If you fly into Sarasota Bradenton Airport during the winter months, you'll notice a big advertisement in the lobby for Oak Ford. Oak Ford's also advertised in local newspapers and other publications. The trouble is, many golfers skip over the ads with their eyes because the last thing they need is another car. Yes, golfers think they are looking at advertisements for automobiles-not a golf course. At least, that's my opinion.
Other golfers have heard of Oak Ford, but rumors around town are that it's "way out in the country."
Let me set the record straight, since I just visited Oak Ford. First, it's more of a Rolls-Royce- type course. Second, it's only 20 minutes from town off Fruitville Road, a mere eight miles east of I-75.
"We are a little bit out of the way, and a lot out of the ordinary," says Dusty Swartz, Oak Ford's director of golf sales and marketing and the son of owners Dave and Sherry Swartz, a couple who know the golf business, having owned a course in Indiana.
Oak Ford is a 27-hole public course facility, although annual and seasonal memberships are available. All three nine-hole courses-Myrtle, Palms, and Live Oaks-are part of a 500-acre wildlife preserve, so don't be surprised if a hawk flies over your head while you're setting to drive or a deer walks by as you line up a putt.
Although the holes are tree-lined, the course is not so narrow that it's unfair. What's more, extra-smooth fairways and greens make it a pleasure to play, as does the super-serene setting. One reason the course is in such good shape: Another family member, Trace Swartz, is the course superintendent.
Unless you're a very good golfer, I would not recommend the Gold tees. The course is challenging enough from the Blue, White, or Red tee markers.
If you want to take a peek at the facility, visit the course for breakfast or lunch or stop by at the 19th hole for a drink. They have a great chef, and Dusty will be glad to show you around. Like me, I guarantee, you will be pleasantly surprised-by the inexpensive price for greens fee and cart, the superb quality of the course, and how fast you can play 18 holes.
Oak Ford Golf Club
1552 Palm View Road, Sarasota
Call 1-888-881-3673 or 371-3680 for tee times, fees and course hours.
There's a good chance you have played the game "Trash" on the golf course, with points given to the golfer who scores par on a hole after his or her shot hits a tree ("Barkie"), lands in a sand bunker ("Sandy"), or hits a road ("Roadie").
Now, after a recent round at Sarasota's Sara Bay Country Club, I learned that the point system has been expanded and the game is really catching on. My advice is to get hip to the new lingo so you're prepared, just in case you join this outstanding private club or get invited to play as a guest.
Appearance: You earn an Appearance point when you win the previous hole and earn the honor on the following tee.
Hazardi: You earn a Hazardi point when you save par after playing a shot from a hazard on the course.
Hogan: In honor of legendary golfer Ben Hogan, one of the game's most consistently accurate players, you win a Hogan point when you hit the fairway off the tee, the green on your approach, then take two putts for par.
Nasty: You win a Nasty point when sinking a difficult putt for par or birdie from a lie off the green that very often is nasty.
Pole-e: You win a Pole-e point after sinking a putt for par or birdie from a distance longer than the length of the flagstick (pole).
One way to save shots without revamping your swing is to learn the rules of golf. By knowing what to do in certain course situations, you can avoid making matters worse by being penalized and adding strokes to your score unnecessarily. This month's lesson involves the wrong and right procedures involving a ball in motion striking a player's golf cart.
Situation: On a par-five hole, Player C shanks a short pitch third shot, meaning that the neck or shank of the club, rather than its sweet spot or central portion of the clubface, contacts the ball. The ball darts off to the right, practically at a 90-degree angle, hits Player C's motorized golf cart, and then rebounds onto the green.
Common mistake: Player C picks the ball up off the green before dropping it next to the spot where it contacted her cart. Next, she chips the ball close to the hole. Finally, she putts the ball into the cup, for what she believes is a score of five. Wrong! Player C violated Rule 10-2.
Correct procedure: Player C should have played her fourth shot from the spot where the ball came to rest on the green, after penalizing herself two strokes.
Basketball icon Michael Jordan, who's played quite a bit of golf in our town, hits the ball a long way in the air off the tee, rather than picking up added distance by hitting a low running drive. In order to promote longer carry, which is a particular advantage when the wind is at your back, follow these instructions given to me by Tiger Woods' former teacher John Anselmo, who analyzed Jordan's technique:
1. Tee the ball up high and position it opposite your left instep.
2. Position your hands behind the ball slightly when taking your address.
3. Swing the club back on an upright plane or angle, letting your right wrist hinge freely at the top.
4. Swing down, concentrating on keeping your head behind the ball, rotating your right shoulder under your chin, and waiting for the last split second to straighten your right wrist.
Even if you can't play a lick, it's still important to look the part, particularly if you're playing a round of golf with business clients. Take this test to determine whether you're a golfing nerd. Answering yes to five of the following questions is a warning that you'd better change your ways-fast!
Question 1: Is there a toothbrush hanging from the side of your golf bag?
Question 2: Are there plastic tubes in your golf bag, for holding each of 14 clubs?
Question 3: Are the heads of your iron clubs protected by red plastic covers?
Question 4: Do you carry a small white towel in your hip pocket when playing golf?
Question 5: Do you wear dark socks with shorts when playing golf?
Question 6: Do you wear a porkpie type golf hat?
It's always good to know a few jokes so you can break the ice during a tense match, feel more comfortable when being paired up with golfers you don't know, or make the 19th-hole experience more amusing.
Here are a few short jokes I learned while browsing through the book, 10,000 Jokes, Toasts, & Stories, edited by Lewis and Faye Copeland.
Sunday School Teacher: "Willie, do you know what becomes of boys who use bad language when they're playing marbles?"
Willie: "Yes. They grow up and play golf."
Physician (to patient): "You're all run down. I suggest you lay off golf for a while and get a good rest at the office."
Golfer: (far off in the woods bordering the fairway): "Say, caddy, why do you keep looking at your watch?"
Caddy: "It isn't a watch, sir, it's a compass."
High Handicap Golfer (to his caddy): "Well, how do you like my game?'
Caddy: "I suppose it's all right, but I still prefer golf."
Specialty of the Clubhouse
In my library is a signed copy of the book, The 100 Greatest Athletes Of All Time, by renowned sportswriter Burt Randolph Sugar, who I spent some time with in the bar of The Creek Club on Long Island a couple of summers ago when playing in the annual Wall Street Charity Classic.
During our conversation the name Babe Ruth inevitably came up.
"Back in those Prohibition days, Ruth always found a way to get his hands on booze, and just as miraculously found a way to show up at the ball park looking sober and belt home runs over the center field wall," said Sugar.
Ruth was also known for getting his hands on good booze while wintering in Sarasota during the 1920s, where he had a reputation for drinking all night, then going straight to the golf course, where he hit long drives and played par-golf.
A baseball fanatic and good friend of mine, Greg Hood, informed me that Ruth's favorite drink was a Gin Cooler. Sounds like the perfect remedy for long hot summers, so let me give you the most important information.
2 oz. gin
1 oz. lemon juice
1 dash Angostura bitters
1 egg white, beaten
Shake ingredients together and pour into a tall glass. Add crushed ice, then garnish with fresh mint sprig. (Note: The modern version of this drink includes crème de menthe as an added ingredient.)
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 firstname.lastname@example.org