Officially, I was the last unskilled person to play in this week's PGA Championship to play a round at Bethpage's legendary Black Course. I hit my first shot from that majestic first tee box raised at 1 p.m. On April 28, he played in 4 hours, 20 minutes and shot 85.
The only rounds that followed mine were from players like Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson, as they made their scouting trips before the tournament. Trust me, the quality of golf rose significantly compared to what I produced on that cold and cloudy day.
Perhaps the best news I received when I arrived at the course, apart from the rain, was that the tees were closed for public play. Because, for this break from hole to hole, I'm foolish enough to have planned to play the tips to articulate the experience for you.
Instead, I played the middle tees, approximately 6,700 yards (which is approximately 500 yards less than the professionals who will play this week), I connected 9 of 14 fairways, 5 of 18 greens in regulation and took 35 putts.
The following is a look at each hole in the strategy that professionals will use, thanks to the input of Rob Labritz, the golf director at GlenArbor Golf Club in Bedford Hills, who is in the PGA field this week and has won four The State York opens in the Black Course, along with an account of how I played each hole. (Note: The indicated yards are the yards of the tournament).
(Course illustrations by bestapproach.com)
No. 1 (430 yards par 4)
Labritz: Drive on the remaining trees and sand on the green. In the wind, you may have to aim your tee shot on the left side of the street.
Cannizzaro: In the wind, I hit the pilot on the first cut, 3-wood at 80 yards, throwing the wedge at 12 feet and two putts for bogey.
No. 2 (389 yards par 4)
Labritz: Hybrid from the tee to the right side, but be careful not to be too far to the right because there is a hanging tree that could block your approach shot. Short iron or wedge in the green.
Cannizzaro: I hit the driver on the right side of the street, the hybrid short to the left on the rough, throwing the wedge at 20 feet and two putts per bogey.
No. 3 (230 yards par 3)
Labritz: You have to choose the right place on the green, which moves away from you forward. You can not hit him on that long green. On the green is dead. You do not want to go there
Cannizzaro: The highlight of the round. I put an iron from 8 to 20 feet and drained the putt for my only bird in the round.
No. 4 (517 yards par 5)
Labritz: If it is downwind a bit, you can overcome it in that left-side bunker to have the opportunity to go that green in two. If you can not pass it over that bunker, you can place yourself on the right and short and turn it into a three shot hole.
Cannizzaro: I hit one of my best runs of the day to the street, then 5 woods on the huge bunkers crossed and 9 iron on the front of the green about 40 feet, from where I made two attempts per pair.
No. 5 (478 yards par 4)
Labritz: It's just about hitting a good record. If you can move on the right side over the waste area, you will have an even better shot to the green. You have to go to the street. Nothing is left and you are not reaching the green.
Cannizzaro: I sprayed my disc on the right trees, but I drew a good lie to the right of the bunkers. With 200 yards to an uphill green, I hit a 6 iron platform on the fairway, then I got a 7 iron short, I hit the wedge on the green and double the double, the first real spot on the card.
No. 6 (408 yards par 4)
Labritz: Risk-reward hole. If you wish, you can take the driver downhill or you can simply hit a small hybrid or iron on the flat spot at the top of the hill and place an average iron on the green. It depends on the wind and the conditions of the route.
Cannizzaro: I hit the driver right out of the street on the right side, hybrid, short of green, wedge gap to 30 feet and two putts for bogey.
No. 7 (524 yards par 4)
Labritz: Longer hitters will take you around the corner of the trees to the right. Hit a good record and you can arrive in two. If you do not hit well, you should take your packages.
Cannizzaro: I hit the driver over the bunkers to get to the street, and with 278 in., I placed a 5-wood in a bunker on the left street. Then he ripped an iron 5 just before the green and hit the wedge of the gap at 12 feet and placed two touches for a bogey 6 (it was set as a par 5).
No. 8 (210 yards par 3)
Labritz: You have to stay under the hole. If you do that, you have a good chance for the birdie. Depending on the tees, you can go up and hit the wedge or go back and hit the iron 5.
Cannizzaro: I hit the hybrid on the green 20 feet below the hole and put two shots for the pair.
No. 9 (460 yards par 4)
Labritz: It will be interesting depending on where the departure table is. If the tee is far behind, you have to hit him father just what you think. If the tee box is up, you can challenge that fairway bunker a little to the left and have a short iron.
