Across the PGA TOUR and the entire golf community, Bethpage Black is known as one of the most difficult tests a golfer can face. Playing host to two U.S. Opens, a Ryder Cup, and multiple FedExCup Playoff events, including The Barclays last week, Bethpage Black is quickly rising into prominence as one of the greatest courses in golf. And while many of the world’s best golf venues are relatively inaccessible to the average golfer, Bethpage Black is a different story—it is open to the public.
"The People's Country Club"
Just outside of New York City, Bethpage State Park features five elite public courses to choose from (Green, Blue, Yellow, Red, and Black). On the signature Black Course, non-residents can enjoy a weekend rate of $150 and check off a round that is sure to be on every golfer’s bucket list.
Tipping out at 7,468 yards, Bethpage Black is a beast even for the longest drivers of the ball. With significant changes in elevation resulting in one of the highest slope ratings in all off the northeast at 152, the course plays even longer than the yardage indicates. This is important to know because if you intend to play the Black Course, get ready to put on your hiking boots (or just some comfy golf shoes)—no carts are allowed on the Black Course. Walkers only.
As daunting as the walk may seem to some, it is well worth the trek if you’re a passionate golfer. There is much to take in as you walk the Black Course. Compare how you play the first hole—a 430-yard dogleg right—to how Dustin Johnson powered M1 driver over the corner. Stand on the Championship tees and take a look at the difficult drives and many hazards that the Tour players face. And most of all, be sure to soak up every moment and enjoy the intricacies of the design that make each shot a challenge for every skill level.
View from the first teebox. Long-bombing Tour pros like DJ opt to cut the corner on the right.
Early on in the walk, you’re sure to realize how important it is to hit fairways. Thick rough makes it extremely tough to advance the ball, so be sure to get it back in the fairway and avoid compounding mistakes by attempting “miracle shots” on your approach. Hit toward the bunkers and you'll find areas of long, native grass surround most of the traps, revealing how quickly wayward shots can end up in nearly unplayable lies.
Long, native grass surrounds a bunker on the 5th hole
Assuming you hit every fairway, stick every green, and make every putt, walking Bethpage Black equates to almost exactly five miles. This may not seem overwhelming for such a famously long course, but when you factor in all the uphill climbs, all the offline shots, and all the heavy steps through thick rough, the walk will seem much longer. Believe me, your legs will be feeling it.
View from the 4th tee. Up hill all the way on this long and difficult par 5.
At Bethpage, the Black Course is intended only for skilled, low-handicap golfers. It is sure to be a mental and physical grind, so be sure you are up for the challenge before you book your tee time. If the Black Course isn’t for you, there are four other incredible public courses to choose from—and you can even get a cart! But for those looking to challenge their ability and explore a beautiful and unforgettable golf course, walking Bethpage Black is a special experience regardless of what you shoot.
Take in all you can every minute you're out there—each hole is as impressive (and impressively difficult) as the last and combines to create one of the most exhausting and satisfying walks in golf.
Additional photos from the walk at Bethpage Black:
The tunnel to the second tee
One of the many uphill climbs at Bethpage Black
To protect walkers from incoming storms, these storm shelters feature a large swivel door that is adjustable depending on the wind/rain direction
The many contours of Bethpage Black
Every hole of the Black Course has its own unique character
Avoid the bunkers at all costs
At Bethpage Black, you can enjoy the same walk taken by the world's greatest players.