|The 4th at Bethpage Black|
For context, I played the course about five years ago. I’ll begin by sharing my impressions from five years back.
I was really love the scale of the golf course. The width of the tree corridors was massive almost completely taking the trees out of play on almost every home creating a wonderful backdrop of mature Oaks. The undulations in the become the focus because your allowed to see so much of the roll in the land.
Tillinghast has always impressed me with his understanding of scale and at Bethpage he backed this up with massive bunkering and some really impressive carry lines from the tee. He also built really wide fairways that fit the scale and allowed you to take on as little or as much as you dared. While the golf course was tough as nails, because of how penal it was around the greens, it was also playable because of all the room away from the aggressive lines. You could simply tack wide, lay short and play for par/bogie all day. It was a great version of penal golf.
Forward to Monday
I unimpressed with the new presentation of the course. The fairways have been narrowed to around 22 yards and while that may be the “appropriate” set-up for the US Open it made the course one-dimensional. There was no longer any room off the tee to play a safer line. Even the carry lines were unattainable because of the lack of width in the fairway, which meant all but the perfect ran through into the rough. Because there is rough between fairway and green, where there aren’t super deep bunkers, you couldn’t run an approach on. The golf course has been reduced to a test of execution, which is the most boring architecture of all. The round was drudgery and very uninspiring.
I was tremendously disappointed in what the course has become. The fairway width was the key ingredient to prevent the course from crossing the line from possible to impossible.