When Trump Golf Links at Ferry Point opened in 2015, it became the second high-profile municipal facility in the New York City area. The first, of course, was Bethpage State Park, which has five courses and goes back to the 1930s when famed architect A.W. Tillinghast designed the first three courses there.
Since then, Tillinghast's Bethpage Black Course, which was renovated by Rees Jones, has played host to the 2002 and 2009 U.S. Opens, PGA Tour playoffs and will be the site of the 2019 PGA Championship and 2024 Ryder Cup.
These are credentials that are impossible to beat, especially for a new course. But they both represent premium choices for both local golfers and visitors to the New York City area.
Ideally, anyone coming to the area should probably get out to both facilities, but if you could only go to one, which one should it be?
To help you decide, here's a quick comparison of the experiences at both places.
Golf courses: Winner -- Bethpage State Park
Bethpage has five golf courses, so just from a numbers standpoint alone, Bethpage offers not only a U.S. Open venue with the incredibly beautiful and tough Black Course, but four other courses at various price points, degrees of difficulty and interest. In fact, many of the locals prefer the Red Course, which is sort of a Black light (also designed by Tillinghast) because it's a little more playable and a less demanding walk.
With that said, there's nothing like Trump Golf Links -- at least as far as public venues are concerned -- in the New York City area. You can tell both Trump and Jack Nicklaus were passionate about this project. While it isn't true links, of course, it certainly has that feel and look, plus the bonus of the Manhattan skyline, two iconic bridges (Bronx-Whitestone and Throgs Neck) and a cemetery surrounding it. And while Trump GL isn't Bethpage Black difficult, it is a stern test. You will lose golf balls in the hay if you spray it. And if there is wind, good luck.
Location: Winner -- Trump Golf Links at Ferry Point
If you live on Long Island or are coming from the city, Bethpage is pretty easy to get to. But if you're coming from the other side of the Hudson, you're looking at numerous tolls, construction and inevitable delays. When I played multiple courses over two days at Bethpage last summer, I stayed overnight at a hotel in Farmingdale so I wouldn't have to make the commute twice from where I was staying in Tenafly, N.J. It was well worth it.
With Trump, its location, location, location. Built over a landfill next to the Whitestone Bridge, Trump GL is easily accessible from all the boroughs as well as the New Jersey side near New York. On my recent trip to the area, it took me less than a half hour coming from Tenafly around 10:30 a.m. Bethpage was more like an hour and a half.
Cost: Winner -- Bethpage
Simply put, Trump G.L. at Ferry Point is pricey. If you're a nonresident, you're looking at two bills before the cart fee (I recommend walking if you can). Resident green fees start at just less than $150.
Bethpage is a bargain for residents. The Black (walking only) is just $65-$75 for locals, and while it's $130-$150 for nonresidents, it's still the best deal for any U.S. Open venue open to the public by far and cheaper than Trump, which at this point hasn't played host to any important tournaments. As for the other courses at Bethpage, you can play the Blue Course, Green Course or Yellow Course starting at $38, while the Red is $43-$48 for residents and $86-$96 for those who live outside of New York State.
Customer service: Winner -- Trump Golf Links at Ferry Point
This is where many golfers will gladly pay extra to play Trump. First, it's far easier to get a tee time. Just call, you'll get through and the friendly folks on the other end will reserve a time for you. When you get there, the staff will take care of your bag, you can get a pretty good meal in the grill at the temporary clubhouse and the practice facilities are top notch.
At Bethpage, it helps if you know the ropes or at the very least go with someone who does. They're not very helpful there; they're too busy with stacked tee sheets on five courses. (Bethpage does 300,000 rounds per year.) Check-in is more like going to the DMV as golfers often wait in long lines at the payment windows. And getting a tee time on the Red or Black usually requires multiple phone calls from everyone in the group, hoping to get through to snag a time.
Bethpage vs. Trump Golf Links at Ferry Point: The verdict
The only thing these two venues really have in common is that they're both exceptional munis. One is modern; the other classic. Which one to choose really depends on preferences.
While I don't think I'd pay more to play Trump than I would Bethpage Black or Red, all other things being equal, the customer service and convenience of Trump might warrant the higher price. My recommendation if you're a visitor to New York (and this isn't a cop-out), is that you make time for both Bethpage and Trump Golf Links, both of which are very memorable experiences.