After a gap of only seven years, the US Open returns to Bethpage’s Black course next week, and golf course superintendent Craig Currier is excited at the prospect.
“I think it's going to be even better than the first time,” said Currier, who has directed course management at Bethpage's five courses for the past 12 years. “We've had another seven years to get everything ready and just the way we want it. In addition to the actual playing surfaces, the entire facility is dialled in. Last time, people were wondering if a state park could actually pull it off. Now that we've been there, done that, I think everyone is a bit more comfortable. The only thing that I really worry about is the weather. I just want it to be dry the week of the championship more than anything.”
After the extensive renovation, led by architect Rees Jones, that preceded the 2002 championship, the Black was merely tweaked in preparation for this year's US Open. The changes amount to about 225 yards of added length in the form of new championship tees on seven holes, some recontouring of fairways and new or renovated fairway and greenside bunkers on seven holes. Currier also attempted to make the rough less thick by reducing fertiliser and overseeding.
“The fourth hole is a great short par five, but not a lot of guys went for it in two because the collection area behind the green fell straight away from you,” Currier said. “If you hit it long, you were down over the road. We kind of rebuilt that area to hopefully hold shots a little better with the thought (that) guys will actually go for it in two now. On the tenth, we actually added a new collection area behind the green, so now anything long is going to end up 30 to 40 feet from the green.”
The USGA will set up the Black at par 70, 7,426 yards, with the Kentucky bluegrass/perennial ryegrass/fine fescue rough cut at graduating heights starting at one and a half inches (3.75cm) closest to the fairway, two and a half inches (6.75cm) six feet out, and four inches (10cm) 20 feet out. The course includes three of the longest par fours in US Open history this year: the 525-yard seventh will be the longest.