To protect its tee sheets, a famous NY muni system cracks down on bad actors, bots

bethpage black no. 17

Demand for tee times at the famous New York municipal facility is as strong as ever. But complaints about the booking system have increased.

New York State Parks

Bots beware. The folks at Bethpage State Park are on to you. Other bad actors: take notice, too. The operators of the most celebrated constellation of municipal golf courses in the country are cracking down on misuse of their busy tee-time reservation system.

In an email sent last week to registered golfers, Bethpage management, which oversees five 18-hole courses on Long Island, including the renowned Black Course, announced a series of policy changes meant to thwart those who try to game the system for their own financial or recreational gain.

The changes, some of which have already been put into effect, include cancellation restrictions and tee-time frequency limits as well as the elimination of dubious accounts. A new booking category has also been created to ensure that only verified New York State residents get 7-day-in-advance reservation access to the park’s quintet of courses, the Black, Red, Green, Yellow and Blue.

In addition to laying out those policy shifts, the email warned against the use of bots or “any third-party” booking service that advertises access to the Bethpage tee sheet, while cautioning that any golfer “caught trying to resell a tee time, barter a tee time, or otherwise try (sic) and circumvent the reservation system” would have their account suspended indefinitely. “In some cases,” the email said, “State Park Police may also need to be involved.”

The stern messaging comes as Bethpage grapples with a large-scale version of a challenge faced by many courses around the country in the wake of a pandemic-era golf boom: tee-time demand that outstrips supply.

While this imbalance is hardly new to Bethpage (especially on the multiple-time major championship host Black Course, where generations of golfers have slept in their cars in the hopes of landing a coveted slot), it has taken on a new tilt in the digital age. In an email to, Bethpage State Park director Scott Matson said that robust demand at the facility has been holding steady since the Covid-spike. No big change there. “The increase we have seen,” Matson wrote, “is in the form of complaints from our golfers who often are not able to make a reservation, because they go so quickly each night at 7 p.m.,” when new bookings are made available online.

Why they go so quickly is another matter. One reason, it appears, is that many golfers have gained an unfair edge, whether by creating multiple accounts under different profiles, or reserving times only to cancel them in coordination with friends, family members or playing partners, among other end-arounds. In its email to registered golfers, Bethpage management said it had spent the past few months vetting “every account” in its reservation system and had found hundreds of individuals with duplicate accounts. Those accounts have been deleted, the email said. To prevent such accounts from being created in the future, a new residency verification process has been put in place, requiring users to submit an emailed copy of their New York driver’s license or an official New York State I.D.

Under a new cancellation policy, meanwhile, golfers will be allowed to scrap a reservation up to eight times in a calendar month. Anything more will result in the suspension of their account. That stricture will kick in on July 1 of this year. Other tee-time restrictions have been put in place. As of this week, reservations on the Red Course, which were once unlimited, have been capped at one booking every 14 days. The limit on the Black Course will remain as is: one reservation every 28 days.

Wangling one’s way onto the first tee of a log-jammed course is a tradition as old as bribing the starter, but that analog method has largely given way to identity-concealing, high-tech tools. The impact has been felt far beyond New York. In Los Angeles, where city and county officials had once pooh-poohed concerns over bots and third-party brokers in the municipal golf system, public grumbling about those issues grew loud enough this year to elicit a response; a $10 booking fee was recently imposed to discourage the resale of tee times.

How prevalent bots are in the Bethpage system is difficult to say. In his email to, park director Matson said that Bethpage’s reservation system has a Google security feature that activates if it senses “abnormality or automation from the user device on the other side.”

“We know (bots) are out there, and not just for golf tee times,” Matson said. “But we haven’t seen any consistent, fool-proof evidence yet of them working to secure tee times.”

As for third-party brokers, “a few sites popped up during the pandemic,” but those were shut down, Matson said, with help from the New York State Park Police. “We have not seen any evidence of this recently but know the rumor is out there amongst the golfing public.”

One way to gauge the nature and extent of the problem may be to see how well the remedies work. In its email to registered Bethpage golfers, park management struck an optimistic tone.

“We know some of these changes may cause some initial consternation amongst the golfing public, but we are hopeful that these changes may allow more users to obtain reservations moving forward.”

Josh Sens Editor

A golf, food and travel writer, Josh Sens has been a GOLF Magazine contributor since 2004 and now contributes across all of GOLF’s platforms. His work has been anthologized in The Best American Sportswriting. He is also the co-author, with Sammy Hagar, of Are We Having Any Fun Yet: the Cooking and Partying Handbook.