Bedford Golf and Tennis Club
From the blacks; Rating is 72.8 and slope is 142 (6700 yards)
From the blues: Rating is 72.0 and slope is 141 (6300 yards)
Course designer: Devereaux Emmet, 1898 (Garden City GC, Congressional (Blue), Wee Burn), with redesign by Ken Dye
Golf is my big hobby and playing a lot at my home course is one of the great joys in life. Bedford Golf and Tennis Club is a challenging course and one of the most underrated in the NYC Metro area. With small, well-conditioned greens and a slope of 141 from the Blues and 142 from the Blacks (at 6700 yards), it will test you. Off the tee, BGTC isn’t tight in a tree-lined, parkland course sense. The fairways are generous visually, but with such small greens and well-positioned trees and bunkers, long, precise drives within the fairways are at a premium. That makes the course really playable. Birdies are valuable commodities, pars are good scores and you should be able to make bogey if you find your ball. Handicaps from BGTC transport to other courses well. If possible, the course should be walked. I’d advise a caddy or pull cart for full enjoyment (at least take the extra 24 balls and Tevas out of your golf bag if you carry). Bring beer if you take a cart.
As for my game, like most infrequent players who live in NYC, rust is a consistent enemy. Half the time I get to play, my hands feel like stone. That said, I’m lucky to have a good tee game to keep the course fun. If I can manufacture some touch and feel with the hands and get hot with the putter, then some really good scores can happen. I have been fortunate to win my club championship twice and the current handicap is 4.8 (and rising). This won’t earn me any treats in a member guest or handicap tournament!
If you have time to practice a few shots before jumping onto the course, here is what I would focus on:
- Accuracy off the tee- if you’re in the fairway off the tee, doing worse than bogey requires a real spasm somewhere else.
- A low punch to squirt under and around trees and to run shots up to greens
- Flops out of the rough (Westchester rough can be thick around the green, and with the small greens at Bedford you may need to get the ball up in the air quickly and in close quarters to get it to stop)
- The 20-50 yard sand shot- a lot of the bunkers seem to be spaced just far enough away from the greens to be slightly uncomfortable.
- Putts for speed . . . the breaks are usually pretty subtle, so speed is everything especially on downhill lag putts . . .
I game plan the holes of the round in groups of three and strategy depends on the type of round (stroke or match play) and its seriousness (screwing around with friends, business golf, tournaments/club championships)
Holes 1-3 . . . Assuming Iâ€™m warmed up and ready to roll, the first hole is ideal for a fast start
#1. 340 Yds, Par 4. A simple hole to start the round and I’m usually thinking birdie. Everything is straight and in front of you. The drive is slightly uncomfortable for the right to left player- a tree looks at your progress 80 yards down and a bit to the right. For those playing for position, the target narrows at the 220-240 yard mark by bunkers that pinch. Trees also line the right side at the 240 mark so misses to that side can be stymied. Big hitters can blow it over the traps and leave themselves a flip wedge into a flat, receptive green. The green can get quick, but only a negligent first putt brings a three-jack into play. Bogeying this hole is like stubbing your toe on a doorstop.
Of note, in handicap situations, I usually have to take advantage of #1 because most opponents don’t stroke here.
#2. 400 yds, Par 4.This is a picturesque uphill dogleg right. Way left is Route 22, but only a snap hook should find its way there. The left side of the fairway is protected by a bunker 250-260 yards out. That isn’t the worst place to miss it as the angle to the green is direct and it leaves a doable 160 yard shot.Â The right side is protected by a creek at 220 yards, thick rough and a big, diseased ash tree at the 260 yard mark (I don’t know what happens to the hole when that tree finally dies). Lose your drive to that side and you are looking at bogey. Even some drives in the right side of the fairway can be obstructed that tree.
For approach shots, knowing the depth of the pin position is key. The green is fairly large but unusually quick with undulation. The back left plateau can be a challenging placement and shots that don’t get back there roll back to the middle and force an irksome early round uphill, swinging lag putt. It isn’t good to be long when the pin is in the front. That putt is speedy and wants to go hard left. Walking off that green with a 4 is a good score and I’m never too mad with a bogey.
