Sunday, October 16, 2011

Conquering Bethpage Black...

Well, sort of.

I finally broke through on the phone tee time reservation system last week.

Allegedly tee times open up at 7pm, 7 days beforehand.

Except that when I generally get through, after 15 rapid-fire calls or so, at 6:59....there are no tee times left. I've pretty much been shut out all season long. I mean it's October and I've only played there once this year!

There's something very unfair and fishy going on. I suspect *foul play*. Rumors abound that the State of New York is selling the tee times for this *public* course in bulk to agencies. One advertises $1,395 for a foursome including transport to and from NYC. Compared to the $70-80 state residents pay....who could be surprised that the operators are *maximizing revenue* at the expense of us residents/taxpayers???

I finally landed a single at 10am for last Friday and was positively psyched. The only problem was that there was an 80% chance of rain (and thunder!) forecast. Undaunted, I got there early and was shocked to get right out over an hour before my time. The parking lot was EMPTY - there was absolutely no one at the 5 courses thanks to fallible meteorologists. We got sprinkled on between the 11th-13th holes and it poured on the 18th for no more than 90 seconds. Otherwise I was bone dry and enjoyed my round immensely.

In fact I played in a two-some with some young kid (27?) from New Jersey, a 4-handicap. I wasn't going to play the back tees this time because it's been raining for the past 2 months(!) and thought it might be impossibly long with no roll in the fairways. But this kid wanted to so I went along.

I didn't play that well at all - hitting in 10 bunkers a la Tiger at this year's PGA Championship. But I still managed to card a passable 91 on this 7,468 yard test of golfing manhood. (One has to carry their own bag over this mountainous terrain - no carts allowed.)

Recall last year I shot a 90 on it on my first go-around. Then this past August I improved to 87 there.

The 4-handicapper kid probably shot around 90 too!

But guess what...

One of my golfing buddies here on Long Island had a tee time on Saturday!

So like a 10 year old at Disney I was all geeked up, all week long, to play two days in a row.

Yesterday in blustery conditions I started out poorly again - tripling the easy 2nd hole from the middle of the fairway with a 7-iron in hand. However I got into a nice groove the rest of the way - scoring only bogeys and pars - before finishing up with my best round there yet - 85. All of my chips and pitches were landing within 8-10 feet....I made a few putts. You just can't reach most of these holes. Heck on the 12th hole I hit my driver straight and somewhat solid. Yet I still had 269 yards to the pin, into the wind, with bunkers on both sides.  Out of the 15 holes that are par-3s or par-4s, I only hit irons into 4 of them.  That's how freakin' long Bethpage Black plays!

And I think that's where most people get into trouble. First of all, most people don't drive the ball long and straight like I do. And then when they whip out their fairway woods, from the rough(!),....they start spraying into the fescue and the bunkers - not the green-side ones either! As defeatist as it might feel, they'd be better off playing 5-irons to 130 yards just to keep it in play.

Bethpage really is an amazing course and it appeals to me in fact because it is so difficult and physically demanding. I just don't like playing easy courses at all. Plus if you play badly on Micky Mouse tracks then you feel REALLY BAD. Blowing up at Bethpage Black (or Widow's Walk in Scituate, MA) is no big deal - everyone (else) does!

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