Bethpage State Park...The Black Course

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Posted by Dexter Francois | Posted in , , | Posted on Tuesday, June 26, 2012

My wife and I traveled to New York City this past weekend to surprise my mother for her birthday. My sister had been planning a surprise party for her for quite some time but the original plan was to go to Cincinnati, OH where my parents live, but at the last minute, my mom wanted to bring my niece to meet my Grandmother who just turned 80. This meant that we had to switch venues, and we were on our way to The Big Apple.

I mentioned the trip to my buddy SBTU(Swing Better Than You, formley Scratch Better Than You when he was a part-time D.J.) whom you met in this post and later in this one and he immediately suggested that we try to get on to the Black Course at Bethpage State Park. The Black Course has hosted the 2002 and 2009 US Open Championships and will welcome the top 125 PGA players Aug. 21-26 for The Barclays as they vie for the 2012 FedExCup Championship.

Of course I got excited with the thought of taking on one the hardest tracks in America. Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, and others suggested that no one with a 8 or higher handicap could break 100 on US Open layout. I am currently an 8.2 so I was anxious to see how I would fare. But first things first. Getting a tee time.

It is well documented that The Black Course is one of the toughest tee times to get in golf. It is akin to Pebble Beach and Torey Pines in that golfers camp out the night before in hopes that someone cancels their tee time or that they win a lottery of sorts. Bethpage allows for a certain amount of walk-ons per hour but they go quickly. I was advised to get there the day before, but under the circumstances, the earliest we could get to the park was 7:00am that morning.

I had no expectations of getting a tee time. The park has four other courses, so if we didn't get on The Black, we were still guaranteed 18 holes of golf. We walked up to the ticket area and checked the times that were available. It kind of reminded me of the booths at a horse racing track where you place your bets. Much to our surprise, there was a 9:51 tee time available. I could not believe it. This almost seemed to good to be true, but it was happening.

The day was hot and humid and there was a chance of thunderstorms in the afternoon. After taking a picture in front of the famous "Warning Sign", we stepped up to the first tee, which has an elevated tee box to a dogleg right fairway. 

It was a bit nerve racking as there were a bunch of people watching as they waited for their tee times to arrive. With palms sweating and heart thumping, I took my swing. Pop up. I didn't even reach the fairway. Here we go, I thought.

We played from the white tees which measures 6684 yards on the score card. We figured there was no reason to torture ourselves trying to play the full 7468 yards from the blues. Maybe I will try it if I get another opportunity to play it again, but for now, let's just give ourselves a chance to break 100. They had already started setting up for The Barclays which was still two months away and the skeletal base of the grandstands were being put in place so we had a semblance of what it would look like for the tournament.

The course was not set up for US Open conditions, and to be honest, I don't know how it could get any worse. I'm used to resort golf. Living in Miami and now in Phoenix, many of the courses are set up so that vacationers have a good time, score well, which prompts them to return with memories of a good round. Wide open fairways funnel everything back to the middle, and even if you end up in the rough, you still have a great chance to get up and down. 

This is not the case on the Black Course. The first cut is gnarly and twisted. The ball disappears quickly, even just off the fairway. Then there is the fescue grass. If you are lucky enough to find your ball in this foot and half mess, successfully getting it out is somewhat of a miracle. There were times when it took me three hacks just to get it back into the fairway. which led to two nines on my scorecard.

I forgot to mention that golfers have to walk The Black Course which is all hills. No carts are allowed. Along with the heat, the constant up and down, and the thunderstorm which later caught up with us, I was beat down mentally as well as physically. I truly have a new found respect for what the pros do. Very humbling to say the least as I finished the round with a 101.

Despite this, I had an excellent time. I can say that I have walked where the pros have. You can actually feel the history in the air. All the buzz that lead up to playing the round lived up to its billing. This is one of those courses that all true golf fanatics have to play at least once. Just to see how you stack up.

I have improved a lot over the past year but this was a reality check on how good golfers have to be to compete on the professional level. The Golf Channel commercials do not lie. These guys are good. After playing The Black Course, I would say, "These guys are freakin' amazing!" Have a great round and always hit your target.

GolfNow.com – Book Your Tee Time Today!

Comments (14)

  1. June 27, 2012 at 6:54 AM

    Hey Dexter, I would love to get the chance to try my game at Bethpage Black. I have a silmilar story over here in the UK. I played the Brabazon at the Belfry (Ryder cup course) not long ago and had very similar results to yourself. I started off with a par after scrambling from the harsh second cut, (handicap was 10 now playing 7)then due to bad driving I found myself constantly hacking out, which the pros seem to make look alot easier than it actually is ha ha. The weather on the day was pretty harsh with rain and crosswinds (see my tee shot on the famous 10th http://youtu.be/Rc-m1CntExY) but it was a great experience which pushed me forward in my quest to reach the highest level I can.
    Just on a side note, I have noticed that our games,progress and situations are very similar and it would be great to share stories some time, also your friend JB sounds as mad about golf as both of us would be cool to chat golf with you guys and share experiences from over the pond. I have my blog http://golfjourney11anddown.blogspot.co.uk my facebook page http://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Golf-Journey/148882631890831 and also my Google+ page https://plus.google.com/103116628233083083983/posts which has a cool Hangout option where multiple people can have video conversations (Tiger used this to great effect). Hope to here from you guys, Lee UK

  2. July 1, 2012 at 5:38 PM

    Thanks for visiting Lee. I can't wait to visit the UK some day to see what true links style golf is all about. Dealing with the elements and the complexity of the golf courses must be a true test.

    I checked out your blog and we do have a lot of similarities. It's always good to read about other golfers experiences as they try to improve. I have added your blog to my blogroll. I think my readers can gain a lot from reading about your exploits. I'll be sure to visit your blog often to see what you are doing to improve. Cheers!

  3. July 19, 2012 at 8:24 AM

    Glad you got up our way Dexter! We've always wanted to play the Black Course but were always afraid of waiting all night to end up not getting on. But now you've given us hope! BTW, how's Arizona treating you?

  4. August 30, 2012 at 7:05 AM

    Nice article, thanks for the information.

  5. September 10, 2012 at 11:00 PM

    Dexter,

    This is a great write up of Bethpage Black. I love instagrammed photos as well.

    Keep up the good writing.

    Jon
    http://atruegolfer.com

  6. October 19, 2012 at 4:22 AM

    i also believe that black course is most place to get tee time

  7. October 19, 2012 at 4:22 AM

    I'm impressed. You're truly well informed and very intelligent. You wrote something that people could understand and made the subject intriguing for everyone. I'm saving this for future use.

  8. November 15, 2012 at 8:59 AM

    Thanks for the post. Wishing I could experience this course.

  9. January 7, 2013 at 6:24 AM

    Beth Sage State Park is a beautiful black course for golfers.

  10. February 13, 2013 at 12:06 AM

    Nice post for all readers.

  11. February 13, 2013 at 1:13 PM

    Great post and story, Dexter!

    -Gasper

  12. April 1, 2013 at 6:18 AM

    Nice post, Dexter. Alas, it's gonna be a while before I can have the chance to get out because of work overload. I try to sneak in a bit of golf time in between meetings with this indoor putting device. Have you got one of those?

  13. April 29, 2013 at 1:26 AM

    These tips will be very useful for the new golf players to trained them. Thanks for sharing.

  14. May 3, 2013 at 4:27 AM

    Wow! It's gonna be a while before I actually get to go out to play because of my insane workload. I've just started playing golf, so I'm just getting into this whole thing. I've been practicing my putting with ball targets (from http://shop.annestone.com/collections/putt-a-round) every chance I get. It's not the same, though.