Since this is the #3 stroke hole, I usually have to give up a stroke here, but conservative play usually keeps me in the game
#3. 200/222yds, Par 3.Â Really a Par 3.5. Slightly uphill with a big bunker front left and two flanking bunkers on the right. The green slopes back to front. My usual game plan here is to try to hook a hybrid up into the throat between the two sets of bunkers and leave an uncomplicated, though not easy, uphill up-and-down for par. The goal is to leave an uphill putt for par. I would almost prefer an uphill 7 footer versus a 3 foot down-hiller on this one because the green can really bake out and be fast. A clever way to play this hole is like Miller Barber’s method for #3 at Winged Foot West (take the perils of the tee shot away by laying up to the front of the green). Over the green off the tee is dead and the sides are no bargain with the rough and green undulation. Also a back left pin is for suckers. Par is a terrific score here. Of note, recent tree removal on the left has exposed the nice stone wall and natural rocks AND created the optical illusion that there is more green to the left than there really is . . . one of the really tough par 3â€™s in Westchester.
In stroke play, if I’m getting off the block at +1, I feel like I’m on schedule. Even or better? I’m licking my chops . . .
#4. 485 yds, Par 4/5. Par 5 for the rank and file. While on the tee, take note of the great view (and the pin location on 7). This hole sets up nicely off the tee with a downward, rolling fairway. The fairway is wide and inviting. You’re warmed up and have some swings under your belt. This is the opportunity to go after your drive. This is a sightly tee shot with bunkers guarding each side of the fairway at the 235-265 yd mark. Balls that clear those bunkers can catch a nice speed slot that can add 10-40 yards of roll depending on trajectory and firmness of the fairway. For normal players, a poor drive can be rectified. A 150-200 yard layup shot can place the ball for a 130 yard slightly uphill shot to the green or further down the hill for a blind 100 yard wedge. For big drivers, the approach shot is anywhere from 220-150 yards into the green from a downhill lie. Fescue up the hill to the green captures thin mistakes while the fescue and pine trees on the left up by the green are to be avoided. In front and by the green, bunkers line the right to soak up mishits or blocks (that 40 yard sand shot you hopefully practiced comes into play here). The green itself has a ridge running left to right but most putts are pretty flat. I am always thinking 4 off the tee, but will settle for 5. Taking 6 on #4 hurts.
This is a good match play hole because a big drive can create an opportunity against shorter hitters. However, if that second shot isn’t executed well, you can spit up the hole and kick yourself for not being more conservative.
#5. 180/205yd, Par 3. Probably the signature hole. This downhill Par 3 drops toward the creek and then rises back up into the green cut into the hillside from back to front. Shots landing short of the green get swallowed up in the rough on the right side or deposited back to the bottom of the hill in the fairway on the left. The ledge-like green is surrounded by three bunkers: a big bunker to the left, a small pot bunker in front and a framing bunker in back. The right is protected by a steep hill. Being in the front or left bunker is not a bad place to be. The back bunker doesn’t catch many balls as it requires severe overclubbing to reach it. The real defense of this hole is the shape of the green and the surrounding rough. The green erodes away in the front as you move to the right, so blocked or mishit tee shots get caught in the rough. The hillside in the back and left is severe, so pulled irons leave you reaching for your 60 degree wedge to hold the green on your second shot. Being past the hole is a test of nerves and hands. The green slopes severely from back to front. Like #3, an uphill putt for par is ideal. You have caught a break if the hole is cut front center as almost any chip or putt can get close and the green flattens out. If the pin is back right, good luck. You run out of room quickly and no putts should be conceded with the speed and break of the green.
