If Dionysus could have joined a golf club, it would have been The Oaks, a perfect place to indulge in wonderful golf, gourmet food, vintage wine, and the warm company of wonderful members and guests.
Located off U.S. Route 41 in Osprey, The Oaks is one of the most expensive clubs in our area; and if you're lucky enough to become a member or play as a guest, you'll know why immediately. From the time you drive through the gated guardhouse, past the giant stone eagle, turn left and see the Southern-style clubhouse, play either the Eagle or Heron golf courses, enjoy a drink in the grille room bar (or in the library, a magnificent room that general manager Steven Geisler told me was actually dismantled and shipped in from Europe), or savor fine food in a dining room filled with English and French antiques as well as rare oil paintings, you'll realize immediately how special The Oaks Club is.
I played both 18-hole courses at The Oaks, and agree with the club's first assistant professional, Kelly Hall, that the Heron course, featuring numerous doglegs, is more of a shot-maker's design. The Eagle course, featuring narrow holes on both front and back nines, is geared more to the accurate hitter.
Whichever course you play, a day at The Oaks will be more than just a golf experience. In fact, as you pass by the colorful flowers that adorn the course you'll feel as if you're in an arboretum, while on other holes the views of waterways meandering through tall oaks and other trees will be reminiscent of a Hudson River painting. Yes, The Oaks is that stunningly beautiful.
In fact, all of the par-three, par-four, and par-five holes are so good that I cannot deem one a favorite "signature" hole. I will say this-unless you're an exceptionally long and straight hitter of a golf ball, don't even think about playing the black tees. From the black markers, the Eagle course measures 6,842 yards and the Heron course 6,695 yards; but because neither layout features fast-running fairways, you'll feel like you're playing a monstrous 7,200-yard long track. Take it from me as a low-handicap golfer, the blue tees are challenging enough.
Although there are tennis courts, a swimming pool, and a croquet court at The Oaks, this place has the feel of a pure golf club versus country club. There's a variety of resident and non-resident memberships available.
The Oaks Club
650 N. Tamiami Trail, Osprey
Information: (800) 818-8692
True Sarasota golfers, as opposed to recreational players, talk Golf-speak. So let me help you learn the language by defining some of the more familiar words concerning the subject of golf equipment, muttered by golf purists during a round.
Blade: This is a fancy word used by low-handicap players to describe the head of a golf club.
Bounce: Extra metal added to the bottom of a sand wedge, below the club's leading edge, that's designed to serve as a rudder and allow the club-head to slide through the sand more easily to help the golfer recover from a bunker.
Cambered stick: A super-lofted club featuring a curved bottom or sole, typically with metal ribs, designed to plow through rough or high grass and lift the ball into the air.
Cavity back: A type of iron club with weight removed from directly behind the clubface (creating a cavity) and distributed evenly around the perimeter of the club-head. Perimeter- weighted clubs are more forgiving on off-center hits.
Face: The hitting area of the club-head.
Flat stick: What good golfers call a putter.
Kick point: The point on the club-shaft where it snaps or kicks the club-head forward at high speed into the ball.
L-wedge: A 60-degree lob-wedge.
Peg: A wooden tee.
PW: Short for pitching wedge.
Sand iron: Synonymous with sand wedge, a club for hitting shots out of sand bunkers guarding a green.
Sweet spot: The center of the clubface or hitting area.
Three-metal: A fairway club made of metal and featuring around 16 degrees of loft.
John Anselmo, the man who taught Tiger Woods from the ages of 10 to 18, visited me quite recently, here in Sarasota, to discuss plans for a new golf instruction book. Since Tiger's in a slump, I asked his former guru coach what he would do to help Tiger stop hitting the very same shot that plagues average golfers: a block to the right of the fairway that usually ends up in trees or deep rough and costs us vital strokes.
In answering my question, Anselmo cited Tiger's problem first. Apparently, Tiger's pulling the club back with his hands, so far inside the target line that it's virtually impossible for him to return the clubface to a square impact position on the downswing. Instead, the clubface finishes open or pointing right of target, thereby creating the wayward shot.
