Bethpage Black is considered one of the toughest, probably the toughest, public golf courses in the United States. In fact, the facility recommends that only low-handicappers play the Black, and there's even a warning sign informing golfers that the Black Course is very challenging and should only be played by skilled golfers.
In addition to its length and sometimes challenging terrain, "The Black" is known for narrow fairways, high rough and small greens, and the bunkers are placed in perilous positions.
Various magazines' golf course rankings usually place Bethpage Black high, and it has been rated at various times as the best municipal golf course in America.
Photo gallery/course tour: View our Bethpage Black photo gallery to get a look at every hole on the course.
Can I Play at Bethpage Black?Yes. All five golf courses at Bethpage State Park, including the Black Course, are open to the public. That's because they are owned by the public. The Bethpage golf courses are owned and operated by the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation.
There are restrictions, however, for the Black course: Tee times are limited to one per golfer per month, and no carts are allowed (walking only). The pro shop also advises that the Black Course should be played only by low-handicap golfers.
Tee times are taken in person, by fax or by phone (not online). Walk-ups are allowed, but you better get there early - golfers without reservations often camp out overnight to make sure they can play the next day. See this .pdf file on the New York State Parks website for info on Black Course reservations.
The Black Course is closed on Mondays, except when Monday falls on a holiday.
Bethpage Black Course Origins and ArchitectOne of the reasons Bethpage Black is so famous in the golf world is that it is considered one of the top designs of A.W. Tillinghast. Tillinghast is a legend in golf course design, working in the early part of the 20th century, a period known as "the golden age of golf course design."
The golf history of the property dates to 1931, when what had been a 1,386-acre estate was optioned for purchase by the Long Island State Park Commission. An existing private country club, Lenox Hills Country Club, was already adjacent to the property, and was taken over by the state and opened to the public in 1932.
New construction took place through the New Deal's Works Relief Program. Tillinghast was hired to build three new courses, which became the Blue, Red and Black courses. The clubhouse was dedicated on August 10, 1935.
The Black Course opened in 1936 at a then-very long 6,783 yards, and almost immediately earned a reputation as one of the most challenging layouts in the country.
Architect Rees Jones did a several-years-long renovation beginning in 1997.
Bethpage Black Pars, Yardages, Ratings, Harzards and TurfsThe hole-by-hole yardages and pars listed here are for the Blue Tees, which are the championship tees for everyday play. The yards are taken from a Bethpage Black scorecard that appears on the pro shop's website.
No. 1 - Par 4 - 430 yards
No. 2 - Par 4 - 389 yards
No. 3 - Par 3 - 158 yards
No. 4 - Par 5 - 517 yards
No. 5 - Par 4 - 478 yards
No. 6 - Par 4 - 408 yards
No. 7 - Par 5 - 553 yards
No. 8 - Par 3 - 210 yards
No. 9 - Par 4 - 460 yards
Out - Par 36 - 3675 yards
No. 10 - Par 4 - 502 yards
No. 11 - Par 4 - 435 yards
No. 12 - Par 4 - 501 yards
No. 13 - Par 5 - 608 yards
No. 14 - Par 3 - 161 yards
No. 15 - Par 4 - 478 yards
No. 16 - Par 4 - 490 yards
No. 17 - Par 3 - 207 yards
No. 18 - Par 4 - 411 yards
In - Par 35 - 3793 yards
Total - Par 71 - 7468 yards
The USGA course rating for the championship tees is 78.1, and the USGA slope rating is 152. You'll notice that the back nine is particularly long, with two par-4s greater than 500 yards and another at 490 yards; and the only par-5 on the back is more than 600 yards.
There are two other sets of tees at Bethpage Black:
- White Tees: 6,684 yards, par 71, course rating 73.1, slope rating 140;
- Red Tees: 6,223 yards, par 71, course rating 71.2 for men and 77.8 for women, slope rating 137 for men and 150 for women.
Bermudagrass is used on the tees. The fairways are a mix of Kentucky bluegrass and zoysiagrass; the greens have bentgrass and perennial ryegrass. The rough is perennial ryegrass.
Significant Tournaments HostedImportant tournaments that have been played at Bethpage Black, and their winners (click on the years to view the final scores and read a recap of those tournaments):
More about Bethpage Black Course
- As noted, A.W. Tillinghast designed Bethpage State Park's Black, Red and Blue courses. The original Lenox Hills Country Club course is what is now known as the Green course. The facility's Yellow course opened in 1958, designed by Alfred Tull.
- The Black Course was one of the last designs by Tillinghast. According to the pro shop's website, Tillinghast, legend says, "... was last seen sitting under a tree on the Black with a bottle in hand before storming off the grounds, never to set foot on the course again."
- All five golf courses at Bethpage begin at the clubhouse area. More than 300,000 rounds of golf are played annually, including 35,000 at the Black.
- The 5-course public facility at Bethpage State Park is sometimes referred to as "the people's country club."
- In 1940, Sam Snead beat Byron Nelson in an exhibition matched played at Bethpage Black. Afterward, Snead called the course "an unfair test of golf." Bethpage likes to play up such statements as it cultivates its reputation for being a very difficult golf course.
- The Black Course was closed for nearly a year beginning in 1997 as architect Rees Jones led a renovation for the USGA, ahead of the 2002 U.S. Open.
- When the U.S. Open was played at Bethpage Black in 2002, the course became the first publicly owned and operated golf course to host the United States' national championship.