Nothing complicated here- take your 3 and run.Â
#6. 350 yd, Par 4. I always have high hopes for birdie on this hole either to propel a hot start forward or as a way to give a jolt to a sluggish start. This dogleg left starts with a level drive before veering left and gently dropping to the small, quirky green. This little trickster argues for a gentle draw off the tee and doesn’t require more than 240 yards. It sets up well for my 3 wood. Bailing out to the right leaves a longer approach shot into the green. Blocked drives to the right run the risk of tree trouble. Left off the tee is deep trouble. A group of trees, sand traps and nasty rough patrol the elbow where the hole pivots left toward the green. For me there is little to no reason to pull out the bazooka here. Even the most aggressive player won’t find much gratification in a tiny landing area where the reward is a downward wedge into the tricky green. Since the hole is short, merely finding your ball should give you a chance at par with a good recovery. Safe drives yield manageable 100-150 yard approaches. Bunkers guard the front left and front right. Shots over the green are a major mistake. The best bet is to make sure to aim at the middle of the green and if between clubs to go with the shorter one. The “miss” is short. The green is one of the quicker on the course and has a mischievous mound in the middle. Many times I’ll hit two good shots and be left with a birdie putt that isn’t long, but not particularly makeable. That doesn’t feel too good (or fair). I don’t get grouchy with pars here, but bogeys sting because the next two holes are challenging.
PICTURE COMING > > >
After 6 holes, I’d like to be at +1 or +2.Â We’re about to hit a tough stretch of holes.
#7. 415yd, par 4. The number one stroke hole and for a good reason. This killer is an uphill left to right dogleg. Tall fescue lines the left and makes par a near impossibility. The right side of the fairway is lined with trees with a deep uphill bunker at the joint where the hole turns right and steeply up hill. Many good drives are met with rarely practiced long, uphill approaches. Being anywhere around the green in two indicates good ball-striking. Big, really big, hitters can clear that trap and be left with a 140 yard uphill approach to the green. There are no bunkers around this green, but that doesn’t mean it’s defenseless. The steep incline is treacherous for short approaches or approaches with a lot of spin- they can roll off the front and 10 yards down a difficult hill. The green itself is two tiered. Remember the pin you were supposed to notice on the tee at #4? This is that pin and it’s important because being on the correct level and side is crucial to having a realistic putt. If you are short and the pin is long, the uphill multi-level putt is treacherous especially if you ram your putt past the hole. If you are long and the pin is short . . . good night Irene. You may have to putt it to the side to keep it on the green and on the front level.
A 4 on this hole is a terrific score and most people would be satisfied with a five walking to the 8th tee.
#8. 410yd, Par 4. This is one of the best views on the course. A pretty, elevated tee looks down over the fairway framed by trees on both sides with the Bedford hills off in the distance. It is striking in the fall when the foliage is out. I used to be able to sneak past the fence on the 8th tee and down to my parents’ house for an iced tea (or stronger). No longer- they moved and now I keep a flask in my bag. Off in the distance, the target is two red maple trees that split the subtle double dogleg. The tee shot is tighter than it looks from the elevated perch. Bailing out right creates issues on the 7th fairway. The left center of the fairway is optimal. It leaves a great angle into most pins. However, straying too far left is fatal as Guard Hill Road runs the length of the 8th hole and is out of bounds. Even with the danger, length helps because the second shot is requires precision and good distance control. A shorter iron and higher approach into the green dismantles some of the hole’s defenses. The right side is protected by a visual sleigh-of-hand. The pond on the front right shouldn’t come into play with well struck shots (there is some fairway space there), but the green runs out of room long and right with a creek jutting in the back. A bunker and mounding guard the front left and that treachery becomes more severe upon closer inspection. Back left is also a dangerous miss because the ground can get really thick with rough or hard and matted with cart and foot traffic. This can cause penalizing bounces. For me, the yardages never seem right and the angles are uncomfortable for a draw. The middle of the green is (more than) fine. The green has lots of subtle breaks that make 10-15 footers challenging, but two putting is rarely a problem.
This hole is pivotal both for stroke play and match play. When playing for score, this tee shot is the one I worry about most. In match play, the hole is usually won or lost off the tee. For people playing the first time, I don’t tell them there is a road to the left and things usually work out fine. However, if you need some gamesmanship in a business golf setting, alert your playing partners to the scary out of bounds on the left! Add strategic wagering and see what happens . . .
