May 15th, 2019
Be afraid, be very afraid!
Words: GolfPunk Photography: Getty Images
Everyone has heard about the sign as you approach the Bethpage Black course. The recommendation is that only the ‘Highly Skilled Golfer’ plays this monster of a public course.
However, that’s like a red rag to a bull to most golfers who whatever their handicap still in their minds think they can be the next Tiger. The golfer that regularly takes on that 200 yard carry over water out of the rough or spots that 3 foot wide gap through the trees to the waiting green.
So many come, camp out in their cars to get a spot on the first tee and walk away stunned but waxing lyrical as to the difficulty of the course and how they just needed a bit more luck.
So how hard is Bethpage Black?
Let’s take a look at a few stats.
At the 2002 US Open Tiger Woods was the only player to break par for the week with a total of 277, three under par. The cut mark was ten over par!
In the rain soaked 2009 US Open Lucas Glover prevailed with a total of 276 with only four other players under par. However, the cut mark was at a low mark for an US Open at four over.
The Championship course is 7,465 yards long and the pros play it as a Par 70. However, looking at those difficulty ratings that all bar that chap in the corner of the bar knows how are calculated the rating is 77.5 and the slope is 155. What is the highest slope rating a course can have we hear you ask? Well yes you guessed it, it is 155!
In layman's terms, if you play off 10 at your local club you will probably be off at least 18 on Bethpage Black.
So what about the course itself?
There is no easing you in to a round at Bethpage Black, it socks you in the face from tee shot one and then just keeps hitting and hitting you. The tough holes keep coming at you with no break to catch your breath.
The signature hole is the par five 4th which interestingly is arguably the easiest hole on the course for the pros. The hole snakes uphill turning first to the left and then back to the right before turning once more as you approach the green. A risk versus return par five with a large acreage of bunkers.
The 8th is a great spectator hole with a downhill shot to a green guarded by an oak tree to the right and a large bunker to the left. To add to the difficulty, if you under club you will catch the slope at the front of the green and roll back in to the drink.
Leaving the 8th the next four holes are known as the Bethpage Gauntlet. All par 4 holes of over 430 yards, miss the fairway with your drive and a par will feel like a birdie. The 10th and 12th are monster of holes of roughly 500 yards.
There is debate as to what is the hardest hole. Some commentators will suggest it is the long par four sixteenth but the stats suggest otherwise. The hardest hole in both the 2002 and 2009 US Opens was the 457 yard uphill 15th. The approach to the green is so steep it is apparently a popular spot for sledging in the snow in winter.
At the USPGA the hole with most excitement though is bound to be the 207 yard par three 17th. The hilly amphitheatre of the hole will be flanked by grandstands and one can imagine the noise will be deafening as the leaders are coming down the stretch and the beers have been flowing!
And another thing....