So I played that monster of a golf course over there at Bethpage State Park for the first time of the season last Sunday morning (5/1) with good buddy Jon Emerson and new buddy Robert Rodriguez, who writes for Avid Golfer Magazine. Gotta say even though I’ve logged so many damn rounds at Black, this particular 18 turned out to be quite memorable, and it wasn’t just because I was getting up and down more often than Texas football two-a-days.
Couple observations about the course and round:
- Arrival: Got to the Bethpage State Park Motel at 12:05 a.m. and was greeted by nine cars with a Corvette in the first spot. May 1rst and I was the TENTH CAR at midnight. Scared for what June/July/August will be like. Robert and Jon met me later on, shortly before the ticket ripper/bracelet giver guy came at 5:15 a.m. But get this; we were the first group out at 6:51 a.m. Not the first time I was dew sweeper (as Robert suggested), but generally with nine cars preceding you, you’re looking at the fourth or fifth tee time and another hour or two of back-stiffening sleep. Which interestingly enough results in your high handicappers getting to the course a day before to play the Yellow, Green, etc. Anyway, we did the breakfast/bathroom/putting thing and were ready to go.
- Weather: Oh I don’t know…Perfect? Slight chill early, temps mid-low 60s. But there wasn’t a cloud between Manhattan and Montauk, I’ll tell you that. Second time of the season I did short sleeves. Jon and Robert disrobed their Under Armour early on the front-nine. Back nine there was a club or so of wind, but there always is so it didn’t matter.
- Greens: The Black’s been playable since April 15. They opened it with aerated greens, which Jon played on April 19th and described them as sandy/bumpy/messy. What a difference 12 days makes I guess. Not only were the greens rolling as smooth as Zach Morris, but they movin’ (around 11ish). All in all I’d rate em 8.5/10, just because I know how impeccable they can get.
- Fairways/rough: Although soggy because of the rain that’s been dumping on LI nearly every day April, the fairways were tightly mowed and you rarely had a bad lie. However, we did play lift/clean/place because of the saturation that cause mud balls. Rough wasn’t summer rough, but it provided a stern test, especially since it was wet and weighty. It was at that pesky length where you still have to search for your ball even when you saw it land and bounce from the tee.
- Setup: The blues were just up from the tips. We figured out that the course played about 7,3500–which was slightly up from 7,468. The charity was found on No. 3 (played 175 from 230), No. 4 (played 500 from 520), and No. 13 (par-5 played only 550 from 615). Though No. 8 (long, downhill par-3) played over 25 yards farther (235 to a hole four paces off the back) and into a gnarly breeze.
- Fescue: No, the N.Y. Knicks weren’t playing hide-and-seek in it yet, but I’m a proponent of this. Sure, the lengthy fescue does makes the course look like a Honey Bunches of Oats commercial, but it slows down play significantly. I say keep it down for a while. The second cut of rough (about 4-5 inches) is scary enough.
- Toughest hole of the day: Award goes to No. 10, which is the usual suspect. I managed to find the bunkers on the right off the tee for an unprecedented 20th consecutive time. We played that hole a combined 5-over. Jon and I doubled it (both tried to take 5-woods out of that same bunker only to hit the lip, punch out, hit on, two putt). Robert smashed a sweeping left-to-right drive down the middle, but also succumbed and made a five.
- Easiest hole(s) of the day: The three of us played 17 and 18 even par as a group. This included three incredible tee-shots into a swift crosswind on the 190 yard par-3. We threatened birdies but all tapped in for par. Then routine two-putt pars on 18.
Overall: The groundscrew at Bethpage must be applauded. They have the monster pumping in May, a tremendous sign. Here’s hoping for minimal quarreling between the Super and his wife. We want to keep that rough below the knees. Scores?
- I ended up doing an 80 (43-37) which turned out to be low-painter hat. This included four doubles (three in my first six holes), one bird, a cracked Titleist driver on the back-nine and a pretty white belt that snapped in half on 14.
- Jon, the scratch among the group, didn’t have his thing goin’ at all and drew up 88. Not happy, that Jon was. I faulted his swing issues on an earlier vendetta he had against the clubhouse toilet paper. He said something about it being thinner than filo dough.
- Robert and his buttery draw (from the wrong side I might add) concluded an 89, which I found impressive considering conditions and the fact it was his inaugural outing on that two-county track. He was obviously disappointed with a bunch of wasted shots but I echoed what my dad commonly boasts: “Black will bring out the worst in a good player.” Especially if it’s your first damn time out there, I added.
And my dad’s right, ain’t no breaks on that course, just one demanding shot after the next. Which would explain the positioning of the bar a mere lob wedge off the 18th green.