#9. 510 yd, Par 5. Bedford’s answer to #13 at Augusta. The hole doglegs hard left at the 240 yard mark. The elbow used to be well defended by a large oak tree that magically disappeared. Two smaller and less pronounced trees take its place. For shorter hitters the fairway feeds left and those trees can obstruct the second shot (now is a good time for that low punch shot). A big bunker absorbs dreaded straight balls and the right is pretty safe with a hill that pushes blocked drives in a paying direction. For me the oak tree’s departure has opened up the drive and now I take on more of the corner than I used to. The fairway stays flat until 110 yards out then rises steeply. That 110-125yd zone is a good target area for lay-ups. The hole used to pinch together at that point with tree overhang and gradations that urged approach shots to the sides. Some tree cleanup has made the landing area for that lay-up wider. For those going for it in two, bunkers and hardpan line the left while a bunker stands guard at the 90 yard mark and another up by the green. There is room to miss. Finally, the green requires an accurate approach- it slants heavily from back to front. The front third sits lower than the back left and still lower than the back right. Chipping or putting from the back tiers to the front is brutally difficult. Keeping the ball on the green is nearly impossible. The breaks on the other tiers are severe as well.
I have been getting greedier on this hole. I had a recent eagle after reaching in two, so part of me thinks the hole is easier than it is. Length can be a great advantage here in setting up birdie opportunities. The hole is won or lost depending where the approach shot is on the green. If on the correct tier, you are in great shape.
At the Turn . . .
After nine holes, I feel pretty good if I have broken 40 and really good if I’m sub-38. I get a little tense if I cleared 41. The front 9 is harder. Any momentum I can take with me can act as rocket fuel for the rest of the round.
#10. 155 yds, Par 3. This downhiller was once a pedestrian par 3. It received a botox injection around 10 years ago and now it’s a memorable and more difficult test. The green’s surroundings were redesigned so that the green juts into the pond. The green itself slopes from back to front and narrows as it goes back. A back left bunker catches overcooked pulls and a bunker pin high right sucks in blocked irons. This is target golf at it’s best. The green is right in front of you and at its widest in its first third. That’s a good place to put it because being past the hole gives you a fast putt. Of note, the elevation and removal of trees has made the wind more of a factor. When in doubt, more club is better and no matter how dry, the green holds the ball well. This used to be the easiest par 3 on the course, but since it has been tightened up, it can’t be taken for granted.
This hole gives up birdies, but carelessness can bite you too.
#11. 410 yds, Par 4. This healthy #4 stroke hole has beautiful sightlines off of the tee. The tee shot asks for a gentle draw. Trees line the left side for most of the length of the hole and undulation at around the 260yd mark yields uncomfortable sidehill/ downhill lies. The right side is guarded by pine trees where many blocked drives want to land. Most straight drives have a 130-210yd approach into the green. Like many of the other greens it slopes from back to front, but this green is small given the length of the approach. Bunkers stand post on the front left and front right, but there is plenty of room to leave it short for a lunch-pail up-and-down. The cardinal sin is to put it over the green especially in the back left. The rough is uneven and three to four feet lower than the level of the green. It’s almost impossible to keep the ball on the green from there and a near certain bogey. Keeping the hole in front of you is the best policy here- I am always on the defensive when I have a downhill putt on this green and they tend to have some slide to them.
4 is a super score here and bogey 5 isn’t bad at all
#12. 180yds, par 3. The charm of this hole is in its bunkering and the flat nature of the green. The tee shot is flat and the green is a tabletop so it is difficult to get a feel for the landing area or the pin placement without some prior experience. When it dries out the ball can have trouble holding on low shots, so a club less works if you aren’t sure of your distances. There is a little pothole of a bunker in the front left that isn’t a bad place to be. Further back is a big, deep bunker 10 feet below the level of the hole. While this is bad, being in the grass around it is even worse. The miss to the right isn’t as penal, but it is tricky. The bunker to the right catches a lot of mishits. Being short isn’t too grisly as there is plenty of room and fairway in front of the green. The problem is that the chip or approach putt is not straight-forward. There is a significant ridge along the front edge of the green that screws up a lot of approaches. The green itself is fairly benign with a few slight mounds and undulations. The real work is getting the ball on the green, especially if it plays into the wind, for your two-putt.
