18 Questions With â€¦ Craig
Currier, Superintendent of Bethpage State ParkJanuary 15, 2009
Interview by David Shefter, USGA
Acclaimed for his preparation of the Black Course for the
2002 U.S. Open, Bethpage's longtime golf-course
superintendent is hard at work planning for the 2009 U.S.
Open - even in the dead of winter.
Since June, 1997, when he was hired to oversee the five
golf courses at Bethpage State Park in Farmingdale, N.Y.,
superintendent Craig Currier has been the man in charge of
keeping the playing conditions ideal for the thousands of
players who flock to the Long Island complex all season long.
After helping orchestrate a lengthy renovation and
reconditioning of the flagship Black Course, Currier and his
crew enjoyed a highly successful U.S. Open in 2002, the first
time the championship was conducted on a state-owned course.
In June, Bethpage's Black Course will once again be front and
center as the world's best golfers compete for the U.S. Open
The 38-year-old Currier recently chatted with USGA
Digital Media staff writer David Shefter to discuss "the
People's Open" of 2002, the years since and preparations for
the 2009 U.S. Open, among other hot-stove league topics.
What exactly goes on at Bethpage State Park during the
dead of winter to prepare for the U.S. Open?
Play chess and cards all day. I'm kidding. We got a little
dusting of snow [on Jan. 10]. We shoveled all 24 greens [on
the Black], including the practice greens, because they had
started to freeze up. We're doing a lot of pruning, getting a
lot of the dead wood out of the trees. We're doing a lot of
bunker work. We don't particularly spend a lot of time on the
bunkers because the bunkers are enormous. We've been cleaning
all the edges up and fixing up the fescue around the edges,
putting new sand in them.
You talk about shoveling greens. Why would you need to
shovel snow on the greens? Does this prevent significant
We had like an inch of snow/slush combo. All the little low
areas had water laying on them. We actually used plastic
shovels and shoveled all 18 Black Course greens and the
practice greens and the short-game area we are going to use
for the U.S. Open. The problem is I don't know how long it's
going to stay frozen. Once it turns to ice, it's real hard to
get it off without damaging everything. In 2004, we had some
severe ice damage. That's the last thing we need right now.
The U.S. Open is less than six months away. Is it a little
different preparing for a second U.S. Open at Bethpage than
it was seven years ago when the course was preparing to host
Yes. I think it's going to be a lot better than the last
time. We've had another seven years to clean stuff up.
Besides the actual playing surfaces, I think a lot of the
other stuff is going to be even better this time.
When you do something for the first time there always is
that anxiety of making everything right, so do you feel
better going into the 2009 Open than you did for 2002?
Last time, people were wondering if
a state park could actually pull it off
. Now that we've "been there, done that," I think everyone is
a bit more comfortable. The only thing that I really worry
about is the weather. This next month and a half, getting ice
on the greens is one thing we're worried about. If we were to
have a really cold, wet spring, it would be tough to get some
stuff growing. We're not going to aerify so it's not like we
have to heal anything in. And I just want it to be dry the
week of the championship more than anything. When it pours
during a tournament - like the last time - it kind of
What's one aspect of Bethpage State Park's five courses
that people don't know about?
The Red Course, to be perfectly honest with you, if it wasn't
sitting here would probably be one of the better courses in
Long Island. I'm sure there are a lot of [private] clubs that
would love to have it be their course. It's a great layout.
The Red definitely gets overshadowed by the Black.
Is there a particular hole on one of the other courses
that stands out?
I kind of wish that the first hole of the Red was on the
Black and I wish the 18th hole of the Red was on the Black.
It's a helluva start and finish over there on the Red.
What's your best score on any of the courses?
The older I get, the worse I get. I used to be an 8 to 10
handicap. I shot 78 once on the Black. That's about my
highlight on the Black Course.
So much is made about how hard it is to get a starting
time on the Black, but is it any easier to get on one of the
four other courses?
Not really. Every month we have what we call our walk-up
course. So like the month of May it could be the Green
Course, which becomes strictly first-come, first-serve. It's
probably a little easier to get out at that time of year. But
the Red Course is probably the second-toughest to get on,
then the Yellow and Blue. If you walked up here in the middle
of the day with a foursome, I don't care what course [you
want to play], the chances are you are not going to get out.
Has Bethpage received more attention in the post-2002 U.S.
It's gotten more attention. We actually do less rounds on the
Black because we manage it differently now since the Open has
been there. We used to do almost 50,000 rounds [a year] on
the Black, and now we're doing 36,000 to 38,000. The other
ones tee off at daybreak, so in mid-summer we're down to 5:20
[a.m.] starts on the other four and the Black goes at 6:30 at
the earliest. And the Black shuts at 5 [p.m.] and the other
ones are going until an hour before dark. The Black opens
April 15 and shuts usually November 15, so the window is a
little shorter, too.
Does the Black remain in near-U.S. Open shape?
The fairway widths are the same and the rough is tough
pretty much year-round. With the exception of the green
speeds and bunker maintenance, yeah, you are basically
playing the same course.
I hear you are quite a big fan of the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Were you nervous watching the San Diego game considering all
the previous home teams had lost in the Divisional round?
I had my son's [Gavin, four months old] christening, so I
went to church and figured it would help me. I kind of felt
that they would beat San Diego. It should be a good game this
week [against the Baltimore Ravens].
How did you end up rooting for the Steelers?
I grew up outside of Utica [New York] and we didn't even have
cable television in our house. They always used to show the
Steelers [on TV] and obviously they were good when I was a
kid. I have pretty much watched them since I was big enough
to watch football.
Any particular Steeler that you followed?
I used to love [Terry] Bradshaw. I was born in 1970, so I can
remember watching Lynn Swann and all those Super Bowls back
in the 1970s.
Would you fly to Tampa for the Super Bowl if Pittsburgh
Funny you should ask. We're thinking about it. I'm actually
taking my wife to Florida for a couple of days next week. And
we're spilling into the following week. If they win, we might
have to stay down there. I went to Detroit when they won [in
2006]. That was great. Just trying to get a ticket for the
Super Bowl isn't an easy one. They've got to beat the Ravens
first and then I'll start looking into that.
How about bartering a couple of rounds at Bethpage?
There's an ethics thing, so I can't do that.
Are there any winter activities going on at the park?
Oh, yeah. We actually do a lot of [golf] rounds right up
until [Jan. 1]. That weekend before New Year's was real busy.
The weather was decent. Right now there's not enough snow for
[cross-country] skiing. There's not much action. If we get
anything substantial, we have three hills that we open for
sledding. We'll get thousands of people there. But we have to
monitor the hills. We have guys on top and the bottom. The
sleigh riding is on the first tee of the Red, the first tee
of the Green and the hill on the 18th green of the Green. We
have three designated areas.
Does it do any damage to the course?
A little bit, when they stage everyone on the tees at the
start. In the spring, we have to pad the front of the tees
where all the traffic is, but as far as the hills, no [it
doesn't hurt the turf].
It looks like the course is going to play a little longer
than in 2002. And the USGA has three 500-plus-yard par-4s,
which should make things interesting.
Yeah, they might have to hit more than 8-iron into them. I
was watching them [on Sunday] in Hawaii. It's crazy [how far
they hit it]. A couple of the little complaints they had [in
2002] I think we fixed: the distance to the 10th fairway, the
landing area on 12 got changed. Hopefully there won't be any
complaints this time.
For an overview of recent changes to the Black Course made
in preparation for the 2009 U.S. Open,
.To find out what else superintendents do in the offseason,