Klein on Design: No. 18 at Bethpage
Monday, June 22, 2009
Architect: A.W. Tillinghast; Rees Jones (2000)
Where: Farmingdale, N.Y.
Event: U.S. Open, June 18-21
It’s great because . . . it’s much better for the average player hitting driver from the middle tees than for the U.S. Open golfer laying up from the back. From a dramatically perched tee, the hole plays to a bellowed fairway that’s littered with bunkers on both sides. The approach plays to an elevated green set in front of the clubhouse. It all makes for great visuals and a demanding tee shot that has to thread the deep sand and thick rough.
It would be even better if . . . this wonderful stage didn’t produce disappointing theater. Rees Jones’ reworking of A.W. Tillinghast’s original design effectively takes driver out of the equation for long hitters. There’s little reward for hitting a bold drive because the carry past the narrow neck of the fairway is 315 yards from the back tee. That means everyone lays up to the 37-yard-wide fairway short, leaving a 175-yard approach. That’s a bit of a letdown for the 18th hole of a U.S. Open. The last array of bunkering should be removed, giving strong hitters reason to consider hitting driver, because they’d obviously prefer hitting wedge in rather than a 7-iron – provided the risk/reward ratio is more balanced.
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