With the par 3’s done after this hole, it’s time to take stock. I’d like to be +1 or better after 10-12 [and +4 or better overall]. Good play on these three holes sets up attack mode on the final 6 (except for #14). In match play, the old adage that the scariest place to be is up 2 after 12 holds true here. There is room to make a run on the final six holes so this is not the place to place to worry about your next opponent no matter what lead you have. One cool note- I played with my dad three times in a row where he put his ball in the left deep bunker and his scores were 3-3-2. Yowza!
#13. 520yds, Par 5. This hole was converted to a Par 5 years ago (you can get a sense of how it used to play as a par 4 from the ladies tees). The tees are tucked back and create a nice chute with a slight dogleg left. I think the play off the tee for bigger hitters is three wood. The landing area is a lot wider at the 240 mark. OB left and trees right mute the advantages of using driver. Going for it in two is difficult Bunkers line the right side 40 yards from the green and there is OB left the length of the hole. Unless you have a 240 yard high cut in your bag, I don’t think the risk is worth it. The second shot to a lay-up position isn’t a huge deal. The green itself is a kidney bean that slopes from back right to front left. Firing at back pins is a scary prospect because over the green is a four foot drop with a lot of rough.
Birdies are definitely doable here and a par is a must. The brutal #14 lurks . . .
#14. 430yds, Par 4. #14 is the number 2 stroke hole and the last big punch that BGTC offers. The tee shot is blind and the optimal line is center left. Too far right and you can roll off the fairway and get some tree trouble. Too far left and you could be blocked by timber or, worse, be stuck in the fescue and have to wedge out. If you stay short of the second hill, you are looking at 190-200 yards into the green (uphill). Blow it over the mound and you have 150 left. The second shot is the fun. Most mortals have 200 yards into shrouded green. Bunkers 8-10 feet below the level of the green line the left from 40 yards out and two greens patrol the front right of the green. The green itself is tricky. There is a false front that will repel short approaches back down the hill. Meanwhile a ridge bisects the green with a lower tier back left, a middle tier front left and an upper tier on the right. The mounding behind the green acts as a nice backstop and can repel long approaches back onto the green- that’s the place to make your mistake. The green is newer and used to be one notch slower than the rest of the course, but that disparity has narrowed over time. It does bake out faster than other greens. Bogey is a good score on this hole. Pars on #14 are great elixirs for the back nine and can generate huge momentum in a match. Birdies here are worth closing the shop up early in celebration.
If your score is still in good shape after this hole, it’s time to drop the hammer. The next four holes are where opportunity knocks. Many matches swing around on this hole because it is so hard. But match play on this course starts on 15.
#15. 410yds, Par 4. This is the hole where you dig in and sprint toward the finish line. The drive is pretty wide open. Far left is fescue, but the rest of the fairway is pretty open. This is the hole to aim down the right center of the fairway and unload. The fairway slopes downward and big drives leave 150-210 yard approaches. There is a lot of room for error in running the ball down to the hole. This green isn’t may favorite as it feels like a tree fell in the middle of it and made a dent. It has three levels. First a side-table in the front right is covered by a sand trap and some mounded long rough. This feeds down to a diagonal flat trench that runs from front left to back right. Then the green feeds back up to a plateau on the back left which has a bunker ready to capture overcooked pulls. Balls on the correct plane make for easier putts.Â Birdie putts that have to go from one plane to another are unrealistic. It’s a pretty good-sized hole, but a realistic par. I don’t like taking bogey here.
We’re ready for the home stretch. Hopefully on 13-15, we’ve pulled through in even par despite the difficulty on 14. There is always good drama in match play on these holes and positions can switch a couple of times! This sets up nicely for a par 5 and two short par 4’s- all three of these holes are birdieable.
#16. 520yds, Par 5. The can be a nervous drive because trees and OB line the whole left side of the hole and the tees point you for a draw. If you have it, a fade off the tee works here. Once on the fairway it’s a straight line to the green. A dip can create a blind shot at about the 120 yard mark, but it’s not a big deal (there is also a fairway bunker along that line too. The biggest problem can be the yelling from lacrosse practice at the adjacent athletic fields at Rippowam Cisqua (My 1988 Latin Prize is on the board there somewhere)! Gigantic hitters can reach the green in two with two big shots. Two bunkers guard the front right and a big lines the left. The green is receptive to birdies. Most of it is flat with an upper tier in the back right.
