The morning after a late night of dinner and drinks, a golfing buddy and I were in no mood to play a regulation championship golf course. And it was too cold to fish. Tired and perplexed, but wanting to tee up the ball, we decided to play Village Green Golf Club, an executive course on Pembrook Drive, off Beneva Road. For those of you who are not familiar with this type of course, it's comprised mostly of par three holes and never includes any par five holes.
Not knowing what to expect, we drove up and made our way into the pro shop area, surprised and happy about the quaint feel of the place. The shop was amply stocked with clubs, balls, and other necessary golf gear; the clubhouse served meals and there was a full bar (not that we were in the mood for food or drink). We wanted to play golf in a peaceful atmosphere and not have to work too hard slugging drives down the fairway and scrambling for par on a 7,000-yard course. This place, kind of set back in the woods, fit the bill perfectly, and to us was comparable to finding a superb back-street French restaurant, located away from the hustle and bustle.
The par-58 Village Green course, only 2,810 yards long, includes 14 par three holes and four par four holes. What makes it fun to play is that the par fours can be reached with a solid drive. What's more, no par three is more than 165 yards in length; and every single one is challenging. However, if you're not accurate you will land in trouble, fighting your way out of trees or taking a penalty drop from water. Therefore, the course tests your nerves and skill level.
My friend Greg and I are both six handicap players and have played the best courses in the world-from Augusta National to Cypress Point to St. Andrews-so it's a testimony to this course that we liked it.
Village Green is not in great shape, but it's in good shape and the greens roll nicely. Although this course is open to the public for a price too cheap to quote (I'd rather you be surprised), annual and monthly memberships are also available. Golf memberships are in lieu of daily green fees and entitle the member to handicap service, reduced cart rates, tee times up to one week in advance, and participation in the men's and women's associations.
Incidentally, I had never heard of a monthly membership being offered at a club, but I think it's a great concept, particularly for seasonal players who visit our community during the winter months. There's a lot more that's great about Village Green, but I think it's best that you test it out for yourself. PGA professionals Jack Binswanger and Mike Toale will be able to show you around.
If you find yourself scratching your head on the course, trying to figure out what the heck your playing partners are saying, you'd better brush up on Golfspeak, the language of the links.
Bold: A shot played too firmly.
Duffer: An unskilled golfer.
Front side: The first half of an 18-hole round.
Gimme: In match play, a putt so close to the hole that it's usually conceded by an opponent.
Halved: A hole is halved in match play when two players, or teams, tie.
Honor: The privilege of hitting first from the tee. The player with the lowest score on the previous hole earns the honor.
Interlock grip: Hold on the club, characterized by interlocking the right pinky with the left forefinger. Tiger Woods and Jack Nicklaus both use this type of grip.
Overlap grip: The most popular grip among PGA Tour players, characterized by the right pinky overlapping the left forefinger. This grip is also called the Vardon grip because the late, legendary player Harry Vardon popularized it.
Women golfers have been discriminated against when it comes to golf-wear fashion opportunities. That's because, until recently, pro shops were filled with plain and boxy skirts and tops, mostly in white and sky-blue, that looked as if they had been made from bedsheets or ironing board covers. Worse, the fabrics did not breathe well.
Now, thanks to such designers as Ralph Lauren and Tommy Hilfiger, along with innovative golf sportswear collections on offer from new companies, women golfers can choose from a wide array of causally smart clothing that's colorful, creative, comfortable, cool and, at last, tapered!
New sportswear companies responsible for producing wide-ranging lines and making women look handsome on the course include Jamie Saddock, EP PRO, Tehama, Como Sport, and Marcia.
Marcia, a California-based sports apparel company, offers choices in everything from Bermuda shorts to capri pants to sleeveless polo shirts-golf clothing that doubles as off-course wear and appeals to across-the-board age groups.
The Wright Approach on South Tamiami Trail does a splendid job of stocking their shop with all those brands, and then some. Consider visiting, and tell my old New York golf friend Jim Wright I sent you.
Hale Irwin, former winner of the American Express Invitational at TPC Prestancia, once gave me a tip for playing long irons that should help you hit the ball more powerfully into the air.
To promote solid shots, Irwin told me that you must keep the club moving low to the ground in the takeaway (for about 12 inches) and, in swinging down, keep your head behind the ball. The longer takeaway helps you create a wide and powerful swing arc. Staying behind the ball through impact ensures a solid upswing hit.
The typical club-level player fixes ball marks, rakes footprints left in the sand after hitting a bunker shot, repairs divot holes in the fairway, stays still while others prepare to hit the ball, and lets faster players through. Some players, however, violate points of etiquette that are not written down in the Rules of Golf book published by the United States Golf Association but will nonetheless lose them points with their fellow players. So be sure to:
1. Shut off your cellular phone during play or limit your calls.
2. Ask permission to smoke when riding in a golf cart with a fellow member of your club.
3. Avoid suggesting a high-stakes game of golf.
4. Control your on-course drinking, especially if you are the driver of the powered cart.
5. Avoid cursing.
6. Refrain from excessive flattery.
7. Refrain from offering too much technical advice.
It's no surprise that PGA Tour player and long hitter John Daly is a Taurus, for his Grip-It-And-Rip-It philosophy is very bullish.
If you share the same birth sign (April 20-May 20), consider following the advice of Mark Oman, author of Golf Astrology, when driving the ball-Daly style!
"Don't be so stuck in the mud of middle-of-the-fairway thinking that you lose out on the thrills and surprises only found on golf's fairway less traveled.
"Let the shaft out and swing from the heels. It will do your heart and soul good."
While waiting on the tee in a tight team match, break the tension by quoting some of these famous people, who all had a love-hate relationship with golf.
Jack Lemmon: "If you think it's hard to meet new people, try picking up the wrong golf ball."
Will Rogers: "A golfer is someone with hoof and mouth disease. He hoofs it all day and mouths it all night."
Bob Hope: "If you want to take long walks, take long walks. If you have to hit things with a stick, hit things with a stick. But there's no excuse for combining the two."
Sarasota's John Andrisani, the former senior editor of instruction at Golf Magazine and the author of more than 25 books, including The Tiger Woods Way and Think Like Tiger. You can email him questions at [email protected]