At the P.G.A., Bethpage Black Has Everything Except Much Water – Smart Media Magazine

At the P.G.A., Bethpage Black Has Everything Except Much Water

The pond was strategically placed in the original Depression-era design of the course by the golf architect A.W. Tillinghast, who used the property’s single significant body of water to create the long, forced carry from tee to green. It was a challenging shot, one made that much more daunting when the flagstick was placed near the front of the green about 10 yards from the pond.

“People love par-3 water holes,” Jones said. “There’s the challenge. There’s the visual. The whole hole is in front of you. It’s a defining setting in golf.”

But across several decades of play, including tens of thousands of rounds by recreational golfers, many of the distinguishing features of Tillinghast’s layout were obscured by overgrowth or erosion. The eighth green, for example, shrank dramatically, and a receding green meant that the taxing front-hole location near the water was no longer an option.

But in the 1990s, in an inspirational nod to the everyday golfer, the august United States Golf Association decided to bring its featured event, the United States Open, to that bastion of the weekend duffer: the muni, a term for a public course owned by a town, county or state where the golfers change their shoes in the parking lot and the door is open to all.

It was a noble experiment, but the Black Course, where some fairways had become no more than random tuffs of grass, sorely needed a refurbishment. The yearslong restoration that Jones shepherded began in 1997.

When it came to the eighth hole, the first thing Jones sketched for his renovation was not so much an overhaul as a repair — he would extend the green back toward the water. Today, it is again 10 paces from the hole’s famed pond.

Jones also built a new elevated tee and added a plateau — “a terrace,” he called it — to the back of the green. When the flagstick is on that additional tier, the hole can require a considerably lengthier tee shot and play one-to-two clubs longer than it does when the pin is positioned near the pond. Jones also re-contoured the bank in front of the green to make it steeper.

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