Everything about Bethpage Black is contrived to make an already difficult course even more so. It’s a big golf course — with elevated greens, and forced carries. The rough is thick, the greens are fast, and on the day we played it, the cold wind was whipping.
It was all part of my early-season plan to “stress test” my golf game. Along the way, my colleagues Zephyr Melton and Tim Reilly decided to film ourselves navigating the Bethpage Black’s beastly 608 yard, par-5 13th hole, which you can watch above.
Lets break down the key shots for each of us.
Tim’s well-meaning bump-and-run
Tim’s a wily player, the kind who routinely wins matches around the office. The strength of his game is his accuracy, especially off the tee: He’s good at keeping the ball in play, and avoiding big numbers because of it. 605 yards is just a lot of golf hole for Tim, but he progressed the ball well enough to find himself greenside in four shots. His problem was the bump-and-run he played next. Teachers suggest standing closer to the ball, choking up on the club and playing the ball back in your stance. Tim set up to the shot more like a standard shot, which meant it didn’t have enough juice to get back to the hole and leave himself a makeable putt. It wasn’t the wrong shot selection, just the wrong execution.
Zephyr’s clever club-up
Speaking of GOLF Magazine staffers who are good at keeping the ball in play: Zephyr basically never misses a fairway. A drive in the short stuff followed by a 3-wood up the shoot left him 188 yards away for his third shot, with the green elevated and bunkers short that effectively made it all carry. Ordinarily this is a hybrid, but Zeph pulled his 4-wood — which usually carries around 200 yards, he says — and hit a fantastic shot to within birdie range. Zeph isn’t the longest player in the world, but this shot showed why he’s a very good player anyway. He’s clever, and avoids the common mistake golfers make of not taking enough club.
My safe (but unspectacular) drive
It’s a bit odd for me to analyze my own performance, but here we are. I was really pleased with the second shot I played on this hole, but looking back, I think the pivotal shot was my rather boring drive into the far. It’s tempting on long and difficult drives to step up and think you need to swing for the fences; to really get the ball out there. That’s certainly my instinct. But in reality, the upside of of squeezing out an extra 10 yards — at best — isn’t worth the risk of leaving yourself in a difficult spot on an already difficult hole. After all, the good second shot I hit was only possible because I was coming from the fairway, not hacking out of the rough. Ultimately, how far you hit the ball has already been decided by whatever work you’ve put in at the gym (or into your swing) before you step onto the hole. Once you’re there, the best thing you can do is focus on getting your ball in play.
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