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Bethpage Black: one of the world’s hardest golf courses

Bethpage Black Course
Bethpage Black is situated on Long Island, some 35 miles from New York City

From the moment you step onto the 1st tee of the Bethpage Black Course, you’re left in no doubt as to what awaits.

The sign behind the tee has become the stuff of golf folklore, synonymous with what is one of the hardest golf courses in the world. It simply reads, “WARNING – The Black Course Is An Extremely Difficult Course Which We Recommend Only For Highly Skilled Golfers”. It isn’t there for show, or to spook you, it’s there because Bethpage Black Course is, quite frankly, a brutal test of golf.

With fairways which average just 26 yards in width and plateaued greens which are bordered by thick rough, this is a rigorous examination of your game. If haven’t got your best stuff, Bethpage Black is not the golf course for you.

Bethpage Black Course Warning Sign
The famous sign near the 1st tee of Bethpage Black Course. Credit: Gary Kellner/PGA of America

This is, of course, the venue for the 2025 Ryder Cup, a destination steeped in major championship pedigree, having hosted the 2002 and 2009 US Opens, as well as the 2019 PGA Championship. The Bethpage Black Course stands as a testament to golf’s enduring challenge and has earned its fearsome reputation over decades. Nestled within the rolling hills of Farmingdale, New York, this course – like the locals – has personality, it’s in your face and once you’re done, you know exactly where you stand.

Bethpage Golf Course
Bethpage Black measures around 7,400 yards from the championship tees

Bethpage open to all

It might surprise you to learn Bethpage is a public facility which is owned and run by New York State Parks. Residents of the state of New York benefit from subsidised green fees, which are nothing short of a bargain. All in, Bethpage features no fewer than five 18-hole golf courses, of which the Bethpage Black is, of course, the most celebrated. Its location on Long Island, also means Bethpage is within reach of New York City itself and therefore also easily accessible to golfers from across the world.

Genuine championship pedigree

The true meaning of a Championship golf course has, perhaps, been lost over the years. At times it feels like every course now brands itself as a Championship Course. But in the case of Bethpage Black Course it carries real meaning, not just because of the challenge but because of it has played host to the world’s best players – even they have struggled. At The US Open in 2002 only one player finished under par for the four rounds (some guy called Tiger Woods). In 2009, just five players broke par. The golf course will find your weaknesses, with holes such as the par-5 4th, a brute that peppers the golfer with challenge on every shot with cross bunkers, changes of direction and sheer distance. Perhaps only the 18th could be classed as a straightforward – it’s as if Bethpage Black Course realises that if a golfer has survived the previous 17 holes, they deserve a break.

Bethpage Black Course New York
Bethpage Black is the host venue for the 2025 Ryder Cup

Length and layout at Bethpage Black

This fierce test of golf measures around 7,400 yards from the championship tees, demanding both power and precision. The layout features undulating fairways, strategically placed bunkers, and treacherous rough, all contributing to the course’s formidable reputation. Golfers must navigate through a series of challenging par 4s and 5s, with each hole presenting a unique set of obstacles that test a player’s ability to strategize and execute. The par-4 15th hole at Bethpage Black, named “The Beast,” epitomises the challenge. Measuring some 450 yards, it demands a combination of power and accuracy off the tee, with a sloping fairway and a well-guarded green. Players must also contend with the psychological pressure of navigating one of the toughest holes on the course, a true make-or-break moment which can and, usually does, define your round.

Bethpage Black’s iconic warning sign

The warning sign at the Bethpage Black Course is the stuff of legend, a bucket list photo opportunity for every golfer who visits. But although it may be more photographed than the golf course itself, no one really seems to know how or when the sign got there. Bethpage historian Philip Young would be the man to ask, after all he wrote a book on A.W. Tillinghast, the architect of the Bethpage Black Course. But when asked, he said, “not a single person knows …I have searched high and low, up and down, every which way.” The best, educated guess is that the Bethpage Black sign appeared at some point during the 1960s, although some will tell you it wasn’t until the 1970s or even the 1980s. What everyone can agree on, is the Bethpage Black warning sign is factual. It was put there to discourage those who didn’t yet have the skills to try one of the other four courses at Bethpage. Whether golfers abide by it is another matter.

