Misty Creek Country Club, located off Bee Ridge Road east of I-75, is a private 18-hole facility built in 1985 by course architect Gary L. Smither. That's not so long ago, yet I found the course to be very reminiscent of a classic and mature old-time layout such as Sara Bay, because of the clusters of oaks that line the fairways and serve as a backdrop to the wonderfully sloped and well-manicured challenging greens, plus the natural cart paths that wind their way through the course. This is refreshing to the eye, considering that part of golf's enjoyment is playing amidst nature. But what do many country club owners do? They build cement paths for carts to travel along, ruining the look of the natural terrain.
Going around the course with pro Darren S. Dimick and member Mike Sisti, I realized what I heard was true: "Misty Creek demands that you work the ball around the course and think your way to lower scores." The reason is the course features several doglegs that require you to hit a draw or a fade off the tee (depending on whether the golf-hole curves left or right), water hazards that must be carried, and quite narrow fairways that sometimes make you think twice about teeing off with a driver.
The good news: Misty Creek only plays 5,208 yards from the red tees, 6,007 yards from the white tees, 6,384 from the blue tees, and 6,895 from the gold-colored markers. Therefore, this "track" does not require you to swing out of your shoes and smash the ball a country mile off the tee. The art of scoring goes back to the basics: hitting fairways and greens, chipping the ball close to the cup when you do miss the putting surface, sinking short putts, and picking the right club on the four par-three holes, particularly number 17. This hole-my favorite of all-stretches out to 211 yards from the gold tees and requires you to hit over palmetto bushes aplenty and hit a severely sloped green that features three bunkers on the righthand side.
There are 250 members at friendly-feeling Misty Creek, and the club offers special rates for juniors (45 years of age and under), as well as a summer membership program running from May-October. Misty Creek also has reciprocal playing arrangements with Laurel Oak, The Oaks, the TPC at Prestancia, and Bent Tree.
Since the summer is upon us, I suggest driving out to Misty Creek and taking a look around. Or just give Darren Dimick a call at 921-5258. He'll be glad to show you around the facility, which includes a huge putting green and nice size driving range.
Misty Creek Country Club
8954 Misty Creek Drive, Sarasota
Pro shop: 921-5258
Just in case you're new to golf and get paired up with a more experienced partner against another team, it's best to know what he or she means when they say the following:
Playing Partner: "You have to nail it to get home."
Translation: "You must swing full out and hit the ball powerfully to reach the green."
Playing Partner: "Hit it clean out of this sand."
Translation: "To hit a solid shot from this fairway bunker, sweep the ball off the sand, rather than dig the club into the sand under the ball like you would from a greenside bunker."
Playing Partner: "Remember, never up, never in."
Translation: "Hit the ball hard enough to reach the hole or it has no chance of dropping into the cup."
Playing Partner: "On this right-to-left breaker, keep the ball on the high side."
Translation: When hitting this putt on a green that slopes right to left, roll the ball toward the high ground above the hole (high side), so it has a chance of curving or breaking into the hole.
Playing Partner: "Take the break out of this short knee-knocker."
Translation: "Hit this short putt extra firmly so that the ball holds its line, hits the back of the cup, and drops down into the hole.
Playing Partner: "Shot!"
Translation: "You hit a super golf shot."
I met mega movie star Jack Nicholson over a decade ago in Miami, at the Turnberry Golf & Yacht Club. Shortly thereafter, when Jack came to New York to work on a movie, I played with him at the Garden City Golf Club on Long Island, where guests are required to wear jackets in the clubhouse and write their names and addresses down in a big fat old leather book that's been the tradition since the club opened in the late 1800s.
A few days before our scheduled round of golf, I told Jack about wearing a jacket, and he just laughed. So I figured he would show up with a casual Armani shirt, and test the club rule. But on the day of the game, he did show up wearing a sport jacket. The only thing is, it was canary yellow like the one he wore in Prizzi's Honor.
A couple of minutes later we were greeted by our host, member Jim Dunn, who, like me and the rest of the club members, was dressed in a blue blazer. After Dunn took one look at Jack, whom he was meeting for the very first time, he simply said: "It's kind of hot, Jack, so it's okay if you want to take your jacket off." Being "The Joker" that Nicholson is, he waited a while, just to see the expressions on the faces of the other members.
Now if only I can get Jack to come down for our special film festival -using golf as the lure-I'm sure nobody will mind if he shows up at the Ritz-Carlton for a black-tie affair wearing his favorite Italian silk yellow jacket.
If you read this column, you know that I place great emphasis on the rules set down by the United States Golf Association, since after all they can save you strokes and help you win a match.
Here's a rule pertaining to scoring that you'd better learn, especially if you're competing in a tournament at your own Sarasota club or one you are visiting.
Situation: During a stroke play tournament, Player A scores birdie-two on hole 16. Player B, who is keeping Player A's official score, pencils in a par three for that same hole.
Common mistake: After the round, Player A quickly checks the scorecard made out by Player B, signs it, then returns it to the tournament committee. Since the score recorded was higher than actually taken, and Player A attested the card, the score as returned shall stand in accordance with Rule 6-6d. In the 1968 Masters championship, Roberto DeVicenzo, the great player from Argentina, signed a wrong scorecard. His fellow competitor and scorekeeper, Tommy Aaron, wrote down a four for DeVicenzo's score on hole 17 when he should have written down a three. Unfortunately, DeVicenzo attested the official card, so the score of four stood, making his total 66 instead of 65. Worse still, that mistake cost DeVicenzo the championship. American Bob Goalby was declared the winner.
As a matter of note, if Player A had signed a card that showed a score lower than his actual score, he would have been disqualified in accordance with the rules of golf.
Correct procedure: You are responsible to yourself, and to your fellow players, for turning in an accurate score on each hole. So before signing a scorecard and returning it to the committee, carefully check the score written down on each and every hole.
This month, I want to talk to you about making a strong effort to play faster without ruining your enjoyment of the game.
What follows are some basic rules of etiquette I suggest you follow, since we don't want our courses to ever get backed up, as is the case in so many other cities.
Rule 1: When preparing to play a tee shot, limit yourself to one practice swing.
Rule 2: After you drive, start thinking about what club you will play next on your approach shot to the green.
Rule 3: Be ready to hit when you're "away" (farther from the green than your fellow players).
Rule 4: Watch the flight of a fellow player's wayward shot, so you can locate it right away in the rough or trees.
Rule 5: Avoid taking cellular phone calls and holding up your group.
Rule 6: Let faster golfers play through.
Rule 7: When lining up a putt, look at the break from behind the ball and or the hole, not from both sides of the line, too.
Rule 8: Wait until you reach the next tee to write down the scores from the previous hole. That way, players behind you can hit their approach shots without the fear of hitting you or a fellow player standing near the green-and keep the pace of the round moving at a steady but comfortable pace.
SARASOTA'S JOHN ANDRISANI recently received the United States Teachers Federation Media Award for outstanding golf instructional writing in books and magazines. Send questions and comments to John at [email protected]