Golf Digest Videos

Every Hole at Bethpage Black in Farmingdale, NY

Senior architecture editor Ron Whitten goes hole-by-hole on this sweeping flyover of the Black course at Bethpage.

Released on 5/7/2019

Transcript

00:00
[light music]
00:02
[Narrator] Ignore the warning sign
00:03
posted at the first tee.
00:05
Bethpage Black Golf Course may well
00:07
be extremely difficult,
00:08
and recommended only for highly skilled golfers.
00:11
But the Black is the rare public golf course
00:13
that's good enough to host major championships.
00:17
Bethpage Black has hosted the 2002
00:19
and 2009 U.S. Opens,
00:22
and now the 2019 PGA Championship.
00:26
It's a timeless design.
00:27
7,436 yards par 70 from the championship tees,
00:32
rank number 37 on Golf Digest's Hundred Greatest.
00:36
So forget about that sign.
00:38
All golfers good and bad, wanna play the Black.
00:42
[light music]
00:48
The first is a straightforward dogleg
00:50
right par four, off an elevated tee.
00:53
Trees on the inside corner of the dogleg forces
00:55
to hit driver in order to see the green.
00:58
A steep front portion of the putting service
01:00
forces us to hit to the center or rear,
01:02
and the putt back downhill is swift.
01:05
Once we've holed out,
01:07
it's through a tunnel between Round Swamp Road
01:09
to the next 13 holes.
01:11
Two is the shortest par four in the course,
01:13
and the most graceful,
01:15
curving left through a valley,
01:16
between hillsides of oaks
01:17
to a well bunkered hilltop green.
01:20
The pros may use less than driver here
01:22
because there's no advantage
01:23
being too close to the green.
01:24
The steep topography
01:25
all but hides the view of the flag.
01:28
Don't go left on the second shot.
01:29
There's a steep bunker and a 10-foot deep
01:32
gully over here.
01:34
Clearly, a ridge of a hill was flattened
01:36
to create the par three third hole,
01:38
which is a long iron and wood over a canyon
01:40
to a diagonal green fronted by deep traps.
01:44
The green used to fall away on the back left,
01:46
but in 2015 Reese Jones had it regraded
01:49
to support shots.
01:51
Don't over club.
01:52
Beyond the green is a deep chasm.
01:55
There's practically no room
01:56
for spectators on this hole.
01:58
[light music]
02:01
If the short par five fourth brings to mind
02:04
Pine Valley, that's deliberate.
02:06
The Black's design was a 1935 collaboration
02:09
between park superintendent, Joe Burbeck,
02:12
who lived on the property,
02:13
and golf architect, A. W. Tillinghast,
02:15
who served as design consultant for $50
02:18
per day for 15 days.
02:20
Tillinghast later wrote that it was Burbeck
02:22
who envisioned the Black Course be something
02:24
comparable to Pine Valley as a great
02:26
test of golf.
02:27
Thus the dramatic bunkering
02:28
on this hole, and elsewhere.
02:30
Most of it re-established and enhanced
02:32
by Reese Jones.
02:33
[light music]
02:43
Five is arguably the best hole in the course,
02:45
requiring a drive that bites off what you dare,
02:47
over a vast scrubland bunker on the right.
02:50
Playing down the left side means the approach
02:52
into the elevated green will be blocked
02:54
by overhanging oak trees.
02:56
The shallow green has subtle pockets in it,
02:58
so even a three foot putt is no certainty.
03:01
The area beyond the green is a great
03:03
spectator vantage point to watch play
03:05
on five, six, and 12.
03:07
Six is a curious two level par four,
03:10
with a plateau fairway and a green
03:12
60 feet below it.
03:13
The fairway bunkers aren't that far off the tee,
03:16
so most players will bomb it over those bunkers
03:18
to the bottom of the hill,
03:20
leaving a wedge into the tiny green,
03:22
which has bunkers left and right,
03:24
both of them bigger than the green itself.
03:27
[light music]
03:33
Seven normally plays as a 576 yard par five.
03:37
But for majors it's a par four played
03:39
from the back of the regular tee box.
03:41
The strategy on this dogleg right
03:43
is to cut the corner over another
03:45
scrubland bunker and have the ball run
03:47
as far to left side of the fairway as possible
03:49
to avoid overhanging trees on the right.
03:52
The green looks flat,
03:54
but there's some definite contour
03:55
in the back left portion.
03:57
[light music]
03:59
A pond short of the eighth green
04:00
is the only water on the course,
04:02
and has been in play ever since Reese extended
04:04
the front of the green forward some 15 yards.
04:07
For majors, the slope dropping
04:09
down to the pond is shaped tight,
04:11
like at Augusta Nationals 12th and 15th greens.
04:14
A back bunker was discovered hidden in tall grass
04:16
when the course was first restored.
04:18
In 2017 Reese elevated that bunker
