Notebook

June 17, 2001

2002 U.S. Open Venue
Black Is Beautiful

Anyone with a handicap of 1.4 or less and $100 can try to qualify
for the U.S. Open. If only playing a casual round at a typical
Open venue were so easy. You need connections to get on a private
course like Southern Hills and deep pockets to play a resort
course like Pebble Beach. You don't need either to play the Black
course at New York's Bethpage State Park, where next June the
Open will be held at a truly public course for the first time.

I played the Black last week and can report that it's Open-ready.
Thanks to the USGA, which kicked in $2.7 million four years ago
for a complete refurbishment, and to the Open Doctor, designer
Rees Jones, who donated his services, the Black has never looked
better. About 35 miles east of Manhattan on Long Island, the
Black meanders though a rolling landscape of sprawling bunkers,
hardwoods and thick rough, and is no place for beginners. From
the tips, the par-70, 7,306-yard Black has a course rating of
76.5 and a Slope of 145. Open contestants will face four par-4s
of more than 480 yards (one is a converted par-5) and three
par-3s longer than 210 yards. Opened in 1936, "this was
[designer] A.W. Tillinghast's ultimate course," says Jones. "This
was his answer to Pine Valley."

The Black's best holes include the par-5 4th, a dogleg left that
climbs uphill and features imposing stair-step bunkers. The 18th
(above) is another beauty. It has long bunkers falling from the
sides of an elevated green--which Jones reduced by half--like lava
flowing from a volcano. Jones built a new tee, lengthening the
hole to 420 yards; expanded the gigantic fairway bunkers so they
pinch the landing area; and added a bunker to the left of the
green.

With five courses, Bethpage gets 285,000 rounds a year. (The
Black gets 35,000 of those.) The Red course was good enough to
host the Long Island Open last week but suffers in comparison to
the Black, much the way Spyglass Hill is overshadowed by
neighboring Pebble Beach. New York State residents can reserve
tee times at the Black seven days in advance, nonresidents two
days. The first hour of tee times, starting at 6:30 a.m., is left
open for walk-up traffic. One additional time each hour is also
left open.

"It's unpredictable on weekdays," says Dave Catalano, director of
the 1,500-acre Bethpage State Park. "The other day you could've
walked in at 5:15 or 6 and teed off on the Black before our first
reserved time. That doesn't happen often. On weekends, if you're
not in line by four or five in the afternoon the day before, you
won't be playing. Last weekend someone took his position in line
at seven o'clock on Saturday morning to get the 6:30 time on
Sunday morning."

Bethpage has numbered parking spots in which cars line up. Each
vehicle is allowed a maximum of four tickets to any of the five
courses. The four other courses begin play at first light, but
never earlier than 5:16 a.m. The Black, which is closed on
Mondays, is the only one of the five courses that prohibits the
use of motorized carts.

Best of all, Bethpage is affordable. The Black costs $31 on
weekdays, $39 on weekends. Greens fees at the other four courses
are $24 and $29. "Almost every time is sold out every day on the
Black," says Catalano. "This is not the result of the Tiger Woods
syndrome. The park has been selling out for 40 years. We believe
it's the best deal in America."

I think so, too. See you in the parking lot.

COLOR PHOTO: CHUCK SOLOMON Bethpage Black, which costs only $31 on weekdays, is the first truly public course to host a U.S. Open.

Trust Me

Laura Davies has won 20 LPGA tournaments, four of them majors.
That's not too shabby, but if Davies had a short game half as
good as Tiger Woods's or a third of his work ethic, she would
have easily won a dozen majors and would be the best female
golfer this side of Mickey Wright.

Threesomes

What do these players have in common?

--Bob Estes
--Brad Faxon
--Jesper Parnevik

They're the only wire-to-wire winners on the PGA Tour this year.
Estes took the FedEx St. Jude Classic, Faxon the Sony Open in
Hawaii and Parnevik the Honda Classic.

Feedback

Is walking an integral part of golf?

Yes 65%
No 35%

--Based on 3,840 responses to our informal survey

Next question: Earl Woods says marriage could have a negative
impact on Tiger's game, while Jack Nicklaus says it would be a
positive. With whom do you agree? Vote at golfplus.cnnsi.com.

Thesaurus

Synonyms for: putt left short

Beggar, crawler, does your husband play too, doormat, in the
jaws, muffler, nice putt Alice, quail, tracking, that dog quit
hunting and went home.

Numbers

Of the 97 courses in the U.S. that have hosted, or are scheduled
to host, a men's major, only seven are open to the public. Here's
what it costs to play them on the weekend.

COURSE, MAJORS FEE

Bethpage, 2002 Open $39
Kemper Lakes, 1989 PGA $135
Seaview, 1942 PGA $139
Whistling Straits, 2004 PGA $229
PGA National, '71, '87 PGA $254
Pinehurst, '36 PGA, '99 Open $325
Pebble Beach, '72, '82, '92, 2000 Open $350

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)