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There are few courses in the world that have the infamy of Bethpage Black, this will be an incredible Ryder Cup venue. One of the most famous landmarks on the property is before you’ve even hit a ball, the sign that reads, "The Black Course Is An Extremely Difficult Course Which We Recommend Only For Highly Skilled Golfers."
Bethpage, in Long Island, NY has been in action for over 100 years and is one of the most beloved courses in the USA. There is going to be a wonderfully hostile reception for Team Europe the week they try to deny Team USA the trophy. This is a course that consistently and deservedly makes it on to the Golf Digest World Top 100 Courses list.
We take a close look at this “Extremely difficult course” and see who should play it, what else you should do while you’re there and where you can play in the local area.
Golf at Bethpage goes back to the great depression and for decades has been a famous golfing destination for New Yorkers. It was one of those city secrets as it is so close to the Big Apple, however the gaze of the global golfing world turned to the course in 2002 and the secret was out. That year the US Open was held at Bethpage Black and only one player managed to end the week under par, Tiger Woods.
The crowds that week were incredible, those New Yorkers again, and it created a tremendous atmosphere. This led to the return of the event in 2009 and had everyone talking about the difficulty of Bethpage Black. Since then the course has become more and more infamous to the point where it now has a firm place on the PGA TOUR schedule.
In 2019, the newly rescheduled PGA Championship was held at the Black Course and was won by Brooks Koepka. That week the course didn’t look so difficult for Brooks as he posted the lowest 36-hole score in championship history with a 63 and a 65, there’s something for you to aim to match. He would go on to win that week by two shots and take his fourth major.
There is no doubt that this will be an outstanding US Ryder Cup venue. One factor that will be important is the Team USA captain and the players he has to choose from. Ryder Cup rules say that the home captain can set up the course however he wants. Usually, in the US, that means an even tamer set-up than the usual PGA TOUR which means barely any rough and plenty of room to miss.
If this happens, it will make the course much more playable but will make for a less characterful Bethpage Black. Ideally the course will be configured more along the lines of a US Open. This would mean narrow fairways and high rough. It would mean that match play ties would require nerves of steel and holes could be lost quickly. Here’s hoping that is what we will see.
One of the big factors of a Ryder Cup near New York will be the rowdy fans. The Europeans can expect a really tough time from the New Yorkers as they egg on their men to lift the Samuel Ryder Trophy.
Firstly, this is a public course owned by the city. It is part of Bethpage State Park and anyone is welcome to come and play one of the five courses on the property. The best thing about Bethpage Black, by far, is that you will never play a Ryder Cup host course for such little money. A round here will only cost you $150 and if you can do a midweek twilight tee time, it is just $78! Another great plus is that you have to walk this course, no golf carts here, this is old school proper golf.
So, you’ve seen the sign, got the obligatory picture of it and you’re ready to test your skills against the beast that Brooks tamed. How does the course play and what is your best way to navigate it?
Well firstly, you’ll want to hit it straight. This course was partly designed by A.W. Tillinghast and has his trademark large and punishing bunkers dotted around the course for you to navigate around. Although this is a parkland course, there is a links-ish feel to the turf which Long Island is known for.
There is no getting away from the fact that this course is more suited to better golfers. If you’re not a single-figure handicapped golfer, for example, you can still enjoy this course and the experience of playing such a famous course, just don’t expect to post your best score ever.
New York is one of the easiest cities in the world to get to so this is a great venue for European fans to experience an American Ryder Cup. From the city it is just a short trip out to Long Island and to Bethpage Statepark.
You can fly to New York from most large airports in the UK so you will have plenty of options when it comes to planning your trip.
What to do in New York
One of the most obvious things to consider doing is taking in the other sports that will be on offer. Around the time of the Ryder Cup, your choices will be ice hockey, basketball or American football. Some of the world’s most famous teams call New York home and this is your chance to see them in all of their glory whilst taking in the best golf event there is.
If culture is more your thing then you could check out a show on Broadway or visit one of the many museums of the city. Another one of the biggest draws of the Big Apple is the incredible food scene on offer. Some of the finest restaurants in the world are on offer and if you are a foodie you must take advantage.
Finally, you have to visit the famous landmarks that are synonymous with the city. Take in the Chrysler and Empire State Buildings, the Statue of Liberty and Times Square to name but a few. You won’t be short of options during this trip.
There are many great golf courses in the area so you will be able to play some golf as well as watch it. One of the best places to play is Trump Golf Links at Ferry Point, this incredible Jack Nicklaus Signature design has views of Manhattan that you can’t believe until you see it. As the name suggests, this is a links-style course and it is pure luxury.
If you’re looking for another course with major heritage then Eisenhower Park Red Course has hosted Champions Tour majors and is a really enjoyable course. This course has plenty of doglegs to defend it so bring your best tactical game and you will have fun here. Another great golfing experience in New York is Pelham Bay and Split Rock, this 36-hole pair have glorious and unexpected wildlife in such a city environment and make for an unforgettable couple of rounds. Each of these courses are around 6,500 yards and, although municipals are as good as most private courses.
It is worth noting that some of the most famous and prestigious courses in the USA are on Long Island. You won’t be able to get onto them unless you know some well-connected people or a member, but you could pop by and see if you can have a look around. Shinnecock Hills, The National Golf Links of America and Friar’s Head are all examples of super-exclusive courses in the area that take full advantage of the wonderful sandy turf of Long Island.
Scotland may be the home of golf but the USA is certainly the ‘holiday home of golf’. More than half of the golf courses in the world are in the US and in recent years some truly incredible new tracks have been added to that list.
Every state in America has its own share of outstanding courses but there are some real hot spots that you should visit if you are in the country. For good weather and a great choice of courses, Florida is a great option for a golf trip.
There are thousands of courses in the Sunshine State and some really famous places to play. One particular stand out are the courses at Streamsong Resort or you could play another famous PGA TOUR course, TPC Sawgrass. The Bandon region of Oregon is now firmly on the golfing map with some masterpieces like Bandon Dunes and The Pacific Dunes.
Another great place to play is South Carolina where you have all the courses of Myrtle Beach as well as the incredible Pinehurst Resort or Kiawah Island. Some of these names evoke memories of incredible moments in golf from major championships to previous Ryder Cup battles.
Please note the times given are a guide, they are likely to change prior / during the event