By Jeremy Ellwood published
How to get a game at Baltusrol… with difficulty it would seem, so why not head a similar distance east of New York and take on the 2019 USPGA venue?
How to get a game at Baltusrol, venue for this year's USPGA Championship? Unfortunately, with great difficulty it would seem as an American acquaintance from our Top 100 panel confirmed to me. He had had the good fortune to play there recently when he was hosted by a Baltusrol member, which is apparently one of the only ways that you can play the courses there.
“The other ways to get onto the courses at Baltusrol are either through a charity auction (often members will donate rounds to help local organisations) or through a tournament that the course hosts,” he continued. Hmmm… I’m not exactly local and sadly hadn’t made it into the world’s Top 100 in time for this year's USPGA Championship.
“Otherwise, I believe you would be hard-pressed to get a game there,” he rounded things off. “But as you know, that is the model that most private courses in the US use to run their club.” Okay, so barring a chance meeting with a Baltusrol member, it looks like a bit of a long shot. So where to play next time you’re in New York and fancy taking on a Major venue?
The obvious answer is probably Bethpage Black, the famous AW Tillinghast layout on Long Island 45 minutes the other side of Manhattan to Baltusrol, which was restored to its former glory for the 2002 and then 2009 US Opens, and has since hosted the 2012 Barclays. Now that it’s been rediscovered, it seems the organisers of golf’s premier events just can’t get enough of this fabulous layout – the toughest of the five golf courses in Bethpage Park – with the USPGA Championship slated for 2019 and then the Ryder Cup in 2024.
Despite being notoriously difficult, its two US Open champions – Tiger Woods and Lucas Glover – did manage to get in at three- and four-under respectively, but it would probably be wise not to expect to get too close to your handicap on your first outing, as a sign on the 1st tee politely points out that “The Black Course is an extremely difficult course which we recommend only for highly skilled golfers.”
Unlike Baltusrol, Bethpage State Park’s five courses are all public, with green fees ranging from $38 midweek for the Green, Blue and Yellow courses up to $130 midweek for the Black ($150 at weekends) with a midweek twilight rate of just $78 for what many consider to be one of America’s very finest courses.
Jeremy Ellwood has worked in the golf industry since 1993 and for Golf Monthly since 2002 when he started out as equipment editor. He is now a freelance journalist writing mainly for Golf Monthly across the whole spectrum from courses and Rules to equipment and even instruction despite his own somewhat iffy swing (he knows how to do it, but just can't do it himself). He also edits The Golf Club Secretary Newsletter, has authored or co-authored three books and written for a number of national papers including The Telegraph and The Independent. He is a senior panelist for Golf Monthly's Top 100 UK & Ireland Course Rankings and has played all of the Top 100 plus 89 of the Next 100. He has played well over 900 courses worldwide in 35 countries, but put him on a links course anywhere and he will be blissfully content. On his first trip to Abu Dhabi a decade ago he foolishly asked Paul Casey what sort of a record he had around the course there. "Well, I've won it twice if that's what you mean!" came the reply...