The Black Course at Long Island’s Bethpage State Park is a rare find in the world of golf. A championship calibre golf course, set to host its 3rd major championship in 2019, that can be played for only $150 for non-New Yorkers and an amazing $75 for in-state residents. And this can all be achieved, for those brave enough (or young enough) to manage it, without a tee time. The secret? Bethpage State Park reserves the first hour of tee times exclusively for golfers who camp out the night before in the parking lot. Here are the secrets to snagging a tee time.
This should be a no brainer, but get there early. Prospective golfers park in numbered spots on a first come, first serve basis. The parking lot, known affectionately the "Bethpage Inn", will soon fill with other hopeful hackers. For the busier spring and summer seasons, showing up as early as 4pm should guarantee you a spot. Weekdays and the off-season are more forgiving, with some golfers reporting being able to show up as late as midnight and still get a tee time the next day. Once there, settle in for a night with the other golf nuts sleeping in their cars. The parking lot often becomes an informal tailgate as beers, barbecues and excitement mingle between the campers. Keep in mind that you must stay with your vehicle during the wait as any car left unattended for more than an hour will have their spot in line forfeited. Don’t be that guy.
As to the actual sleeping experience, it is important to remember that no matter what, sleeping in a car is a terrible experience. Try and make the most of it by preparing your car. Bring something soft like a yoga mat or sleeping pad (the kind used for camping) to keep you from bumping hard into the center console mid-snooze or feeling the seatbelt buckle dig into your bad hip. In addition, a sleep mask, noise cancelling headphones and a good sleeping bag are also going to make your night much more restful. After you catch a few Zzzz’s, be prepared for a sudden wake up between 4:30-5:00am the next morning when an employee will knock on your car window. This fine employee will give you a ticket that can be used to claim your tee time at the pro shop.
Now that you have your tee time, you still have a little bit more time to kill before teeing off. Many golfers will get rid of the early morning jitters by heading to the nearby diner for some coffee and breakfast. If you can wait just a little bit after receiving your ticket, the Bethpage restaurant begins serving a full breakfast at 6am. Then hit the range for a quick warmup before seeing just how amazing the pros are as you hack it through the course. Lastly, Bethpage is a walking course, which is hard on any tired legs, so most [smart] golfers opt for the reasonably priced bag carts. Now enjoy your time at one of America’s great courses!