Camping out for a tee time at Bethpage Black is an indelible piece of the course's tapestry, right up there with the affordable greens fee, the ominous first-tee sign and the antagonistic galleries that roam its grounds. Spending a night at "Bethpage Inn" is not only a bucket-list item for any hardcore hacker, but one open to all.
However, this right of passage isn't the only avenue onto the people's country club. In fact, it's slowly dwindled in popularity over the years, replaced by other forms of registration. (Although it enjoyed a brief revival this spring, as it was the only way players could access the limited amount of tee times available before the course closed for the upcoming PGA Championship.) So how, precisely, does one go about getting on Bethpage Black? Here are the five easy ways to tee it up at the venerable Long Island venue.
In March 2018 the New York State Parks department opened an online system for booking one of Bethpage courses. New York residents may book a reservation one week in advance stating at 7:00 p.m. For out-of-staters, the window is five days. You will need to be registered in the system to finalize a booking. To do so, according to the website, "Please log in by entering your email address and password you used when you signed up. Unless you have had the proper ID (Senior, Access Pass or Junior) verified by staff please choose only Resident or Non-resident when trying to book a tee time. If you have had your ID verified, you can choose that specific category."
As you can imagine, this is a system that heavily favors New Yorkers, and weekend slots are gone within an hour of the window opening. But to those living outside the Empire State, fear not: a 48-hour cancellation policy opens a handful of spots, and if you're willing to visit during a weekday, you can usually find a slot.
The old automated telephone system is still available. Why anyone would torture themselves with this antiquated, and infuriating, process is beyond us. You probably still play with balatas, don't you? Same window as the online system, the number is 516-249-0707.
You have the spirit of a pioneer, of an explorer. So a couple prefaces so your expedition doesn't turn into the Donner Party:
-The first numbered parking spots will begin to fill in around 4:00 p.m. the day before. That may seem like a time-consuming ask. Conversely, the first hour of tee sheet is reserved for campers (along with one spot every hour the rest of the day), and given a round at Bethpage can take six hours, it's a pursuit for those with no stomach for slow play.
-One golfer needs to be present, in the car, at all times. If a car is discovered to be uninhabited, say sayonara to your spot, as course officials make you surrender your spot in line. And you thought three-putting was a fate worse than death.
-Tee-time tickets are distributed starting at 4:30 a.m. All players in your group have to be present for the time of ticket allotment. Same goes for when these passes are exchanged at check-in.
However, once you get your ticket, feel free to leave your car and move around. Important note: the body may be hurting something fierce from sleeping in the car. Alas, as wonderful as the Bethpage property is, its Achilles' Heel is its driving range. The mats are like an old boxer: mean, beat-up, and not much hair left on top. Worse, the range lacks the length for drivers, even fairway woods, to be hit. Not exactly the warm-up needed when squaring off with the beast that is the Black. Our recommendation is to head off the property once handed your ticket to grab breakfast at a fast-food restaurant or diner (the restaurant at Bethpage opens at 6:00 a.m.), return for moderate stretching, then hit a small bucket of iron shots.
Don't want to sacrifice your night (and half your Friday or Saturday) for a weekend tee time? Don't blame you; golf's already look enough as is. For single players, walking up to the register the morning of has proven shockingly efficient. (Doubles will be a stretch, and don't even think about reserving a foursome in this fashion.) Once in a blue moon you can weasel your way into one of the first groups of the day. More than likely, you will have to wait a few hours before the starter can fit you in. Hey, all the the more time to work on your short game. Trust us, you're going to need it for the challenge that awaits.
Proceed with caution. There are several third-party booking services to secure a Black tee time, but they will break the bank. While greens fees for New Yorkers is $75 for weekend play and $150 for out-of-staters, sites like NY Golf Shuttle will charge as much as $850. They accomplish this by crashing the online systems to secure spots, and it's technically legal, despite efforts from Bethpage to make it no so. But be wary: if you're caught using the site, Bethpage will suspend you from the course for a year.