I chose to visit University Park Country Club for two reasons: (1) I was curious to see just how good a golf facility it is, considering Golf Digest magazine gave it a four-star rating and Florida Golf News named it the No. 1 course in Southwest Florida; and (2) I wanted to check out a rumor I had heard that the course was soon to be closed to the public and become a members-only private club.
In visiting University Park, I can tell you that all three nine-hole course-Diamond, Emerald and Platinum-certainly rank very highly on my list. Each layout is challenging, in tiptop shape, and aesthetically pleasing. I found all the holes strong tests, yet my favorites are the par-five 533-yard seventh on the Diamond course, the 420-yard par-four sixth hole on the Emerald, and the par-three 176-yard 11th hole on the Platinum.
The good news is the public is welcome to play from 11 a.m. on Monday through Saturday and after 1 p.m. on Sunday. Golfers can call for a tee time three days in advance all year long.
University Park's amenities include the Park Grille and Café Restaurant, tennis courts, fitness workout room, croquet and lawn bowling, pro shop and an outstanding driving range and practice area. So if it's the country club life you're looking for, this could be just the place for you and your family.
UNIVERSITY PARK COUNTRY CLUB
7671 Park Blvd., University Park
THE LINGO If you want to become a true golfer and mingle with Sarasota's finest players, you must learn the language of Golf-speak. Here are some tips to help you get started and better communicate with the other players in your foursome.
Barkie: In a betting game, a player wins a point for a "barkie" when he or she scores par on a particular hole after hitting the bark of a tree.
Banana ball: A slice shot that curves left to right, forming the shape of a banana.
Flat plane: A swing in which the club is swung around the torso and well inside the target line.
Hood: To tilt the club-head downward slightly, toward the target, in preparation for hitting a low punch shot.
Steep plane: Swinging the club back on such an exaggerated upright plane that a faulty chopping action at impact and a weak shot are inevitable.
Under-clubbing: Hitting too weak a club into a green (such as an eight-iron instead of a seven-iron).
It's not surprising that so many golfers-from the average amateur to pro Michelle Wie-violate the rules of golf. After all, I think they need to be simplified by the United States Golf Association. Until they are, let me help you understand what to do if you run into an embedded-ball situation and there's no tournament official around to help you understand the Rules of Golf book.
Situation: Player A's ball falls short of the green, embedding in the wet, sandy bank of a regular water hazard marked by yellow stakes.
Common mistake: Player A picks his ball out of the embedded lie. Next, he drops it next to the spot where it was embedded. He feels he's entitled to a drop because he knows that Rule 25-2 allows a ball embedded in its own pitch mark, in a closely mowed area through the green, to be lifted, cleaned and dropped without penalty.
Player A has misinterpreted the language contained in the aforesaid rule. The phrase "through the green" refers to the entire area of the course, except the teeing area and the green of the hole being played, and any and all hazards on the course.
Because a ball in a hazard is not allowed to be removed from its "plug," Player A shall be penalized two strokes under Rule 18-2.
Correct procedure: Player A can play the ball out of the embedded lie. Alternatively, he can exercise the option of acting under the yellow water hazard rule (Rule 26) and do either of the following:
(1) Go back and play a shot from the original spot from which he last hit the ball, and add one stroke to his score or, (2) Keep the point where the ball last crossed the margin of the hazard between the player and the hole, and go back as far as he or she likes on that line. Drop the ball and, again, add one stroke to the score before playing another shot.
TIPS FROM THE PROS
One chief reason amateurs fail to save par from around the greens is because they hit poor chip shots.
To improve your chipping game, follow these instructions from Darren Dimick, the head golf professional at Misty Creek Country Club.
Position the ball opposite your left heel, with your hands ahead of it and 60 percent of your weight on your left foot. Swing back, keeping wrist action to a minimum, and swing through, keeping your hands ahead of the club-head while also maintaining ample acceleration to make solid contact with the ball on a slightly descending angle.
FUN & GAMES
If you or your golfing partners are looking to heighten the fun-factor of your round of 18 holes, try playing Bingle, Bangle, Bungle. Here's how this popular game works.
Three points are up for grabs. One goes to the player reaching the green first; the second goes to whoever is closest to the hole when all the balls in the group are on the green; and the third goes to the player who hits his or her ball into the hole first. The winner is the player with the most points at the end of the round.
SPECIALTY OF THE CLUBHOUSE
Since Valentine's Day is this month, while you're celebrating at one of Sarasota's fine bars or restaurants, think of Cole Porter's wonderful romantic songs, or better yet, have them played on a piano while you try this wonderfully delicious concoction that I was first introduced to at the superbly tasteful San Francisco Golf Club. Porter had a taste for the good life, and absolutely loved champagne. I guess he thought it a good accompaniment to romance. I do, too, so give this drink a whirl.
Drink: Champagne Blue
One-half ounce lemon juice
Two dashes of blue Curaçao
One ounce vodka
Preparation: Shake ingredients with crushed ice, strain into a champagne flute, then fill glass with your favorite champagne.
SARASOTA'S JOHN ANDRISANI is the former senior editor of instruction at GOLF Magazine and the author of more than 25 books, including his latest, Tiger's New Swing.