Bethpage Black And The Credit Question

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As Ron Whitten detailed back in 2002, A.W. Tillinghast had a limited role in the design of Bethpage Black. Yet he will be lauded next week during the PGA Championship while the primary designer, Joe Burbeck, only gets a few mentions.

It’s a peculiar bit of irony that guilty of that at Golf Channel too, where we have a feature set to air during Live From on Tillinghast’s later years in obscurity and his incredible cross-country consulting tour for the PGA of America. But there is also a lovely irony in the PGA Championship coming here that allows us to consider his place in the game later in his life.

Since Whitten’s story seventeen years ago was met largely with frustration, maybe even derision, we’ve come to realize a lot more about course design credit. While Tillinghast seems to have only been on site a small amount and appears to have walked away (or was fired) in frustration with the Works Progress Administration’s methodology, there is still something undeniably different about the scale and design of Bethpage Black that speaks to his influence. Which is undoubtedly why Tillinghast still warrants a co-credit in Golf Digest’s listing of top 100 courses.

Sure, the greens have none of the flair you’ll find at other Tillinghast designs in the area and the course is woefully over-bunkered given his views by the Depression years. But as Whitten detailed, he still had a hand in making the design more than just long and hard.

In August 1937, Tillinghast wrote for the first time about Bethpage Black, in PGA Magazine. He credited Joseph Burbeck with the very concept of the Black Course.

"Now it was Burbeck's idea to develop one of these layouts along lines which were to be severe to a marked degree. It was his ambition to have something which might compare with Pine Valley as a great test, and although my continual travels over the country in the PGA work have prevented me from seeing play over Bethpage's Black since its opening, I am rather inclined to believe from reports from some of the best players that it is showing plenty teeth."

The next few lines suggested he made at least one visit to the Black. He described the par-5 fourth in some detail: "In locating and designing the green, which can only be gained by a most precise approach from the right, I must confess that I was a trifle scared myself, when I looked back and regarded the hazardous route that must be taken by a stinging second shot to get into position to attack this green."

While Tillinghast may have walked out of the studio during the sessions, he was there, crafted key notes and lyrics, and is undoubtedly part of why the Black went to a different place architecturally. He might also have made the 18th hole better had he stuck around.


Whitten has narrated a nice drone flyover of the course to get you in the mood for the Black’s return to major championship golf:

Tiger Enjoys Bethpage In Shorts Weather While He Can...

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More clips of Tiger Woods at Bethpage have surfaced and it would appear he got in his shorts-wearing before needing to pack those away as temperatures dip Sunday through Wednesday and struggle to get into the 60s. The tournament days look, for now, to be quite pleasant for the PGA Championship’s move to May.

I wonder what the people on Round Swamp Rd. thought when they saw the Masters winner strolling by…

Love the cart just whizzing in front of him on 17. Of course, they have tents practically on top of the fairways—what could go wrong—to finish building.

Tiger Gets Bethpage To Himself In Advance Of The 2019 PGA

Given the dreadful weekend forecast, those wondering if Tiger would get enough scouting in at Bethpage can rest assured after he turned up there Wednesday. Rest assured.

At least it looks that way based on his shorts and fluid swing and lovely solitude, though I’m sure there were plenty of hard working folks setting up infrastructure and trying to get the turf ready. Or maybe shooting some video!

Riggs of Barstool Sports posted this exclusive:

PGA Approves John Daly's Use Of Cart At Walking-Only Bethpage Black

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AP’s Doug Ferguson reports on the PGA of America’s approval of a cart for 1991 winner John Daly, who is going to try to play next week’s championship at Bethpage State Park’s Black Course.

"I hope I don't get a lot of grief from the fans," Daly said in a telephone interview. "My knee is screwed. I had the meniscus cut out. I have osteoarthritis so bad ... I can walk up a hill, I just can't walk down one."

The PGA of America said Daly applied to use a cart through its American with Disabilities Act policy and provided "the requisite information to allow for a review of his request by the PGA's medical team."

Daly tells Ferguson he’s been suffering from diabetes and dizzy spells during a drive to Birmingham for the Tradition. Daly has subsequently set up shop in front of slot machines in Mississippi hoping to improve enough to make the drive to New York.

Bethpage’s Black course is walking only during its season.

May Gray: PGA Would Like Some Sun And Warmth At Bethpage

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You can usually read into Kerry Haigh’s comments when discussing PGA Championship venue issues, and in a press conference today it sounds like things looking good at Bethpage Black. However, it sounds like a more sun and warmth would be helpful to get the course looking ideal for the upcoming PGA.

Here’s Haigh today:

As Seth mentioned, we are extremely excited looking forward to the up coming PGA Championship at Bethpage and as we all know, Bethpage is a wonderful test of golf. We've come through the winter very well from a conditioning standpoint.

Obviously the next two weeks are important in terms of leaves on the trees and grass growing, which is exactly what we knew and anticipated the past two years when we have been monitoring conditioning into this new date.

We're very excited where we are. Andrew Wilson, the superintendent and Mike Hadley, the Black Course superintendent, both are feeling very positive about the overall conditioning. Just need a few warmer days the next 10, 14 days, and I think the golf course will be in just outstanding condition for the 101st PGA Championship.

