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  Monday, 10 June, 2002, 16:14 GMT 17:14 UK
Park life for golf's elite
1997 US Open winner, Ernie Els, chips in at the 10th at Congressional
Bethpage is longer than 1997's Congressional course

For most of us, the idea of playing a major championship at our local park's public golf course is too ridiculous to contemplate.

The thought of Tiger Woods sneaking on to the second tee to avoid paying for a round of driving off mats, retrieving balls from the children's playground and putting on temporary greens is fanciful to say the least.

But then the Bethpage Black is unlike any other public golf course in the world.

Situated in New York's Bethpage State Park, the venue for the 2002 US Open has hosted over 14 million rounds of public golf since the 1930s.

  Longest yardage for par fours in US Open history
499: 12th at Bethpage, 2002
492: 10th at Bethpage, 2002
491: 16th at Southern Hills, 2001
489: 16th at Pinehurst, 1999
489: 7th at Bethpage, 2002
And while it has long been considered one of America's finest courses, this will be the first time it has been used for a USGA or PGA Tour event - it is also the first time the US Open has been held at a truly accessible public course.

While members of the public can play under certain circumstances at previous US Open venues such as Pebble Beach or Pinehurst, Bethpage is open to anyone willing to queue up for a tee time.

This, of course, is slightly more taxing than it sounds, as the queue starts to build the night before - a blanket and pair of eyeshades are required kit for anybody attempting to play Bethpage.

Tillinghast design

But a night in your car is a small price to pay for a round at Bethpage, particularly as the fees are about 20 on weekdays, and 26 at weekends - a steal when compared to the 90 a round at St Andrews will cost you.

The Black course, one of Bethpage's five courses, will measure up at 7,214 yards - the longest in the US Open's history, beating Maryland's Congressional, the 1997 venue, by a yard - and par will be a stingy 70.

Originally designed by the renowned course architect Albert Warren Tillinghast in 1934, the course was updated to meet the US Open's reputation for difficulty in 1998 by Rees Jones.

So while it continues to play host to 30,000 rounds of amateurish hacking every year, Bethpage will pose more than enough questions for Tiger and co.

US Open 2002
US Open course guide
BBC Sport Online's US Open 2002 news section

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10 Jun 02 | US Open
10 Jun 02 | US Open
09 Jun 02 | US Open
10 Jun 02 | US Open
10 Jun 02 | US Open
27 Jul 02 | US Open
17 Jun 02 | US Open
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