The tournament, which started yesterday (May 16) and comes to an end on Sunday (May 19), is a stout par-70 that stretches 7,459 yards.
The course is situated in a national park, however, in 2002 the US Open was played there and Tiger Woods’ win there gave the course huge global status.
Bethpage is a municipal golf course. At the weekends you have numbered parking facilities – parking spot one, parking spot two and so on. And as golfers are given priority for order of play based on their parking spot number, they start parking their cars from midnight onwards to claim their tee time in the morning.
If you’re a visitor to Bethpage, be warned, ‘The Black Course is an extremely difficult course which we recommend only for highly skilled golfers’ reads the warning sign on the fence.
The cost of playing Bethpage Black is very reasonable by today’s standards. Green fees for non-residents are US$130 weekdays and $150 on weekends. New Yorkers play for $65 weekdays and $75 on weekends. Green fees start at 150 dollars and go down to a local New York rate of 65 dollars. Spectators this week will be predominately New Yorkers playing their part in the Major.
The Black golf course at Bethpage is a parkland golf course with long tee shots required. Big cross bunkers await you on some of the golf holes and big greens with subtle breaks. The greens should be very fast, although this will depend on how the PGA tournament committee set up the golf course for the Championship.
When playing the course, your golf pre-shot routine has to be constant.
Before a golfer hits the ball, they should go through their pre-shot routine for every shot from tee shots to putting, almost like a ritual. This should give them the best opportunity to hit their best shot at the time with the pre-shot routine being a constant idea, not varying.
The last time the US Open was played at Bethpage, Sergio Garcia had a per-shot routine before the tournament started. A rather simple one: line up, visualise the shot, practice swing, work out the kind of shot required, relax, move to the golf ball, perform mannerisms while addressing the ball and then swing the golf club back and shoot.
Due to the pressure on Garcia to win the Open, the number of times he would re-grip increased from his standard two as the tournament progressed. Media being media set a re-grip counter on the TV screen to show how many times Garcia would re-grip on each shot. The counter had him on as many as 24 re-grips before he swung the golf club back.
Garcia finished fourth, six shots behind the winner and his clothing sponsor Adidas was happy as he had most of the TV coverage.
Two weeks after the Open, Garcia was once again back to his standard two re-grips and won several Masters since. Interesting to see what pressure does to a golfer and pleased that Garcia managed to solve his per-shot routine problem.
Incidentally, Jack Nicklaus’ routine before hitting his ball was only two steps; he would ask his caddy the distance to the target, choose his club and then his caddy would tell him he’s the greatest golfer in the world before he took the shot. (Nicklaus was the best player in the world at that time.)
In April this year, Tiger Woods won the first Major of the year after a 13-year drought, taking his tally to 15 Majors – only three to go to equal the record set by Jack Nicklaus back in ‘86.
As always, there will be many permutations before the winner reveals himself at this second Major of the year. I am very much looking forward to seeing how this Championship will unfold.
Martin Platts (British) P.G.A., Director of the Golf Guru International Golf Academy, has been involved in competitive golf for 49 years, 37 as a professional. He has coached players of all levels from beginners to Ryder Cup tour professionals. Visit TheGolfGuru.com