The 10th hole at Bethpage Black is a beast, on which tour pros once couldn’t hit far enough reach the fairway. The fifth hole is arguably tougher, with its demanding tee shot. Same for No. 12. And the par-3 17th is, as one local pro said on Wednesday, “brutal.”
Having said all that, though, the hands-down winner in a straw poll about the hardest of the hard, the toughest hole on the course, is the 460-yard par-4 15th. Especially when the wind slaps a golfer in the face as it did during the first and second rounds of the New York State Open Wednesday, when the average score on the hole was 4.61.
The 54-hole event, which was interrupted by a storm Tuesday and will finish Thursday, is the final big tournament before the PGA Championship is held on the Black in May. So, it was only natural to take stock of the course’s challenges and its prospect for another major
“We were talking about that today,” said Matt Dobyns, head pro at Fresh Meadow who will make his fifth appearance in a PGA Championship next month. “We feel it could host a PGA next week. The rough could be a little thicker and maybe a little more graduated. But I think the greens, in terms of consistency and firmness, are right on the edge of being perfect.
“I’ve never seen it this good, ever. I’ve never seen the rough this consistent, I’ve never seen the greens this good,” Dobyns said after having finished two rounds at 4 over. Without hesitation, when he was asked to identify the Black’s hardest hole, he said No. 15. “The green is unforgiving and it’s difficult to get up and down if you miss the green.”
A consensus of players agreed with him. So does history. Golfweek included it among its 18 toughest holes in major championship golf, noting that it was the third hardest hole on tour in 2009, when the U.S. Open was held at Bethpage.
“Today, I hit a good drive, I hit it in the fairway. I don’t do that very often. There’s the hill, there’s the wind,” said Craig Thomas, who earned a share of the course record with a 64 in winning the 2007 State Open. “I hit a 5-wood and I came up short.” Thomas, the head pro at Metropolis Club, shot 4-over-par 75 in the second round, which he played after having finished the first-round 73 earlier in the day.
Mike Miller, a minitour pro who shot 65 on the Black to win the 2014 State Open, said of No. 15, “Today I had 202 left after a good drive. I actually laid up, took a big number out of play.” He is at 2 over after a pair of 72s. Andrew Svoboda was at 4-under par and the leader among those who finished.
Several golfers cited the 455-yard par-4 fifth hole as the Black’s toughest. Jesse Fitzgerald, assistant pro at Garden City Golf Club, called it a tie between 10 and 12, a flat but bending 489-yard par 4.
Matt Lowe of Farmingdale, who plans to turn pro later this summer, emphatically supported No. 10. “It’s 500 yards from the back and if you miss the fairway you’ve got to lay up to 85 yards at least,” Lowe said, particularly proud of having begun the tournament by sinking a 178-yard 7-iron shot for eagle there.
There was no disagreement among the pros about the lure of the 2019 PGA Championship. Every one of them wants to be in it and will aim to get there through the national club pros tournament. They all think the Black has 18 major-caliber holes.
Mark Brown, head pro at Tam O’Shanter Club and participant in numerous PGAs said: “I don’t think you have to do a whole lot to it. The greens are really good, they’re just flat. Depending on the wind condition, you could move the tee markers. But I think it’s good just the way it is.”
Jeff Halpern, Lake Success GC, eighth hole, 160 yards, 6-iron
Adam Krosser, Engineers CC, 14th hole, 127 yards, sand wedge
Bryan Rogers, West Sayville CC, 17th hole, 125 yards, 9-iron
Rich Grudens, Crab Meadow GC, ninth hole, 147 yards, 7-iron
Pat Hall, Brookville CC, 16th hole, 197 yards, 4-hybrid
Gary Korn, Swan Lake GC, fifth hole, 175 yards, 5-wood
Scott Millman, Pine Hollow CC, eighth hole, 195 yards, 6-iron
Bob Ventresca, Bergen Point GC, sixth hole, 157 yards, 3-hybrid
Steve Gramarossa, Bretton Woods GC, seventh hole, 183 yards, driver
Marco Stanco, Heatherwood GC, 12th hole, 118 yards, 9-iron
Tom Black, Heatherwood GC, fourth hole, 165 yards, 5-iron