New York City Bethpage Black Course
Bethpage is within reach of New York City. Credit: Christian Ladewig

Testament to A.W. Tillinghast’s Design

Bethpage Black Course was laid out by A.W. Tillinghast, one of the world’s most celebrated golf architects and a master of his craft. Tillinghast worked during what many believe was the golden age of course design and his philosophy emphasised strategy – Bethpage Black Course has certainly stood the test of time. Tillinghast was not only celebrated but also prolific in the Tri-state area (New York, New Jersey, Connecticut) with Winged Foot, Baltusrol, Sleepy Hollow and Quaker Ridge just some of his designs. Bethpage Black Course is right up there and ticks all the boxes of a course which exudes the values of what many describe as ‘traditional’ American golf course architecture. It also epitomises Tillinghast’s personal vision with undulating plateaued greens, cleverly placed hazards, and thick rough – a course which is both beautiful and demanding. Bethpage Black Course has it all.

Bethpage Black Course logo
The iconic Bethpage Golf Course logo

Rough the stuff of nightmares

The rough at Bethpage Black is notoriously punishing. If you’re lucky, stray shots will result in brutal lies which will have you pulling wedges however far you are from the hole. And that’s if you’re lucky. Lost balls are not unusual if you venture into the thick stuff so bring plenty of them with you. Invariably the tall grass is heavy, mulchy, and wet, which means your chances of making a good connection are zero. If you’re smart, your visit to the rough at Bethpage Black course will cost you just one shot. If you’re not, if can cost you many, many more. The bunkering is wickedly clever too, so there really is no such thing as a good leave off the fairway. Finding the short grass from the tee is absolutely critical on this golf course – consider this your warning sign on the rough: Avoid at all costs.

Bethpage Black: a summary

In the world of golf, the Bethpage Black Course stands tall as a symbol of challenge and adventure. Its length, layout, history, and the indomitable spirit of A.W. Tillinghast’s design, collectively contribute to its reputation as one of the hardest golf courses in the world. A golfer who visits Bethpage Black knows they are embarking on a journey which demands skill, strategy, and mental fortitude – a true test of your game. Whether navigating “The Beast” or conquering the relentless rough, every round played and every scorecard ruined at Bethpage Black adds the enduring legacy of a course that is known the world over for being really, really hard. Good luck. You can’t say you haven’t been warned!

BETHPAGE GOLF COURSE: KEY FACTS

Address: Bethpage Golf Course, 99 Quaker Meeting House Road, Farmingdale, NY 11735, United States.
Designer: Bethpage Black Course was designed by renowned golf course architect A.W. Tillinghast.
Major Championships: The course has hosted several major championships, most notably the US Open in 2002 and subsequently in 2009.
Length and Par: Bethpage Black is a par-71 which measures more than 7,400 yards from the tips.
Signature Hole: The par-4 15th hole, is known simply as “The Beast.”
USGA Course Rating: Bethpage Black has a USGA course rating of 76.5 and a slope rating of 144.

BETHPAGE BLACK COURSE SCORECARD

Bethpage Black Course Scorecard

BETHPAGE BLACK COURSE: Frequently asked questions (FAQs)

Where is Bethpagen Black Course located?

Bethpage Black Course is located in Farmingdale, New York, within Bethpage State Park. It is situated on Long Island, approximately 35 miles east of New York City, making it easily accessible for both local and visiting golfers. Bethpage State Park is a public park, and Bethpage Black Course, while challenging, is open to the public for play.

What is the address for Bethpage Black Course?

The exact address for the Bethpage Black Course is:
Bethpage State Park,
99 Quaker Meeting House Road,
Farmingdale,
NY 11735
United States

What about Bethpage Black Course tee times?

Visit the official website of Bethpage Golf Course, which has plenty of information and a place to book tee times directly. Visit BethpageGolfCourse.com

How much are Bethpage Black green fees?

Bethpage Golf Course offers a brilliant financial incentive for New York State residents and when it comes to value for money to play a celebrated layout like Bethpage Black Course, it’s a real bargain. For the rest of us, the latest information on Bethpage Black Course green fees can be found by clicking here.

BETHPAGE BLACK COURSE COURSE MAP

Bethpage Black Course, Course Map

Late to the game, Ray is more than making up for lost time. There are not enough hours in a day, days in a week, weeks in a year. He plays in all weathers - snow included. His other great passion in life is wine, which is why Ray is the owner of The Ripponden Wine Co.

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