You’ve never been to Long Island. You believe Long Island should be its own state. The black course holds a mythological place in your mind. Whatever category you fall into, one thing is certain. You know the sign…
“WARNING,” “The Black Course Is An Extremely Difficult Course Which We Recommend Only For Highly Skilled Golfers.”
If you have been to the Black Course on New York’s Long Island you have probably taken a picture with the Black Sign. The Black Sign falls into the same category as Augusta’s Founders Circle, The Swilcan Bridge and the Par 3 7th hole at Pebble Beach. You need to take a picture with it to prove you were there.
The greatest photographer at Bethpage might be the starter on the black course as almost every group that passes through will undoubtedly ask for him or her to take a pic of them with the sign. If you grew up on LI you knew of the sign long before the world found out in 2002. My buddy Scott recounts a tale of when he was 10 years old. He asked his Grandfather what was out there past the sign and why the sign needed to be so scary and why in fact the course needed a sign. His Grandfather told him “Because it does”. That is all he needed to say and that is all Scott needed to hear. The course and the sign live in a strange realm of truth mixed with folklore.
The sign proved truthful when the best players in the world, save for the G.O.A.T himself were unable to break par in the 2002 U.S Open. A star was born and that star was a 2’x3’ sign. Talk to the pro’s who play hundreds of courses and to a man they will tell you that they have never seen a warning sign for a golf course. It’s quirky, it’s cute and it’s honest. The sign has also turned into quite a marketing genius. Go the pro shop this week at Bethpage and find replica signs, shirts/hats/belts with the sign on it. Hell, even footjoy created a pair of murdered out black golf shoes with the sign on the back (unfortunately for a sneaker head like me, I missed out).
The sign has seemingly sprung up from nowhere or somewhere. Nobody knows the origin and no one can pinpoint the exact time it appeared. Historians contradict one another as to its origin. Was it from Tillinghast? Was it from the parks director? The superintendant? The greens keepers? The mystery remains. The current director of the park acknowledges she doesn’t even know its origin.
The mystery that shrouds just what’s beyond the sign has been cleared up a bit in recent times due to the never ending news cycle of the internet and social media. Regardless of its toughness and if you truly need to be warned, the Sign is a great addition to the golfing world. So the next time you’re near it, ask the starter for a picture. Just don’t be surprised if he rolls his eyes for the 100th time that day.
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