Bethpage is the hardest course I have ever played.
It’s much harder than Pine Valley or Shinnecock Hills. Every single shot is contested and every miss is punished by rough and bunkers. What makes it even tougher is if you miss a fairway but get a decent lie. You face a long iron or wood out of thick rough and over super-deep bunkers. The best way I can describe Bethpage Black is relentless. It simply begins very hard and gets harder as it goes. It slowly grinds you down till you’re physically and mentally exhausted by the end of the round.
What I love is the scale of the course – it’s enormous. The corridors between tree lines are so large that there are only a few places where a player has any real risk of finding trees. The contour in the land is very rolling and a key feature. But the thing that makes the course was Tillinghast’s architecture. He built his bunkering with enough size and scale to fill all that open space. His bunkering is large enough to create wonderful serpentine fairways through these wide corridors. Through the scale and placement of the bunkering produces lots of carry angles and strategy from the tee. He then heavily bunkered his greens to reinforce the emphasis on position of the tee.
The one thing about everything being on such an enormous scale is it is often tough to calculate carry distances because your eye is easily thrown off by the enormity.
To play well on the Black you must remain tough as nails mentally and stick with your game plan from start to finish.