Obviously we're excited about the date change from a conditioning standpoint in that the grasses will be -- the cool season grasses will and should be a lot healthier. They will be sort of improving, as opposed to in the August date previously, we were sort of more on a hanging-on, keeping-the-grass, the-cool-season-grasses-alive mode. Whereas the spring temperatures are likely obviously to be more temperate and easier, cooler temperatures, which I think everyone will enjoy. But also more likely, and possibly have more chance of wind and probably tougher playing conditions.

So with that said, can't say more how excited we are to come to New York and see the best players in the world, the strongest field in golf, play on what is truly a great golf course.

Q. Couple of technical questions. In perfect world, how thick or how high do you anticipate the rough being, and how narrow the fairways?

KERRY HAIGH: Good morning, Doug. The fairway widths we have not adjusted at all since the last events that have been played there.

So they are very similar, the exact same as they were then, other than hole 18. That is the only fairway we sort of recontoured and that was really more to make the shot from the tee, you know, the player has more options now from the tee, whereas it used to be sort of an hour glass fairway is more of a reasonable width fairway throughout the lens.

So a player could still hit a an iron off the tee or a hybrid or a 3-wood, or can now even hit a driver. So that's the only fairway change since I think the '09 Open that I'm aware of.

In terms of the rough, a lot will depend on how well it does grow the next couple of weeks, but our plan is for it to be 3 1/2 to 4 inches long, and again, the anticipation based on what we saw the last two springtimes is that it should be pretty healthy and growing fairly quickly.

The Accuweather forecast does show some warmer options in the coming days. Tournament week suggests we might see some rain.

PGA Of America "Officials" Will Be Taking A Helicopter To Bethpage From New York City, And You Can Too For $4300!

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Thanks to reader John for this almost April 1-worthy PGA of America release proving more than ever that the officers and leadership are thinking of solutions for themselves.

The PGA membership?

If you can afford to stay in New York City, they’ve got a great way to commute to Bethpage State Park for this May’s PGA Championship. Maybe there will be post-PGA lessons included with Bethpage’s vast PGA-trained staff as well?

For Immediate Release…

PGA of America and Bell announces helicopter program for the 101st PGA Championship at Bethpage Black

The PGA of America today announced, in collaboration with Bell Helicopter, a Textron Inc. (NYSE:TXT) company, a new and innovative transportation solution to the 101st PGA Championship at Bethpage Black. The partnership between Bell and the 2019 PGA Championship will offer an unparalleled flight program that will transport key stakeholders - including C-Suite executives, corporate hospitality clients and PGA Officials – from multiple sites in Manhattan and surrounding New York Metro corporate centers to/from an on-site landing zone located at Bethpage State Park, just minutes from the PGA Championship.

Oh at the park, how charming! Can’t wait to hear that noise as we try to watch a major championship.

As part of the relationship, Bell will be the Official Helicopter Provider of the 2019 PGA Championship. This 2019 PGA Championship-specific flight program will utilize two types of aircraft, Bell’s class-leading 429 and Bell 407 models, both of which deliver a smooth ride, optimal comfort and unsurpassed visibility.

We want to make sure you can look down on the little people!

Bell will coordinate operations with their longtime customer, Zip Aviation and BLADE, the leading on-demand flight service in/around New York City.

 “The PGA is excited to be working with Bell in New York around the 101st PGA. Via this relationship, we’ll be providing an innovative transportation solution to the PGA Championship while also enhancing our corporate hospitality program,” said PGA of America Director of Championship Sales and Marketing John Handley. “To work with Bell, an industry leader in the aerospace sector, also aligns with our strategy of being a technological leader in the golf industry.”

When we think technology in golf, some might believe that means better helping all PGA of America professionals adapt to things like launch monitors and other tools of the trade, but really we’re about how to best move fat cats to and from our major. Handy though if an officer is battling a DUI!

“Bell is proud to provide aircraft to services like Zip Aviation and BLADE who give customers precious time back when traveling,” said Susan Griffin, executive vice president of Commercial Sales, Bell. “We are excited to offer customers attending the PGA Championship at Bethpage Black a one-of-a-kind experience and raise the bar for air travel in one of the world’s most popular corporate helicopters, the Bell 429.”

While tickets for the PGA are very much still available at $110 plus tax for each round, that looks like a bargain compared to the Zip Aviation-PGA costs.

Roundtrip tickets starting at $4276? But remember, you may get to sit next to a PGA official!

Note the locations as well.

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Bethpage, Other Northeast Venues Confident They Are Ready For May PGA

Screen Shot 2018-05-17 at 9.36.32 PM.png's Joel Beall checks in with several northeast venues on the PGA Championship schedule a year out from the even't first May playing date.

Bethpage agronomy director Andy Wilson says all is well, other than this week's weather. 

“We came out of this winter fine," he said. "We are a little behind a typical spring, but the course is green and the park has a spring look to it.”

Wilson admits the rain, snow and cold complicated matters, and mentions the trees aren’t as far along in leafing out as usual. However, all systems are operational. “The greens, fairway and tees are ready for the PGA,” Wilson says. “The playing surfaces are very good right now. We will have to change some practices in taking care of rough, especially high rough, to leave certain areas undisturbed in the fall to have a good look in the spring.”

A recent visit by Golf Digest confirmed as much. Contrasted against other Northeastern facilities, both public and private, you’d be forgiven if thinking Bethpage was sheltered in a dome the past six months.