Bethpage (Black)

Tenthhole, 470 yards; The Black Course was built at the end of Tillinghast’s career and as such, he had seenhow the game was evolving fromchanges in technology. Perhaps for this reason, Tillinghastplaced an unusual emphasison aerial approach shots, with thetenth green complex being but one of a number of examples.In this case, the fairway actually stops some fifty yards shy of the green and Tillinghast/Burbeck pulled some of the dirt shy of the green complex forward to build up the green pad. One result of such a design is that the player must find the fairway; otherwise, he is likely to have to lay well back from the green on his second shot.

The view from the 10th and 12th tees, a gathering spot in the round.

Eleventhhole, 430 yards; A deceiving hole. From the tee, the golfer has a clear view of the flag straight-ahead. However, from behind the green, the player notices that just about the entire fairway is actually to the left of the direct line from flagstick back to tee. Thus, the true line off the tee is well right of the flagstick. However, aiming away from a flagstick is difficult for any golfer.The false front on the leftof the green is onethe most distinguishing features of theeighteen greens.

The flag is visible in the distance.

This picture was taken ten months prior to the 2002 U.S. Open. The U.S.G.A's tightening of the fairways led to a total disconnect between the fairway and its bunkers. The only way to get in these bunkers is if the ball flies into them. Otherwise, the tall grass will gobble up the ball. Hopefully, the Green Keeper will restore the fairways to Tillinghast's desired width, which is out to the bunkers.

Fourteenthhole, 160 yards; Played across a valley, the first view of the hole makes the golfer want to hit it long, especially as the green is protected by a deep front right bunker. However,the green is pitched from back to front and there is a steep fall off at the back that makes an up and down unlikely.

The fourteenth is a fine one shotter that Tillinghast routed from high point to high point

Fifteenthhole, 470 yards; When a golfer encounters a green that was designed by a Golden Age architect atop a hillock, he should be concerned as the green will invariably follow the flowof the land and likely besteeply pitched from back to front. When such a hole also has massive length, the golfer is in real trouble and such is the case with the fifteenth, the hardest hole on the course and one of the hardest two shotters anywhere, though not unnaturally so.

The daunting uphill fifteenth, which has the most pitch of any green on the course.

Seventeenthhole, 200 yards; Jack Nicklaus must regret that the U.S. Open was never played here during his prime as The Black relentlessly asks the golfer to hit highlong irons. The option of a run-up shot is regrettably absent for a course that is both long and exposed to the wind. In this case, the green site was benched into the side ofa hill and a monstrous frontal bunker obscures the front of the shallow, hourglassgreen. Long and left is the best place to try and manage an up and down.

Only a well struck aerial shot will suffice.

As seen from behind, the seventeenth green is an hourglass shape with the shallower right side providing the most exacting (i.e. sucker) hole locations to get near.

Rees Jones was given the responsibility of restoring the course to its former glory prior to the 2002 U.S. Open. Work commenced in July 1997 and the course re-opened in June 1998. Most people who accept a restoration job of such a classic have little to gain but Rees is to be credited for reviving the size and scale of Tillinghast’s original bunkers. These are the finest shaped bunkers of any of Rees Jones’ efforts with which the authoris familiar. Nonetheless, to say that they closely resemble the old black and white photographs that hang in the clubhouse would be an overstatement.

Tillinghast fell in love with this property from the moment when he first saw it as there are some similarities between Bethpage and his beloved Pine Valley. For example, some compare the eighth on the Black to thefourteenth at PVGC. However, overtime, much of the sandy nature of the terrain at Bethpage has been lost. The chief attribute the two courses share today is the player’s feeling of helplessness when off his game at either course.

And plenty of the U.S. Open contestants can now relate to that sensation. The course certainly identified the world’s finest player and if theset-up had been more imaginative with greateroptions and short game interest (like the tightly mown area behind the fourth green), Tiger Woods would have only won by more shots.

Of course, for oversix decades, public golfers have long appreciated the unique qualities of this course.Some even go so far as to say that it favorably compares with any course on golf rich Long Island but with its absence of several (or at least one) genuine short two shotters and also a general lack of finesse play, the author wouldn’t go that far. Still, this is indeed one of the few designs in the worldthat inspires golfers tocamp outovernight to secure a tee time andtoendure six hour rounds. And, perhaps most impressively,its alluremakes golfers do it time and time again. Is there any greater compliment?

The warning on the first tee says it all.

The End