Short and Sweet

By staff April 1, 2004

If you faithfully read my course reviews, you know that I don't just feature the most luxurious clubs in or near our city, and God knows Sarasota has some of the best for miles around. In fact, just last month, I wrote about Laurel Oak, a truly first-class country club, and in upcoming issues I will be reviewing Misty Creek and Prestancia, two other top-notch clubs.

This month-for the benefit of beginners, casual men and women players, and senior citizen golfers looking to play more for the fresh air and exercise than to take on the challenge of a tough championship course-I'm going to review Sorrento Par 3.

Located on Bayshore Road in nearby Nokomis, this little nine-hole layout is comprised of all par-three holes, the longest being 130 yards, the shortest being 38 yards-believe it or not! Believe it or not, too, I found the place fascinating and super-entertaining, in the same way that I like seeing a well-crafted play in a small offbeat theater rather than on Broadway. Let me cite the reasons why I think you will share my views.

1. The course's motto (written on the scorecard) is "Play golf for your health."

2. The green fee is $6 for nine holes, and you pay an extra $3 to play a second nine.

3. There is no pro on the premises to "hawk" lessons or to sell you a new, expensive set of clubs-just the new owners, Jim Howard and his son Jerry, who live in the house that the tiny pro shop is part of. By the way, if they're not around, visitors are instructed to place the appropriate fees in a metal Honor Box.

4. The short course, set among a variety of trees, namely grapefruit and orange, is an ideal place to work on your pitching, chipping, and putting games, so that when you do play a regulation course, your short game will be sharp.

5. The course only features two sand traps, one on the 96-yard seventh hole and another on the 66-yard ninth hole. Therefore, you don't have to spend much of your round raking bunkers and putting strain on your back.

6. The spirit of Sorrento is reminiscent of playing golf in Scotland, where the walk and the fun of just being out among the green grass and blue sky are the priorities. This enthusiasm for golf is exemplified by the framed needlepoint saying that hangs in the restroom: "As part of my diet, I'm going golfing every day. My doctor told me to live on GREENS as much as possible."

7. Sorrento is a good place to escape to, and so short in length that if you live nearby you can even finish a full round during your lunch hour. Golf needs more of these short courses, and clubs that lack the omnipresent hype-a place where you can just be at peace with yourself for a little while. By the way, memberships are available.

Sorrento Par 3 Golf Course

1910 Bayshore Road, Nokomis

Call (941) 966-4884 for more information.

The Lingo

If you're a less experienced golfer, it can be intimidating playing with low-handicap golf veterans, particularly if you don't have a clue what they are talking about. Consequently, I suggest doing some armchair-practice at home and studying up on golf-speak, the language of the links. Here are a few common expressions, with translations, to get you started in increasing your on-course vocabulary, just in case you play one of our great public or private courses and get paired with one of our town's aces.

Good golfer: "I'm going to hit the knife."

Translation: The player is telling his partner that the plan is to hit a one-iron shot.

Good golfer: "I'm going to cut one in."

Translation: In setting up to hit an approach shot, the player is merely explaining to a low-handicap playing partner that he or she intends to cut across the ball in the impact area and hit a shot that moves slightly from left to right in the air, then lands extra softly.

Good golfer: "I think I'll knock down a seven."

Translation: What the player is saying is that he or she intends to hit a low knockdown shot with a seven iron, usually played into a strong headwind.

Good golfer: "I don't think there's much in it. Pace is everything."

Translation: The player is telling his partner that the putt is virtually straight, and that speed, not break, is the most important factor."

Good golfer: "I'm just going to snap one around the corner."

Translation: The player lets his partner know that he or she is going to hit a sharp right-to-left snap-hook shot around the corner of a dogleg left hole.

Winning Tips

One of the greatest days of my golfing life was playing with two-time U.S. Open champion Curtis Strange, a resident of Virginia who has family here in town at The Meadows.

