Have you ever played a golf course so tough that it made you or somebody in your foursome throw up? More on that in a bit…
CaddyTips was recently given the opportunity to play Bethpage Black course a day after the final round of the 2019 PGA championship with the same conditions as Sunday (same tees although our group opted to play one up several times throughout the round, same pin locations, same two club wind and more importantly same length of rough). Now as a Californian that had never even been to Bethpage State Park, my misconception of the infamous “WARNING” plaque was one . Don’t tell me how hard the golf course is, let the course do the talking. The course did more than speak; it climbed up the Empire State building pounded its chest and roared ferociously.
When I first arrived on the grounds I was whisked away to the massive merch tent which was hosting a 50% OFF fire sale. I was -1 and I hadn’t even teed off yet! I put that CaddyTips corp plastic to good use and picked up some beauties that we used for some Instagram giveaways – stay tuned, more Bethpage contests to come.
Then we rushed to the first tee where it became stingily obvious it was a balmy 87 degrees out, real NY golf weather. I was going to get the full experience, buckle up! The PGA of America arranged for caddies so we could walk the course – there are no carts allowed and I learned that most of the players at Bethpage carry their own clubs and some use push carts. I was under the impression that all the push carts had been shipped and stored in Warren, New Jersey for this event as there was no signs that the course had seen a push cart in months. After a couple practice swings, it was time, peg it and go! I took a similar line that I saw the pros take over the two plum-colored trees and while my ball started on this line, I hit it a bit on the toe and the flight took a slightly different direction from the pronounced curvature of the hole. Now, I’m not going to go through every hole shot-by-shot like our detailed tips, but what happened next was indicative of the experience and needs to be chronicled as it seems to be the story I have told the most since playing Black.
My ball had landed in the fairway, bounced twice and then disappeared into the rough very close to where the hole begins to dogleg. It took my young caddy and I about a minute before we finally got right on top of the ball, a common theme for the day, and spotted the horrific lie. Deeper than the minds of Minolta. Ummm, ok, it’s gonna be like that huh? I was 144 yards out to the back pin so I figured if I clubbed up to 170 I most certainly could run something up the middle opening of the green. I choked down, kept my head still, came down at the perfect angle of attack and executed what I thought was the perfect swing for the conditions. The second my leading edge interacted with the turf, it was full flaps; the club got completely stuck and the ball lazily flew twenty yards down the fairway. As I regained my composure these words came rushing into “Warning, The Black Course Is An Extremely Difficult Course Which We Recommend Only For Highly Skilled Golfers.”
So, what did he shoot you might be thinking. Never mind that, let’s focus on the golf course. There is nothing I can write about Bethpage Black that hasn’t been put in print already like it’s a complete masterpiece of golf course design and architecture. The layout is long and winding with no houses and most of the holes are isolated. The green complexes are subtle and brilliant. The aesthetics of the course with its brilliantly placed fairway bunkers, ancient trees and whispey native grass areas are as delicious to a golfer’s eye as Chiprianis gnocchi is to Robert Deniro. The Empire State deserves an Empire Golf Course.
I took the chance to print out our Bethpage Black CaddyTips and battle test them under these championship conditions and I was proud. D-Dog, co-founder of CaddyTips had ventured out to Bethpage and did the whole experience of sleeping in the car to snag a tee time and under the tootiladge of a friend of his who had caddied in several tournaments at Black. Rafted some really solid tips. I was proud of the accuracy, attention to detail and all around experience using the tips. Vilification of our process gave me the extra confidence I needed to get around the “Bethpage Black Attack.”
Ok, one last antidote and then we will return you to your regularly scheduled program. I played with a really great group of young media sales guys out of NYC (it was Media Day for goodness sakes) and they were golf junkies so we got along famously. One of the guys claimed to be a 16 handicap; one of his swing flaws was right at impact he came WAY up and out of it, so he had absolutely zero chance out of the punishing rough that forced you to hit down and through to power it out. And he couldn’t hit a fairway…see where I am going here. He had no chance. By the 13th hole, he was a beaten man, tired, red, bothered, beaten man. Because of the heat, we slugged down whatever water was available to us. He chugged a bottle of water as we walked up the fairway on 13 and started to sweat profusely. “Are you ok Billy?” Asked one of his buddies. “I don’t feel well and I think I am going to be sick. That water did not sit well with me.” The water did not sit well with him? It’s nearly 90 degrees.
It soon became clear he was not going to finish the hole. His caddy gave him his putter and driver for the next hole and pointed him to a bathroom located behind the green.