The value of golf as a part of the modern, comprehensive, recreational program has been recognized by the Long Island State Park Commission in its plans for the development of the recently acquired Bethpage Park at Farmingdale, Long Island. Bethpage Park is already well known to the golfing public in and about New York City. The track, comprising 1,368 acres of rolling fields and woodlands, was originally acquired as residential estate of the late Benjamin F. Yoakum, and here he constructed a golf course. This course, known as “Lenox Hills,” was operated for a number of years as a private membership club. In 1932, the property was leased by the Long Island State Park Commission and since has been operated as a public golf links called “Bethpage Park.” Over 70,000 rounds of golf have been played on this course during the past two years.

The Long Island State Park Commission, the members of which comprise the Bethpage Park Authority, has now acquired title to the property and will develop this park with the labor and materials supplied by the Civil Works Administration of Long Island State Parks. That part of the development plan of particular interest to golfers calls for the construction of three new 18-hole courses, as well as material improvements to the existing 18-hole course. The courses are being laid out and constructed under the direct control of the Long Island State Park Commission. A modern clubhouse complete with locker rooms, showers, restaurant, and public rooms. Mr. Clifford C. Wendehack aided in the preparation of thee plans, and in the construction. It is being constructed convenient to all four of the golf courses.

Mr. A.W. Tillinghast has been retained as a consultant in the planning and development of the golf courses. Work on the three new golf courses is well under way and when completed within the next 12 months, will provide a total of four of the most up-to-date and well-equipped public golf courses in the country.

The popularity of municipal golf courses among virtually all classes of players, irrespective of age or sex, is shown in a report published by the Civic Development Department of the United States Chamber of Commerce which states that 179 cities in the country maintain 272 courses over which 18,000,000 rounds of golf are being played annually. The new public links at Bethpage Park will provide a much-needed outlet for the enthusiasm of public golfing facilities. The only municipal links available for the Metropolitan New Yorker are Forest Park and Clearview in Queens; Dyker Beach in Brooklyn; Silver Lake and La Tourette, the later a 9-hole golf course on Staten Island; Van Cortland, Mosholu and Pelham Bay in the Bronx and Maple Moor, Sprain Lake, Saxon Woods and Mohansic in Westchester County.

Golf is and always has been a cosmopolitan game. The first great golf match on the record books was played on a public course in 1681 with the Duke of York paired with an Edinburgh shoemaker. Many of the leading players are graduates of the sandlots or public links, where thousands of sound golfers are developed annually. Today everyone plays golf and many of the school boys have discarded the baseball bat for the golf club, and the banker, clerk, and mechanic steal a few hours off for a round on the most available links.

The development of these golf courses at Bethpage Park by the Long Island State Park Commission means more and better golf for thousands who would otherwise find it impossible to enjoy a round under conditions parallel to a first-class private club. The rolling wooded topography of Bethpage Park is equal to any private club on Long Island. The area is sufficiently large so that the various courses will not have to be crowded together and the best possible location can be selected for each individual hole. The same policies of sound construction and sane management that have been so successful in the development of Jones Beach State Park will be applied toward the development of the new Bethpage Park.

In addition to golf, there will be a comprehensive system of woodland pedestrian and equestrian trails, a modern stable where safe and will trained horses may be hired and high caliber polo matches will be conducted every Sunday afternoon during the season at popular prices. Picnic areas are being developed in the wooded section, well removed from the golfing activities. Here the picnic enthusiasts will find hundreds of tables, benches, and fireplaces; a refreshment stand, comfort stations, drinking water fountains, playgrounds equipped with swings, slides, etc., for children and large play fields for the elders.

During 1933 much of the preliminary work on the second golf course was completed by the use of work relief labor supplied through the Work Relief Bureaus of Nassau and Suffolk Counties. The construction program as a Civil Works Administration project is now in full swing and the work is being rapidly progressed. The construction work will not be allowed to interfere with the usage of the existing 18-hole golf course. The first of the additional courses will be ready for play this fall.

Bethpage Park is readily accessible by train, bus or automobile. The Farmingdale station of the Long Island Railroad Company is only a little over a half a mile from the park. Busses from Brooklyn, Manhattan, Queens and the principal village of Nassau and Suffolk counties run within short distances of the entrance to the park. The Northern State Parkway will ultimately form a direct connection to Bethpage Park. Until the extension of the this parkway is completed, the best automobile routes to Bethpage from the Metropolitan area are via the Southern State Parkway to its present temporary terminus at Broadway in Amityville, thence north on Broadway to main street in Farmingdale, or taking the Hempstead Turnpike Route 26 direct to Main Street, Farmingdale, and then left on Main Street to the park.

Editorial Note

Since the editor of this magazine was honored by being selected as the consultant in the planning of these courses by the Long Island State Park Commission, it seems entirely proper that some observations be made by him at this time. That such work had been started was common knowledge, but certainly any conception of the true golf importance of this work is limited to comparatively few.

The three new courses, already well along in construction, are of great excellence and charm. This could not well be otherwise, for the large tract of land offers unusual opportunities for the creation of golf holes. As a matter of fact it must be regarded as one of the most truly great golf properties in the world. This statement is inspired by no other sentiment than admiration and appreciation after many years of observation. The Bethpage tract is superb.

The terrain presents infinite variety. Never quite flat but gently undulating, it grades to impressive ruggedness which is never permitted to suggest arduous playing conditions. It is strongly remindful of the Pine Valley land, that strange freak of rolling country in otherwise flat south Jersey. The character of many of the fairways, too, is similar to that of the famous Pine Valley in their isolation one from the others.

The swales and valleys, through which the play passes to the higher ground of the green sites, are naturally quite perfect and of great appeal. Particularly on Courses No. 3 and No. 4, where wooded areas are used to greatest extent, is this feature peculiarly emphasized. Some of the holes are almost entirely natural, and it is likely that two of these, 4 and 5 of the No. 3 Course will be particularly appreciated. The first of these is a one-shotter of about 180 yards, while the other is a remarkable three-shotter of natural perfection.

When the entire plan of these four courses is completed entirely it is quite probable that the Bethpage collection of seventy-two holes will take rank among the great Meccas of the golfing world. This will take a little time, of course, although the work there has been pursued most vigorously under the most disheartening of winter weather. Certainly it represents a terrific endeavor to provide great golf for the public.

The Courses At Bethpage

By Benjamin L. Van Schiack
Secretary of the Long Island State Park Commission
April 1934