I had been meaning to review Calusa Lakes, a semi-private golf club in nearby Nokomis, for some time. Some fishing buddies, who also travel around playing different courses, had told me "The Lakes" is very "player-friendly," and I was curious to see whether this was true or not and why. Well, now having visited, I have the answers.
Calusa Lakes is indeed the ideal course to play if you're looking to enjoy some nice scenery and fresh air, and play a round with friends without having to worry about being tested or challenged to the max.
Designed by Ted McAnlis some 15 years ago, the course is no pushover or cow pasture. In fact, you play through rows of pine trees that border most of the holes, the majority of which dogleg or turn left or right. Still, because Calusa Lakes only plays 6,145 yards from the blue tees, features no rough to speak of and has relatively flat greens that aren't especially tricky or fast, several holes with no bunkers guarding the green (including five on the back nine), and water hazards that really don't come into play unless you hit a super-wild shot, it's anything but a killer course. But I find this refreshing, because it allows average weekend golfers to enjoy their game more and play a faster round, too, because the golfers up ahead are not always searching for balls in deep rough or fishing them out of water.
The good news: Nonmembers can book tee times four days in advance. So if you're interested in playing Calusa Lakes or just visiting to hit practice balls at their unique aqua driving range (yes, you hit into water!), or want to enjoy a nice lunch or a lesson from PGA professional Jay Hosey, call (941) 484-8995.
CALUSA LAKES GOLF CLUB
1995 Calusa Lakes Blvd.
If you feel you're among foreigners because you can't understand what your playing partners are talking about on the course, it's time to learn the common language of the links: Golf-speak. This crash course should help you become more of a golfing linguist and impress your fellow Sarasota golfers.
Army golf: A golfer plays army golf when he or she hits a shot that flies left, another right, another left, and so on. Thus, the marching lingo: left-right, left-right, left-right.
Blade: To blade the ball is to hit it with the club's leading edge rather than the center of the clubface.
Bullet: A low-flying shot that bores into a strong headwind.
Dormie: Situation in a head-to-head competition, when the opponent must win every remaining hole to tie the match.
Fried egg: A partially buried lie in a sand bunker, resembling a fried egg (the ball is the yolk).
Oscar Bravo: Expression used by savvy golfers to describe a ball hit out of bounds.
Slider: A shot that fades or turns slightly from left to right as it flies through the air.
Threading the needle: A phrase used to describe a golfer hitting a ball through a narrow opening of tree branches.
Gary Koch, six-time winner on the PGA Tour and golf analyst for NBC television, has played a lot of golf in Sarasota over the years. Thanks to Koch, I'm a better long iron player, so let me share with you the tips he gave me when I worked as senior instruction editor of GOLF Magazine in New York City.
To hit extra-high long irons that land extra-softly on the green:
- Play the ball opposite your left instep.
- Set slightly more weight on your right foot.
- Swing the club back to the top so its shaft is parallel to the target line.
- Rotate your hips counterclockwise early on in the downswing.
- Turn right hand under your left in the impact zone.
Some competitions at our city's country clubs are conducted according to the rules governing match play or head-to-head competition, as opposed to medal play. Therefore, knowing the rules will help you avoid penalty strokes and win more matches. Here's an example of a rule involving putting a new ball in play that you should definitely know.
Situation: Player A's tee shot hits a cart path. After finding his ball and marking the spot with a coin, he lifts the ball and notices it has been cut and severely scuffed.
Common mistake: Player A puts down a new ball and plays a shot to the green. When arriving on the green, Player B, Player A's match play opponent, notices the new ball with a different number on it. Player B then informs Player A that he has a problem for not complying with Rule 5-3, which concerns the question of justifiably putting a new ball in play. Player A, for playing a shot with the substituted ball and failing to make his intentions clear to his match play opponent, would be penalized one stroke.
Correct procedure: Before marking and lifting the ball to check for damage, and before switching balls, Player A should have announced his intention to Player B and given him the opportunity to examine the ball. If there's a question about whether the ball you're playing is sufficiently damaged to warrant removing it from play, speak first to your match play opponent. In actuality, you're entitled to take a ball out of play if it's cut or out or round.
Fun and Games
If you're a player who is extremely competitive and enjoys "action," like so many country club golfers around town, give the game "Play It Again Sam" a shot. Here's how it works:
Instead of the lesser player being awarded handicap strokes, the better player must, at the request of the opponent, replay certain shots. Say, for example, an eight-handicap golfer is competing against a 14-handicapper. The higher handicap player must make the lower handicap player replay six shots-the difference in their handicaps. This can get very exciting if the opportunities are used wisely, such as to force the replay of a great putt or a spectacular trouble shot.
Specialty of the Clubhouse
The next best thing to visiting the pubs near Scotland's famous St. Andrews Old Course is visiting the British Open Pub in the Palmer Ranch Plaza, off Tamiami Trail. The flavor of the golf atmosphere will take you away to links afar, and after a couple pints of Black and Tan (Guinness Stout and Bass Ale) or Half and Half (Guinness Stout and Harp Lager), you may even imagine yourself playing in The Open Championship (British Open) with the likes of Tiger Woods.
SARASOTA'S JOHN ANDRISANI is the former senior editor of instruction at GOLF Magazine and the author of more than 25 books, including Think Like Tiger. Send questions and comments to John at firstname.lastname@example.org.