“It wants you to walk off there out of breath.” All you need to know about Bethpage Black

The PGA Championship is taking place at Bethpage Black Course this week which is one of the toughest courses in America. It’s not quite as difficult as Oakmont where Dustin Johnson lifted the US Open in 2016 but it’s definitely an attritional test at one of New York State’s best known facilities. Here’s a little bit about the course and venue to find out what’s in store for the best players in the world when they tee it up this week. 

Bethpage State Park is one of New York State’s golfing Meccas with five public golf courses, including the notoriously difficult Black Course, which this month hosts the US PGA Championship, welcoming the strongest field in men’s golf.

Set around 40 miles from Queens in the heart of Long Island, the Black Course has twice before crowned Major Champions, with Tiger Woods and Lucas Glover winning the US Open in 2002 and 2009 respectively. 

It has also hosted a FedExCup event twice, in 2012 and 2016, with Nick Watney and Patrick Reed, the winners, so the venue clearly has a fondness for a ‘home’ winner.

This year marks the 101st PGA Championship and players will need to have all facets of their game firing if they are to win, because Bethpage Black does not yield easy birdies. Famed golf course architect A.W. Tillinghast was hired to design and oversee construction of three new golf courses at the Bethpage (Black, Red and Blue) as well as modify the existing Lenox Hills Course, which then was renamed the Green Course.

Due to a heavy increase in demand for the game, the Yellow Course, designed by Alfred Tull, was opened for play in 1958 and approximately 300,000 rounds are played annually on the five courses at Bethpage.

“It likes to be known as one of the hardest courses you’ve ever played. It’s always been like that,” said one local. “It wants you to walk off there out of breath.”

The Black Course puts a premium on accurate and long driving, avoiding the many fairway bunkers which are deep and penal. Almost half of the holes on the course have elevated greens which are guarded by Tillinghast’s signature bunkers, and while the US PGA won’t set the course up to be as demanding as the USGA would for a US Open, it will still require mental stamina and patience in order to pass the exam in as few shots as possible.

Throw into the mix a vociferous crowd, as witnessed at last year’s US Open up the road at Shinnecock Hills, and this year’s US PGA is set to be another unmissable marathon. If you think the New York crowds are rowdy during a Major, just wait until the venue hosts The Ryder Cup in five years time.

Did you know?

There are four players with multiple top-10s at Bethpage Black which are:

Sergio Garcia, 3
Tiger Woods, 2
Phil Mickelson, 2
Ryan Moore, 2

  •  The winning score at Bethpage Black has never been lower than 274.

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