Cannizzaro: I hit the driver to the street near the corner of the bunkers. With 180 yards to go, I reached a hybrid 70 yards from the hole, reached the gap at 35 feet and put double for the bogey.
No. 10 (502 yards par 4)
Labritz: Depending on where you place the tee, if the wind touches you, you should aim at the catwalk, the narrowest street in America. For the longer hitters, if the tees go up a bit, they have the possibility of having a short to medium iron on that green. For shorter hitters, they probably have a hybrid or 3 wood inside.
Cannizzaro: I hit the driver on the rough right, then a sharp iron 5 to 90 yards high, threw a wedge at 20 feet and put two shots for a bogey, which looked like a pair in this hole of enormous proportions for mere mortals.
No. 11 (435 yards par 4)
Labritz: It is very important to get to the street, which is very narrow. You have to avoid the bunker on the left, because it has a fairly large edge and you will have trouble getting to the green.
Cannizzaro: The most straight road so far, the center of the street, 190 yards of wood 5 in the wind and in the green 10 feet above the hole. I burned my lip with my birdie putt and settled for par.
No. 12 (515 yards par 4)
Labritz: If the tee is far behind, you should hit it well to the right of those crossed bunkers. If the tees are a little higher, you can challenge those bunkers and turn them over to help you iron.
Cannizzaro: I took the left side of the bunkers with a shattered disk. I threw it too far to the left, but I was lucky with a good lie in the rough. I hit iron 6 just before the green, then I separated the wedge at 5 feet and made the par-saving putt.
No. 13 (608 yards par 5)
Labritz: It is very important to hit a good record. If you get there, you can go green in two. You have to avoid those left bunkers, but you should also keep it away from that tree on the right as well. If you have the opportunity to do it in two, great; If not, hit it over the bunker and leave a good distance.
Cannizzaro: Drive in the direction of the street, 5 woods from the street, 8 iron thrown to the left of the green, then open the wedges to 18 feet and two putts for bogey.
No. 14 (161 yards par 3)
Labritz: They made the green bigger, so now you can hit from a wedge to a 7 or 6 iron. Just a good golf hole.
Cannizzaro: I hit 7 inches of iron 8 feet below the hole and burned the edge of the cup with my birdie putt, conforming to the pair.
No. 15 (457 yards par 4)
Labritz: You have to go to the street. If you do not, it's a three shot hole. Once you get on that green, you must be at the correct level. It is the most severe green in the field.
Cannizzaro: I hit the driver with the wind and blocked it on the right side, then I reached an iron 5, advancing it 10 yards. Press the iron 5 again, this time pulling it to the left. Then, hit the iron 9 on the green and place three shots from 50 feet to get a triple and paralyzing bogey.
No. 16 (490 yards par 4)
Labritz: Stick it on the street. Do not overcook it because that makes the tree come into play. Pretty benign green.
Cannizzaro: He drives up the street but he still has 228 yards in green. Strike 3 short wood to the left of the green wedge and the gap almost in the hole, but two sets from 8 feet to bogey.
No. 17 (207 yards par 3)
Labritz: It's a little more uphill than you think. It plays very long from the back tees. You have to overcome the big bunker in the front and you have to hit it at the correct level of the green. If you are hitting a long iron there, it is difficult to maintain the green, which escapes from you. High and long is the advantage.
Cannizzaro: I put the wood 3 in the bunker on the green side of the right, dotted with a wedge of sand at 20 feet and two shots for bogey.
No. 18 (411 yards par 4)
Labritz: Depending on the wind, you can hit the driver or iron 4 from that tee. You have to go to the street. You do not want to land in the left or right bunkers. You can get some really nasty lies in those bunkers, and once you do, reaching the green can be dangerous.
Cannizzaro: He hit what I thought was a great trip, but he kicked in the bunker on the left. Hit a 7 iron that cut the edge of the bunker and did not hit the green, then hit the throwing wedge and placed the 25-foot bogey to finish the round.
Postscript: The Black Course can be daunting for the amateur player. Just walk, carts are not allowed (unless you're John Daly). Each hole is your own adventure, and you have to treat it that way. If you group everything, the course can be overwhelming and your score can go in large numbers. It is a stadium as big as golf and demands respect.