Bethpage Red – Farmingdale, New York Guru's Rating: 9.5
Non-Resident Weekend Rate (w/cart): $113
It’s almost impossible not to compare Bethpage’s Black and Red courses, given their proximity and excellence, and I give the Black a slight nod rating-wise because of its history and fascinating design. It’s The Black after all. It has THE “Warning” sign for crying out loud. But if you ask me which course I’d rather play on a regular basis, which course is more fun and a better bargain while still fantastic in every regard, my response is as follows: Always bet on Red.
The Red is quite frankly easier and less penal – a significantly more soothing layout than the Black with fewer opportunities for frustration. Bethpage Red certainly doesn’t lack for challenges (particularly with its lengthy and treacherous back nine), but the obstacles are beatable. Whereas the Black features obnoxiously elevated greens, omnipresent bunkers, and herculean length, the Red is fair and good scores can be achieved (which is the goal, after all, no?). Unlike on Black, you’re allowed drive a cart across the Red course (if you dare to offend the many golf purists on hand) – but even if you choose to walk, it’s not nearly as taxing. And with a ridiculously low price of $48 on weekends for New York State residents (nearly half of what you’d pay on Black), plus tee times that are much much easier to obtain (often just one call is needed to find an optimal time), Bethpage Red wins the stress/annoyance battle as well. Did I mention the course is phenomenal?
The Red is so good that it deserves to be rated on its own merits (and let’s be honest: it’s not really fair to compare most courses to Bethpage Black anyway). The conditions are pristine, the fairways and greens well-manicured. The sight lines and surrounding nature are gorgeous, and the layout is fun, memorable and imaginative. Doglegs drag you right and left – you’ll need to both cut it and draw it. Some holes require precision; others bombs. And lots of decisions, club changes, and variety meet your path as you move along the 7014 yards. Red can also boast something golf-wise that Black can’t: a memorable finishing hole. While Black’s 18th has been roundly criticized for its banality, number eighteen on Red is the perfect icing on the cake, a pretty 424-yard downhill par-4, surrounded by trouble (enormous bunkers on either side of the fairway) and punctuated by a difficult green.
The best part about playing Red: you still get the full experience of Bethpage – the historic clubhouse, driving range, putting greens, overall beauty and golf-charged energy. You can’t help but gaze over at Black during your round, but love the one you’re with…this will be one of your favorites – a course you will want to play again and again.
Most Memorable Hole: We mentioned the eighteenth above, but you don’t see many holes like #13, a sparkling 400-yard par-4 with a dual fairway. Going left provides you with the shorter and more direct approach to a small, unusually shaped green. The right fairway affords more room for error, but sets up a more daunting approach to the aforementioned tiny landing area. The fairways are separated by a long confluence of sand and fescue, which block your view of the green from the tee box (and which you don’t want any part of).
Most Challenging Hole: The Red gets the hardest out of the way early, starting you off with a ridiculous 492-yard roller coaster par-4, which comes right out of the Black course’s playbook. In fact, the first hole runs adjacent to Black 18, and has many of the features that make the Black’s holes so beastly: length, little room for error, sharp elevation changes, and thick trouble all around. The optimal landing area on Red #1 is down the right side of the fairway, leaving you with an open look at an extremely elevated green, which slopes steeply from back to front. When the pin is placed up front, that approach is deadly.
Guru’s Tip: Rounds typically last five to six hours on the weekends at Bethpage Red, and if you’re teeing off in the afternoon, make sure you grab enough food and drink at the clubhouse to last you throughout the day. The halfway house and beverage carts shutter at 4pm (I learned the hard way).