Author: Keri Schmit

Experience Championship Golf at It’s Finest

“One of the hardest, but fairest courses I’ve ever played.”

The Black Course at Bethpage Park

Bethpage State Park is one of the most popular and cherished public parks in the nation. It’s also the largest government-owned golf facility in the country. The park is located in Long Island, NY and opened in 1936.

The Black Course at Bethpage State Park is the most difficult of Bethpage’s five courses, and the hardest in the US. This would explain the reason for the infamous warning sign at first tee.

The Black Course Warning Sign

The warning sign reads “The Black Course Is An Extremely Difficult Course Which We Recommend Only For Highly Skilled Golfers.”

The infamous sign is the most photographed locations in Bethpage and impossible to miss on a trip into Bethpage State Park.

Black Course at Bethpage State Park has consistently ranked among the top 100 Greatest Golf Courses in America. Last year the course was ranked the #8 Public Course in America.

The Infamous Black Course Warning Sign

The History Behind the Sign

Despite a history that’s fairly well-chronicled, the origin of the sign remains in dispute. It’s a sign more befitting a ski slope and, in a way, it makes sense given the steep hills that define the challenge of this course.

In the process, Bethpage’s sign has become an equal to Augusta’s Magnolia Lane, the bridge on the Old Course of St. Andrews or the island green at TPC Sawgrass.

A column in the New York Post, gave the benefit of the doubt to Mike Asheroff, a former deputy director of state parks who also shared his story with Golf.

According to Asheroff, it was a Memorial Day in the early ‘80s when he got a call about an incident out on the course. A man was trying to teach his wife the game on the challenging course while a frustrated group of golfers stacked up behind them. The situation escalated into the husband and wife throwing golf balls at the other parties until they had to be escorted from the course by police.

“I turned to [my employee] at that point and said, ‘Give me a piece of paper,’ ” Asheroff told the Post this week. “I scribbled out the wording of the sign and said, ‘Get the sign shop to make this up and put it by the park register and if anybody wants to play golf on the Black, point it out to them.’ That’s how the sign got out there.”

In various rankings of the most difficult courses in America, the Black tends to come in around 5-7, with The Ocean Course at Kiawah (S.C.) usually ranking No. 1.

Plus, there’s that sign, growing more famous by the year, all while warning, teasing and drawing people to what lies ahead. Never underestimate the power of a good dare.

How does one go about getting on Bethpage Black?

The 5 easy ways to play Bethpage Black

1. Online

The New York State Parks department opened an online system for booking one of Bethpage courses in early 2018. New York residents may book a reservation one week in advance stating at 7:00 p.m. The window is five days for out-of-towners. You will need to be registered in the system to finalize a booking.

This system heavily favors New Yorkers, so weekend slots are gone within an hour of the window opening. But for those living outside the Empire State, fear not: a 48-hour cancellation policy opens a handful of spots, and if you’re willing to visit during a weekday, you can usually find a slot.

2. Call

The old automated telephone system is still available. Same window as the online system, the number is 516-249-0707.

3. Camp out

The first numbered parking spots will begin to fill in around 4:00 p.m. the day before. The first hour of tee sheet is reserved for campers (along with one spot every hour the rest of the day).

One golfer needs to be present, in the car, at all times. If a car is discovered to be uninhabited, course officials make you surrender your spot in line.

Tee-time tickets are distributed starting at 4:30 a.m. All players in your group have to be present for the time of ticket allotment.

4. Walk up

For single players, walking up to the register the morning of has proven shockingly efficient. (Doubles will be a stretch, and don’t even think about reserving a foursome in this fashion.) Once in a blue moon you can weasel your way into one of the first groups of the day. More than likely, you will have to wait a few hours before the starter can fit you in. Hey, all the more time to work on your short game.

5. Booking service

Greens fees for New Yorkers is $75 for weekend play and $150 for out-of-staters, sites like NY Golf Shuttle will charge as much as $850. They accomplish this by crashing the online systems to secure spots, and it’s technically legal, despite efforts from Bethpage to make it no so. But be wary: if you’re caught using the site, Bethpage will suspend you from the course for a year.