To solve this problem, in Tiger's swing or your own, Anselmo recommends that you stop directing the club back with your hands. Instead, create the proper backswing path by rotating your shoulders clockwise and letting the hands and arms go along for the ride. That way, the club will swing along the proper path automatically and be poised to arrive at impact in a square position. The result: powerfully accurate shots rather than blocked shots hit right of target.
In playing golf around town, I've noticed that the majority of players are fairly well versed on the basic rules of golf that include what to do when hitting a ball out of bounds, losing a ball, or dealing with an unplayable lie. However, when it comes to less common course situations, the typical weekend golfer is lost. Therefore, let's look at the common mistake and correct procedure involving playing a provisional ball.
Situation: Player A thinks his 180-yard tee shot could be lost in deep rough, so he plays a provisional ball-another shot, just in case the first one's lost. (The provisional ball finishes 200 yards down the fairway.) Then, Player A walks with his caddy to the area where he believes the first ball landed.
Common mistake: After searching for the ball for about three minutes, Player A instructs his caddy to keep looking while he goes and plays a second shot with the provisional ball. The ball lands on the green. Player A then turns to his caddy and says, "Let's go," even though there's still a little over a minute left on the five-minute clock to discover the first ball. Suddenly, Player A's caddy says, "I've got your first ball."
Player A decides to play his original ball. He has now played a wrong ball. That's because, once he hit his approach shot with the provisional ball, which was beyond the point where the original ball lay, it became the ball in play.
The penalty for such a breach is loss of hole in match play. In stroke play, Player A would be penalized two strokes (under Rule 15-3), and would have to play out the hole with the correct ball, which, in this case, is the provisional. If he failed to do that and then teed off on the next hole, he would be disqualified. The reason is, he would not have recorded a true score with a ball in play.
Correct procedure: Once you play a shot with a provisional ball that's beyond the point where your original ball is likely to be, you're committed by Rule 27-2B to play the entire hole out with that provisional ball. In the situation cited, once Player A hit his approach shot with the provisional, the provisional ball then became the ball in play.
Recently I revealed the favorite "Palm Beach" drink of Walter Hagen, one of golf's former greats and a frequent visitor to Sarasota during the 1920s. Well, now let me introduce Hagen to all of you who share his Sagittarius birth sign (Hagen was born on Dec. 21), so that you can learn a few secrets to shaving strokes off your score without changing your swing. I learned these secrets that follow from reading Golf Astrology, a wonderfully entertaining book by Mark Oman, who offers this advice to Sagittarius golfers.
In forming the perfect foursome, play with an Aries golfer, an Aquarius, and a Libra. You'll admire Aries' fire and spirit for the game. Aquarius' cool and detached nature will have a positive affect on your golf. And the Libra golfer will add balance and harmony to your game.
The best color to wear while playing is purple, since it enhances your spirit and energy level and keeps you sharp mentally.
SPECIALTY OF THE CLUBHOUSE
Mr. Big's 19th Hole on Clark Road is fast becoming a new hangout for golfers, many of whom visit after playing the Bobby Jones Complex.
Bobby Jones, the legendary golfer who lived in Sarasota during the mid-1920s and sold real estate around Whitfield Estates, is best known for his championship play. Well, it's also no secret that he liked Scotch. Therefore, in his memory, why not stop over at Mr. Big's to try a Scotch Citrus.
This drink is comprised of one ounce Scotch, three-quarter ounces of grapefruit juice, one-half ounce of sweet vermouth, and one half-ounce triple sec. To prepare, simply add some crushed ice, shake, then strain into good-sized cocktail glasses.
SARASOTA'S JOHN ANDRISANI, the former senior editor of instruction at GOLF Magazine and the author of more than 25 books, including The Tiger Woods Way, is a former winner of the World Golf Writer's Championship. Send questions and comments to John at firstname.lastname@example.org