best, least known public courses, it was time for everyone to know about this former, hidden gem. And it was time for tee times to become harder to get.

Getting a tee-time at Bethpage required sleeping in your car overnight. Depending on when you arrived determined the order you get to choose your tee-time. The first hour was for people who camped out. Those days are long gone… For some people. You can now make reservations online. If you’re in-state, you get preference. If you’re out of state, chances are that you’ll be teeing off 11am on. New York State residents can book tee times seven (7) days in advance starting at 7pm for all courses.  Non-New York State residents can book five (5) days in advance starting at 7pm for all courses.

Non-New York residents pay $150 to get on the Black course on the weekends and $130 during the week for non-twilight. No reason to discuss resident rates. If you’re a golfer, and you life in New York, you know those rates by heart. No drivable carts are allowed on the Black course. You can hoof, push, use your electric push cart, or get a caddy. The course is long and hilly. If you’re not someone who walks a course, you’ll be pushed walking the Black course. A quick note of the range. It’s downright awful. No woods. Mats are in rough shape. The balls are beaten. With such an amazing facility, one would think the range would be up to the same level. It’s not. When pros play a tournament there, they use a hole on one of the other courses. Having said that, that’s the only negative about what is an awesome golf complex.

The first hole, and the 18th green, provide an awesome view of what is in store for you and what you experienced. From the first tee you see the fescue. You see the long carries. You see big bunkers. There’s a lot of beauty. There’s a lot to take in. Take a photo right behind the first tee with the “Warning” sign. It’s an awesome first photo. When you’re done being beaten by, what will probably be one of the most enjoyable golf course experiences you ever have, take a photo in the 18th tee fairway and on 18th green. Both offer amazing views to have as a memento.

The Black course is hard. It is very hard. Only “Highly skilled golfers,” are recommended to play. That doesn’t deter less skilled golfers. When there’s no professional, or high level amateur, tournament on the horizon, the fescue is down. It’s still there, but it’s not like it will be for the PGA Championship in March. The rough is also down. Let me give you a warning, when the rough is down at Bethpage Black, it will be the toughest rough most people will ever experience. The rough may only be three or four inches tall in most areas, but it is the most dense rough imaginable. And don’t be fooled, if your ball is sitting up in the rough, your ball will not come out easy. Unless you have a short iron in hand, you’re not making the green. The rough just swallowed everything; club, ball, spirits.

If you’re able to keep your ball in the fairway, good scores can be had on the Black course your first time out. Fairways are generous. Greens are manageable during week and weekend play. If you hit it off line, take your penalty, swallow your pride after the first few attempts to be a hero from the rough, and take the bogey. Birdies can be had to help alleviate some of your missteps.

There is a spot on the course where you can get some on course snack, but if you’re playing in the summer, you definitly want to make sure you have some water and electrolytes with you. You’ll need them before you hit the snack shop. If you’re traveling, the restaurant if Bethpage State Park will fill your belly with delicious goodness before you head out for the drive home. It’s typical bar food, but after the brutality you just endured on the Black course, it hits the spot.

If you love the game of golf, Bethpage Black, and it’s original older, shorter brother, the Red course, the Black course is considered the Red course on steroids, is a must play for you. The course offers everything you can want from a golf experience. You have the beauty. You have the toughness. You have the history. You have everything that makes enduring golf memories last forever.

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