04:21
to make it more intimidating.
04:23
[light music]
04:25
Nine is the toughest tee shot on the course.
04:28
Uphill, over gullys, in a corner bunker,
04:30
to a tabletop that only the longest
04:32
hitters will reach.
04:33
All others will be playing second shots
04:35
from a steep right to left slope in the fairway
04:37
to a flag visible on the horizon.
04:40
The ninth fairways ends some 50 yards
04:42
short of the green,
04:42
so distance control is crucial.
04:45
Flashy green side bunkers left and right
04:47
will wake anything short or off line.
04:50
[light music]
04:53
The tenth fairway curls along right hand bunkers
04:56
giving wide berth to a string of dunes-like
04:58
bunkers on the left, installed by Tillinghast,
05:00
to fill a wide open expanse.
05:03
Again, the fairway ends short of the green.
05:05
This time with a steep swale before the shallow
05:08
putting surface which is fronted by steep bunkers
05:10
and backed by a relatively new chipping area.
05:13
[light music]
05:19
Playing parallel to the 10th in the opposite
05:20
direction and sharing the same left hand rough
05:23
of imitation sand dunes,
05:24
the 11th has a bunch more bunkers
05:25
on the right,
05:26
and a far more complicated green.
05:29
It's tilted like the deck of a sinking ship,
05:31
with waves of sand around it.
05:33
A new pin position in the back left has been
05:35
created specifically for the 2019 PGA.
05:38
[light music]
05:42
On the par four 12th,
05:44
the average golfer from the regular tee
05:45
is simply trying to avoid the huge bunker
05:47
in the left in order to leave a second shot
05:49
of around 200 yards.
05:51
But the average tour pro will fly it over
05:53
the far left corner of that bunker,
05:55
or even over trees, farther left,
05:57
to have a short iron approach into the green.
06:00
For them, this hole plays at the same length
06:02
as the par five fourth, but is much simpler.
06:05
[light music]
06:13
The long par five 13th has two fairway bunkers
06:16
left off the tee,
06:17
then they throttle back some tour pros,
06:19
which then brings the cross bunker
06:20
35 yards short of the green into play
06:22
on the second shot.
06:24
If one lays up in two,
06:26
the cross bunker will hide the view
06:27
of the putting surface for the third shot.
06:30
For those going for it in two,
06:31
the green is rather small,
06:33
with a hillside of nasty rough behind.
06:36
So most will likely play 13 as a three-shot hole.
06:40
14 is a simple shot over a pit,
06:42
and a deep bunker to a big green
06:43
shaped like a triangle.
06:45
The farther right the play, the longer the carry.
06:48
Once you replace the flag,
06:49
it's down the hill and back beneath
06:52
Round Swamp Road to the four,
06:53
extremely testing finishing holes.
06:57
The toughest hole in two U.S. Opens of the Black
07:00
was the 15th, which is surprising,
07:02
because it has no fairway bunkers.
07:04
But the tiny green is positioned 50 feet above,
07:07
pinched in the hillside.
07:08
In the face of the hill,
07:10
are what Reese calls lethal bunkers.
07:12
And the two-tiered green is the hardest
07:14
on the course to putt.
07:17
16 is not as long as it looks,
07:19
because the tee shot will drop 60 feet.
07:22
But it's tight off the tee with the trees
07:24
left and right.
07:25
Although, there's actually plenty of room
07:27
at the bottom of the hill.
07:28
The fairway curves left,
07:30
but the diagonal green points to the right,
07:32
meaning the big right hand bunker will come
07:34
into play on many approach shots.
07:37
From the tee, it's hard to see much
07:38
of the putting surface at 17 because of all
07:40
the yawning bunkers.
07:43
The green, the widest and most shallow
07:45
on the course has distinct high left
07:47
and low right sections.
07:49
The hillside behind has been cleared of trees
07:51
to accommodate spectators.
07:53
Add to that gallery grandstands teed to green,
07:55
and 17 becomes a miniature Yankee Stadium,
07:59
during championship week.
08:01
[light music]
08:05
When Reese Jones first redesigned the short
08:07
par four 18th in 1999,
08:09
he added 50 yards in length,
08:11
cut the green size in half,
08:13
and pinched the fairway with two massive clusters
08:15
of free form bunkers.
08:17
In 2018, he returned to remove the hour glass
08:21
nature of the fairway,
08:22
making it more uniformly wide.
08:25
It's purpose is to discourage use of an iron
08:27
off the last tee,
08:29
taunting pros into using a wood,
08:31
maybe even a driver to run the gamut.
08:34
After all, 18 is a small green,
08:36
designed for a short iron approach
08:38
and a potential birdie.
08:40
Champions don't lay up on the 18th hole.
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