The Bethpage Gauntlet: The good, the bad and the interesting from a 90-hole marathon

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With 90 holes over 36 hours, the Bethpage Gauntlet had a little bit of everything.

Zephyr Melton

The idea of the Bethpage Gauntlet started as a long-shot hypothetical but soon morphed into a full-blown mission. What if we could play all five courses and all 90 holes at the most famous municipal golf complex in the country all in the span of a day and a half? Once the seed was planted in our heads, we were hellbent on finishing the job.

Our first attempt to finish The Gauntlet was foiled by Mother Nature. We completed the first 54 holes with little issue, but after torrential rains soaked the park overnight, we couldn’t play the last 36 holes.

Undeterred by the disappointment, our trio of young GOLF staffers — Emily Haas, James Colgan and myself — immediately got to work planning out our next try. Two months later, we arrived at Bethpage as the sun peaked over the horizon and once again readied for the experience of a lifetime.

Below is a recap highlighting the highs, the lows and everything in between during the Bethpage Gauntlet.

The good

Golf galore

Golfers know that when you get “the bug,” it’s hard to think about anything else but getting out on the links. Emily, James and I have the bug so severely we decided to make a career out of it, so when the opportunity to play five rounds in two days came up, it was an easy sell.

You know that feeling when you finish a round and all you want to do is play more golf? During The Gauntlet, that desire was satiated time and time again. Just as soon as one round was finished, we were limbering up for another 18. Non-stop golf isn’t the worst way to spend a couple of days.

Playing partners

The GOLF crew was just a threesome for The Gauntlet, so we welcomed a single into our group for a few rounds.

For our first round (the Blue Course) we were joined by a middle-aged man from Long Island sneaking in a quick nine before he headed home to log on for work. He’d picked up the game during Covid and couldn’t get enough. He told us he plays three times a week and hopes he never has to return to the office again so he can continue his early morning rounds. I think we all feel that way to an extent.

On the Yellow Course we were matched with an older gentleman sporting a Fold of Honor hat who zipped around the course in a cart. His drives rarely left the fairways, and his game did more talking than his mouth. I think we were all impressed with his “old-man game.” I sure was.

At the Red Course the next morning we were approached by a slight old man who insisted he play from the same tees as me and James. It seemed like an ambitious goal, but after a few holes I stopped doubting him.

To say he was a unique playing partner is an understatement. His swing was as unorthodox as they come, but he knew his game and how to get the ball in the hole. He played the role of part-time forecaddie, part-time motivator, and full-time talker. I’m not sure I’ve ever met someone as energetic as him — especially at the age of 78. I’m not sure what he put in his Cheerios that morning, but I’d like to try it out.

Social media

By far my favorite part of the journey was live tweeting it. I didn’t think many people would care about The Gauntlet, but I proven wrong. The amount of interest and support we got meant a lot to all of us. Social media can be a really neat thing.

The golf (sometimes)

Sometimes the golf was good. And sometimes it was really good. We all had flashes of brilliance, and we even made some birdies, too. Our final tally came out to 14 birdies for the group, with Emily shouldering a heavy load. Is there anything better than circling a number on your scorecard?

Camaraderie

They say there’s no better way to get to know someone than over 18 holes of golf. I disagree. There’s no better way to get to know someone than over 90 holes of golf.

Emily, James and I were friends before The Gauntlet, but now we are even closer. Sharing laughs and stories with them on the fairways of Bethpage will be the lasting memory I take from the entire experience.

The bad

Also the golf

Sometimes the golf was bad. And sometimes the golf was really bad. While we definitely had some moments of brilliance, there were also moments of stunning ineptitude. Sliced drives into the woods. Topped hybrids out of thick rough. Hosel rockets that shook us to the core. You name a bad shot and we probably hit it. Such is golf.

The heat

For our first attempt to complete The Gauntlet we got mild temperatures in the 60s. We were not so lucky for attempt No. 2.

July in New York might not feature the oppressive heat that is typical of my home state of Texas, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t quite toasty. High humidity and temps in the mid-to-high 80s isn’t fun for anyone, especially when you’re walking 90 holes in a couple of days.

My advice? Try scheduling marathon golf conquests outside the summer months.

The bugs

There’s not much I’d change about The Gaunlet, but if I could redo it, bug spray would be on the essential packing list. I’m still nursing bug bites.

The interesting

Wardrobe changes

We decided to incorporate wardrobe changes into The Gauntlet this time around, and although it started as an aesthetic choice, it turned out to be functional as well. Stripping off a sweaty shirt and changing into new shoes and socks between rounds was cathartic. I highly recommend wardrobe changes whenever playing more than 18 in a day.

Hidden gems

The Black, Red and, to a lesser extent, Blue Courses get most of the praise at Bethpage, but don’t sleep on the Yellow and Green courses. Both are shorter than the better-known trio on property, but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be explored. Birdie opportunities abound and there are lots of interesting holes and green complexes to be found. I’d recommend the two courses to anyone looking for some value golf on Long Island.

Pace of play

I’d heard some horror stories about six-hour rounds at Bethpage, but for our couple of days, slow play was never an issue. I can count on one hand the number of times we waited to hit a shot, and I never felt like the courses got bogged down. We played all five rounds in under four and a half hours and based on the number of marshals on the courses, that doesn’t seem to be out of the ordinary. It’s always nice when a busy public course can keep golfers moving.

Golf.com Editor

Zephyr Melton is an assistant editor for GOLF.com where he spends his days blogging, producing and editing. Prior to joining the team at GOLF.com, he attended the University of Texas followed by stops with Team USA, the Green Bay Packers and the PGA Tour. He assists on all things instruction and covers amateur and women’s golf.