When Sarasota golfers hear the name Prestancia, it strikes a special chord, similar to a New Yorker hearing Sutton Place mentioned. Both are very special, both very posh.
The streets are not paved with gold at Prestancia, but they sure weave through a wide expanse of scenic acreage, where gorgeous homes are neighbor to even finer golf courses, most notably the TPC Stadium course.
Frankly, I feel more comfortable at a pure golf club than a country club, especially if it features an old-style course, like our very own Sara Bay, for example, designed by legendary architect Donald Ross. Having said that, once in a while I'll discover a modern-day country club that I like very much, and The Tournament Players Club at Prestancia, a PGA Tour facility, sure fits the bill for several reasons.
1. The beautifully manicured TPC Stadium Course, designed by Mike Souchak and Ron Garl, features numerous signature holes that are quite short by today's standards but still very challenging to low, medium, and high handicap players.
2. The practice facility, covering 93,000 square feet, is one of the country's best, and gives golfers the opportunity to work on their tee-to-green game.
3. The 35,000-square-foot Mediterranean-style clubhouse features a first-rate golf pro shop and is a splendid place to dine and relax with fellow members and guests.
4. The swimming and tennis amenities please adult sportsmen and children.
5. The PGA Tour and the TPC network of clubs, including Prestancia, have a partnership with The First Tee Program to promote junior golf.
6. The facility, located in the heart of Palmer Ranch, offers a 90-day trial membership between May 1 and Oct. 1, which is a rare offer at private clubs. Approved or invited members who pay monthly dues for 90 days receive 10-day advance starting time privileges, unlimited green fees, and use of the practice facility. Also, should a trial member move forward on a full membership after the 90-day time frame, he or she will be entitled to six months of delayed monthly dues upon payment of the club's initiation fee.
For information on golf membership at Prestancia, call Bryan Schacht, director of marketing, at 922-2800.
Tournament Players Club at Prestancia
4409 Tournament Players Club Drive, Sarasota
Pro shop: 924-1331
Just in case you get paired up with low handicap golfers who speak the strange language of the links-golf-speak-here's what to expect to hear them say to each other and what they really mean.
Golfer: "I caught a flyer out of the hay."
Translation: "In hitting a shot out of thick rough, the ball flew hot off the clubface, going 20 yards farther than normal."
Golfer: "That was too big a carry to get there with the knife."
Translation: "The distance to the green was too long for me to fly the ball in the air, with a one-iron, all the way to the green."
Golfer: "I went low to win."
Translation: "I shot a low score to win the tournament."
Golfer: "On seven, I stuck a wedge in tight, then holed the deuce."
Translation: "On hole seven, a par-three hole, I hit a wedge shot very close to the hole, then sunk the putt for a birdie two."
Golfer: "I lobbed it up to tap-in range."
Translation: "I hit a soft landing short pitch shot to within a foot of the hole."
When I first met Don Guercio, general manager of BLAB Television (Channel 21), he told me some of his most enjoyable golf days in Sarasota involved playing with basketball legend Michael Jordan, and showed me photographs of them together in golf attire. What "Donnie" neglected to tell me was that Jordan is a member of the Golf Nut Society, started in 1986 by Ron Garland, author of Golf Nuts.
This is quite a funny book, so I suggest searching the Web or your local bookstore for a copy. In Golf Nuts, Jordan explains how he became an official certified nut. Let me recount just one story.
"I've done some pretty crazy things to feed my golf habit," said Jordan. "Like the time that I was a no-show for my first NBA MVP award presentation. Everybody was in Chicago-except me. I was at Pinehurst Country Club playing 36 holes a day with my golf buddies."
The Golf Nuts Society entrance exam will tell you how nuts you are about golf. Here are just three samples to show you how the point system works and help determine the severity of your disease.
Have you been threatened with divorce over golf at least once?
Yes answer = 100 points.
Have you played hooky from work to play golf?
Yes = 100 points.
Bonus: 100 points if you got caught by your boss; 200 points if you got fired.
Do you say: "I hate this game!" after a bad shot, at least once during almost every round?
Yes = 50 points
Bonus: 50 points if it takes just one good shot for you to say, "I love this game."
PGA Tour golfer and Bradenton resident Paul Azinger, who often plays our city's courses when not competing against the likes of Tiger Woods, became a rules expert after unknowingly breaking the rules during an official tournament a few years back-an infraction that cost him a two-stroke penalty and a lot of money.
To shoot lower scores without revamping your swing, you also should learn the rules, especially Rule 13-3, which is frequently broken by amateur golfers when playing a shot from a sand bunker. This lesson will help you learn how to handle this situation.
Situation: Player A's ball rests on a steep downhill line next to the back of the sand bunker.
Common mistake: In taking his stance, Player A finds it very difficult to feel balanced. Therefore, he digs his right foot deeper and deeper into the sand, in an attempt to essentially create a level lie. Still not comfortable, he lifts his right foot out of its deep print. Next, he kicks sand back into the hole left by his foot. Finally, he takes his address and plays the shot. Because he built a stance, he has just breached the rules. The penalty for building a stance is two strokes.
Correct procedure: In taking your stance in a bunker, you are allowed to wriggle and set your feet firmly in the sand. You cannot, however, build a stance.
Knowing the late Bing Crosby's affinity for golf, it would not surprise me to learn that he once played our wonderful courses. I mean, after all, Crosby, born under the sign of Taurus (April 20-May 20), loved to travel and play new courses, he had his own golf tournament, the Bing Crosby Pro-Am in Monterey, Calif., and, with respect, died on a golf course in Majorca.
Like most golfers born under the same sign, Crosby used to swing too hard from time to time. It's ironic that his style of singing was so smooth while the tempo of his golf swing was so fast. However, former U.S. Open champion Ken Venturi, with whom I have collaborated on golf articles many times, told me he helped Bing smooth out his swing tempo and rhythm by improving his footwork. All Venturi suggests is that you concentrate on shifting weight to your right heel on the backswing and left heel on the downswing-in a smooth one-two "beat."
Specialty of the Clubhouse
The next best thing to staying at the Gasparilla Inn on Boca Grande, and playing golf at Gasparilla, is to visit bartender Rimon at the 19th hole and have him prepare you a Dark and Stormy.
Just in case your schedule does not allow you to make the short trip to Gasparilla, here's how to prepare this wonderful drink.
Step one: Pour one and one-half ounces of Gosling's Bermuda Black Rum into a tall glass with cracked ice.
Step two: Top up glass with ginger beer.
Step three: Stir lightly.
Step four: Garnish with a twist of lime.
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@example.com