Curtis is not a big guy, but he hits the ball very solidly due to what he learned a long time ago from legendary coach Jimmy Ballard. If you're a golfer who's looking to hit the ball 20 yards longer off the tee, try this tip Curtis passed on to me.

On the backswing, let your head and body sway to the right, away from the target, until you feel forced to let your left heel lift off the ground. Once reaching the at-the-top position, simply replant your left heel on the ground. Next, let your arms swing the club freely toward the target with the same releasing action you would use to throw a medicine ball into the hands of a friend standing a few yards in front of you.

The good thing about Curtis's tip is it takes your mind off the golf ball and encourages you to employ a carefree, powerful swing. 

The Rules 

Of all the players on the LPGA Tour, Dottie Pepper is probably the most knowledgeable when it comes to the rules. Dottie, who's played a lot of golf in Sarasota, realizes that knowing the rules can save you strokes and help you win a match. This superstar is right, so let's get started on this month's lesson involving the wrong and right procedures on the green.

Situation: Player B, who is Player A's partner in a team match, is analyzing the break in a green. Player A's ball is on the green.

Common mistake: Player B touches the line of the putt with the head of his putter to indicate the spot where the ball will break dramatically. This is a breach of Rule 8-2b, which forbids touching the line from the ball to the hole. The penalty in match play is loss of hole.

Correct procedure: You're allowed to have your partner or caddie indicate the break in a green, say, by pointing at a spot on the target line. Your partner or caddie can also point the putter-head at the specific spot where the ball will start to break, as long as the club stays elevated above the surface of the green. 

No Joking Matter 

There's nothing I like better than having a fellow golfer break the tense atmosphere of a pressure-filled match by telling a good golf joke. On the other hand, there's nothing worse than being paired with a golfer who tells one bad joke after another, and to be polite you have to fake a laugh.

New golfers, who don't know any better, often hear one of these bad jokes and then retell them. So that you don't make the same mistake, now that the golf season is really in the swing with this being the month of The Masters Tournament, here are three of the worst jokes I recommend you never share with any golfer-especially a business client you are trying to impress. 

Joke # 1

Judy: "Whatever induced Susan to take up golf so suddenly?"

Jane: "Oh, she read a newspaper about somebody finding a diamond in the rough."

Joke #2

And then there was the condemned golfer who asked the hangman, "Mind if I take a few practice swings?"

Joke # 3

Club expert: "Your trouble is that you don't address the ball properly."

Novice: "Well, I was polite to the darn thing as long as possible."

News Flash

Due to an ongoing problem with slow play-namely five-hour rounds that have been plaguing America's country clubs for the last 20 years -the United States Golf Association and the Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews just declared that all existing 18-hole golf courses be bulldozed and shortened to nine-hole facilities. According to these two major golf organizations, this decision is something they had tried to prevent, but the slow-play situation just got so out of hand that they had no choice but to move forward.

The new law, to commence in April 2004, will certainly change the face of the game of golf forever, particularly in Sarasota, the first city to start turning existing 18-hole courses into nine-hole courses, apparently because it was so often voted the best darn small city to live in.

This new change, though extraordinarily dramatic, has a good side. Golfers will now be able to play a round of golf so quickly that they'll have no problem making it home for cocktails and dinner. Golfers will also be happier because they will shoot lower scores, due to half the holes being destroyed. In addition, facilities will not have to spend as much money maintaining so many acres as before, and this savings will mean cheaper guest fees and membership dues. What's more, members who are vegetarians will be happy, because many country clubs have already made arrangements for their destroyed nine holes to be turned over to local farmers who will grow brussels sprout and broccoli, offering discounted "veggies" to their club's chef. Other club committees have decided that it makes more sense to build luxury condominiums on the land that once featured nine of the 18 holes being destroyed. So there should be some good bargains real soon, albeit with golf course views rather than water. I'll keep you posted. Until then:

April Fools!

Sarasota's John Andrisani recently received the United States Teachers Federation Media Award for outstanding golf instructional writing in books and magazines. Send questions to John at [email protected]

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