If on in regulation, you have great chance on this one.
#17. 315yds, Par 4. My favorite hole on the course. It doesn’t look like much, but this baby makes or breaks a lot of rounds. This is a flat hole with a sharp dogleg left.Â The green isn’t really visible off the tee and trees block the gorillas who might be able to drive the green (I have heard of it happening once by some quasi-professional). About 220 yards out, there are two fairway bunkers. The line is just to the left of that. One of the cool things about this hole is that the apparent safety of the left side of the fairway is an illusion. Overhanging trees block drives that are too short on the left side of the fairway. The second shot of course is everything. It’s rarely more than a wedge or 9-iron for most people.Â However, it’s no bargain. A deep bunker is perched in the front center of the green and additional bunkers circle the green. The green is flat, hard and spits approaches to the right. It’s difficult to get close even with wedge in hand. Once on the green, the breaks are subtle, but dangerous. This green is one of the fastest on the course and it feels like it crowns so distance control is paramount.
More three putts and short game flubs happen under pressure on this green than anywhere else.. This is a clever little hole and a test of judgment and precision.
#18. 310yds, Par 4. A short uphill par 4 that is a little out of place as a finishing hole. It’s a nice view up the fairway to the clubhouse and to the green on the right. Out of bounds left should give most golfers pause especially if the nice cars are in the parking lot just beyond it. Bunkers up the right side take driver out of the hands of most people. When playing for score, a 220 yard shot, leaves a 100 yard wedge- although the lie can be uneven. In a match play environment, driver can get you up by the green. The green is blanketed with bunkers in the left and front right and severe mounding behind the green. (One of my favorite shots ever was holing it from the front bunker for eagle to win a $10 bet.) The green has a lower level on the left that is a small target and then a run up a ridge to the larger flat surface in the back right.
The putts are flat so being on the correct tier is a legitimate birdie opportunity no matter the length.
Done with the Round!
There you have it! Hopefully, I have gotten it at even or better on the last three holes. 38 on the back is a nice turn.Â No complaints from me if I’m breaking 80 on the round. This is a tough track especially if the rough is grown out.
Toughest holes: 3,7,14
Toughest tee shots:Â 3,7,8,11,16
Toughest second shots: 2,7,11,14
Attack mode for birdies: 1,4,9,10,15,16,18
Strategy for birdies: 6,13,17
Legitimate candidates for eagle- 4,9
Best views off the tee: 4,5,8,10,11
Brutal greens: 3,5,9,17
Not sure what the course record is here. The lowest I have heard of is 66 but I can’t confirm that.
My best round here was a 74 to qualify for my club championship a couple of years ago- from the tips, all putts holed; holed out from 70 yards for eagle on 16!
My low score is 73 that was before the redesign 20 years ago . . .
Shot 76-76 to win club championship in 2013 (2-up)
Also won Club Championship in 2007
Father has a hole-in-one on #5 (180yds- 5 iron)- He won a Club Championship in 1995; so we’re the only father and son to do it at BGTC.
Amateur golf course architect, Frazer Rice’s suggested improvements!
Pinch the fairway on both sides slightly at the crest of the hill on 1 to force an early decision off the tee.Â Also would make the tee shot a little more visually interesting.
Additional length isn’t really possible as there isn’t much land to expand into, but if you really wanted to Oakmont it, you could probably but #3 tee back another 30+ yards and make it a 270 yard par 3. That said, the hole is hard enough as it is
Trim some of the trees to the right on 5
Additional protection around the elbow at 9
Remove the shrubs and growth from the front of the green on 10 and shave the bank.
I’m not sure what the point of the bunker is off the tee on 14 (the only reasonable function is to collect errant second shots for people playing up the 14th fairway after stray drives on 13!)
Clean up the trees between 14 and 15
Remove trees from behind the green on 17- improves terrific view up to the clubhouse and creates an optical illusion for the approach shot- also improves view from 18 tee
Deeper green to the right on 18 for additional pin placements, additional fescue in the surrounding berms for decoration