PGA Championship Course Guide

PGA Championship Course Guide

Just as the most difficult ski runs are colour-coded black, so too the par-70 challenge which awaits the 156-strong field at this year’s PGA Championship. The Bethpage Black course is not for the fainthearted.

A warning sign greets those who arrive at the first tee at one of the most testing golf courses in the world - “The Black Course is an extremely difficult course which we recommend only for highly skilled golfers.” You have been warned.

Bethpage Black has hosted the US Open on two occasions and will be the venue for the 2024 Ryder Cup. The Black course is considered such a test because of its length, narrow fairways, tangly rough and small, unpredictable greens. Indeed, in the 2002 US Open only eventual winner Tiger Woods broke par. Seven years later only five players managed to make it to the clubhouse under par after four rounds despite amendments designed to make it a little less brutal. For PGA Championship betting odds, head over to Bet UK’s online betting markets, where you’ll find golf betting odds on all PGA and European Tour events. Before the event gets underway on Thursday, make sure to check out our PGA Championship Betting Tips.

Bethpage State Park

Some 39 miles from Manhattan, Bethpage State Park is best known for its golf courses but visitors flock to the area to enjoy the park’s picnic areas, playgrounds, hiking and biking trails, tennis courts and cross-country ski trails.

The area's five golf courses stretch along land which was home to three Native American tribes of the Algonquin Nation. The village of Farmingdale borders the park to the south and for those with a fondness for a little horror, the setting for the Amityville novels and movies is just a 10 minute drive from Bethpage.

The origins of Bethpage Black

The Black course opened in 1936 and was the fourth to be built in the State Park. There is some dispute as to who actually designed the Black course. Officially, legendary golf architect A.W. Tillinghast is credited as the man behind its design, but the son of the original Bethpage superintendent, Joseph Burbeck, has suggested that his father was in fact the real designer and that Tillinghast acted only as a consultant.

Whatever the truth, the Black course would be Tillinghast’s last great achievement before his death in 1962, having already designed golfing masterpieces such as New York’s two Winged Foot courses and Baltusrol in New Jersey which has hosted 17 Majors.

The Bethpage courses have long enjoyed renown as the “The People's Country Club”, with affordable play open to the masses. Indeed when the 2002 US Open was held on the Black course, it was the first time the tournament had been held at a municipal golf club. Having become a little dishevelled in the latter years of the 20th Century, the Black was restored to its former glory in preparation for that first Major to be held at the venue.

Black Course highlights from history

When Tiger Woods claimed the 2002 US Open at Bethpage, many hailed it as one of the most difficult Opens in the competition’s history. The only man to break par, Woods was unstoppable and the chasing pack of Sergio Garcia and Phil Mickelson rarely got close. This was the period in which the world’s next-best golfers were desperate to derail Tiger Woods. They didn’t, and Woods would claim his eighth Major with a dominant showing on a Black Course which thwarted the rest.

When a Major returned to Bethpage in 2009, Rain plagued the US Open and a surprise winner emerged from the downpours in Lucas Glover. It would be the only Major victory for Glover who also posted a fifth-place finish in the PGA Championship of the same year.

The Best Holes On The Black Course

Following its difficult-to-play Major debut in 2002, the Black course was modified somewhat in an attempt to make it a little more playable ahead of the 2009 US Open. Fairways were widened and chipping areas extended.

The 4th is often considered to be the signature hole of the Black course. That renown stems from its somewhat terrifying appearance from the tee. A par-5 with a double dogleg, the 4th plays uphill with trees lining the fairways and criss-crossing bunkers along the way. Tillinghast himself was quoted as saying that the hole is the best three shot par-5 in golf.

And speaking of “tricky” holes, the par-4 15th is considered to be something of a back nine breaker. At the 2009 US Open, this dogleg left claimed multiple casualties with barely anyone managing to make a birdie. Jason Day famously claimed one of them though with an outrageous 71-foot putt.

A round on the Black Course closes with the par-3 17th and par-4 18th. A raucous atmosphere will greet those who reach the penultimate hole on the course. With a natural hill behind the green and giant grandstands on either side, the hole has been compared to the iconic 16th of the Phoenix Open at TPC Scottsdale.

Following that, the 18th was always considered something of an anticlimax. Originally a rather short and straight par-4, the hole was lengthened ahead of the 2009 Open and the green reduced in size by nearly a half in an attempt to inspire a little more closing-out thrill. The hole ends in front of the Bethpage clubhouse, a Colonial-style building completed in 1935.

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