Various cuts at Bethpage Black for 2009 U.S. Open. (2Eklectik/Flickr)
Contributed by GCM NewsWeekly
Special to ARMCHAIR GOLF
THE U.S OPEN RETURNS THIS WEEK to Bethpage State Park’s Black Course in Farmingdale, N.Y., for the second time in seven years. GCSAA Class A member Craig Currier is just the second superintendent to host more than one U.S. Open at the same facility.
“I think it’s going to be even better than the last time,” said Currier, who has directed golf course management operations at Bethpage’s five courses for the past 12 years.
“We’ve had another seven years to get everything ready and just the way we want it. In addition to the actual playing surfaces, the entire facility is dialed in.”
The USGA has set up the Black Course at par 70, 7,426 yards, with the Kentucky bluegrass/perennial ryegrass/fine fescue rough cut at graduating heights starting at 1 1/2 inches closest to the fairway, 2 1/2 inches six feet out, and four inches 20 feet out.
Currier will have the bentgrass greens rolling at 14 feet on the Stimpmeter. And the Black Course will boast three of the longest par 4s in U.S. Open history this year. The 525-yard seventh will be the longest par 4.
The Black Course was merely tweaked in preparation for this year’s U.S. Open. The changes amount to about 225 yards of added length in the form of new championship tees on seven holes, some re-contouring of fairways and new or renovated fairway and greenside bunkers on seven holes. Currier also attempted to make the rough less thick by reducing fertilizer and overseeding.
“No. 4 is a great short par 5, but not a lot of guys went for it in two because the collection area behind the green fell straight away from you,” Currier said.
“If you hit it long, you were down over the road. We kind of rebuilt that area to hopefully hold shots a little better with the thought (that) guys will actually go for that in two now. On 10, we actually added a new collection area behind the green, so now anything long is going to end up 30 to 40 feet from the green.”
Bethpage History and Renovations
Bethpage State Park became the first publicly owned facility to host the U.S. Open in 2002. Built in the mid-1930s, Bethpage State Park was designed by famed golf course architect A.W. Tillinghast.
The first tee at the Bethpage Black Course touts a sign stating it is “an extremely difficult course which we recommend only highly skilled golfers.” The Black Course was refurbished in 1982, again in 1987, and then the USGA spent $2.7 million in 1997 to have Rees Jones renovate it in anticipation of the 2002 U.S. Open.
“I can’t say enough about the guy,” Jones said about Currier. “He’s no excuses and all solutions.”
The greens and tees were rebuilt and laser leveled as part of the 1997 renovations. A new irrigation system was installed, as well as additional drainage, and the bunkers were restored to reflect original Tillinghast design and style, including all new sand. A new maintenance facility was also constructed, using state funds, to replace the one built in the 1930s.
“Last time , people were wondering if a state park could actually pull it off,” Currier said.
“Now that we’ve been there, done that, I think everyone is a bit more comfortable.”
For more information about Bethpage Black and the U.S. Open from a golf course management perspective, visit GCSAA.org.
(Brought to you by YourGolfTravel.com and the ARMCHAIR GOLF STORE.)