If you're a member of a private club who likes to venture out occasionally to play on one of Sarasota County's public-access courses, or just a golfer who prefers to play a variety of courses rather than belong to a country club, add Bobcat Trail to your list.
"The Cat," as it's known to regulars, is a course designed by PGA TOUR player and former PGA champion Bob Tway. Bobcat is such a great test of golf that it earned four and a half stars from Golf Digest magazine.
Once you play this 18-hole "track," which stretches out to 6,748 yards from the back tee markers, you'll fully appreciate why Golf Digest also ranked Bobcat Trail among Florida's top 30 public-access golf facilities, and why this golf gem has hosted such prestigious events as the Invitational Tour & Club Pro Championship and Senior Invitational.
Wide fairways make the course fair, while undulating greens surrounded by treacherous bunkers test the golfer's nerve and short-game skills. The superb condition of the course makes playing all par-three, par-four and par-five holes a treat, and a welcoming staff is on hand to make you feel like a member of a private club.
The Bobcat course is complemented by first-class amenities, including a practice facility, golf shop, restaurant and lounge, so you'll have no excuse for not having fun at Bobcat. However, should your score not reflect your handicap, my suggestion is to book a lesson with head teaching professional Will Franz, a six-time North Florida PGA Player of the Year.
BOBCAT TRAIL GOLF CLUB
1350 Bobcat Trail, North Port, (941) 429-0500
THE LINGO If you're a new Sarasota golfer or a veteran player who has not spent enough time around low- and medium-handicap golfers, it's time you learned the language of the links: "Golf-speak." That way you'll become a better on-course golf conversationalist and impress your playing partners and business clients. This lesson should help you start building up your golf vocabulary.
Bounce: The extra metal that lies at the base of a wedge's club head, designed to act like a rudder when playing shots out of a sand bunker.
Cut: A left-to-right curving shot, usually played with an iron, so that the ball lands more softly and stops quickly on the green.
Dance floor: The green or putting surface.
Hybrid: A highly lofted club featuring a club-head design that's a cross between a standard iron and a fairway-metal club.
Laid-off: When the club's shaft points well left of the target at the top of a backswing, instead of parallel to the target line (in what teachers call the "classic position").
Looper: What savvy golfers call a caddy.
Sweet spot: The center of the club face that when contacting the golf ball produces the most powerfully accurate shot.
THE RULES Many golfers in our great city would avoid penalty shots if they just sacrificed some playing time for practice time and studied the rules of golf. Make sure you know the rules, especially the one dealing with the common course situation involving a lateral water hazard.
Situation: Player A hits a tee shot that flies 200 yards in the air and lands in the middle of a lateral water hazard. The ball last crossed the margin of the hazard 100 yards off the tee.
Common mistake: Player A, who's competing in a stroke play event, ignores the point at which the ball last crossed the hazard line marked by red stakes. He drops the ball in light rough, adjacent to the hazard and in line with the spot where the ball splashed down, 200 yards from the tee. He penalizes himself one shot and plays on.
First and foremost, Player A had no right merely to drop the ball out sideways, directly across from where the ball came to rest in the lateral water hazard. The penalty for breaching Rule 26 is normally two strokes. In this case, however, the tournament committee would probably consider Player A's breach of the rules serious enough to warrant disqualification under Rule 20-7.
Correct procedure: Here are the five options available to you according to Rule 26.
- Play the ball from inside the hazard and suffer no penalty.
Under the basic stroke and distance option, you can incur a one-stroke penalty and play another shot from the spot where you played your original shot.
Under penalty of one stroke, you can keep the point where the ball last crossed the margin of the hazard between yourself and the hole, go back on that line as far as you like, drop your ball and play another shot from there.
You can incur a one-stroke penalty, drop the ball outside the hazard two club lengths from the point where it last crossed the margin of the hazard and play another shot from there.
You can go to a point on the opposite side of the hazard, equidistant from the point where the ball last crossed the margin of hazard but not nearer the hole. Once that point is determined, you can drop a ball outside the hazard, two club lengths from this opposite point, under penalty of one stroke.
TIPS FROM THE PROS
Every golfer, even Tiger Woods, has hit a severe slice off the tee after swinging the club back well outside the target line and across the ball on the downswing.
Darren King, the golf professional at Sara Bay Country Club, recently shared a simple tip with me for remedying this shot-making problem, and I'd like to now share it with you.
When setting up, put slightly more body weight on your right foot-about 55 percent؏so that your left hip tilts up slightly higher than your right hip. Distributing your weight this way will allow you to make a solid weight shift, fuller turn of the body, and swing the club back on the correct path and plane. The body tilt you established will encourage you to swing down into the perfect on-plane slot, and direct the club along the target line in the hitting area, rather than across the ball. The result: solidly hit, super-accurate shots.
SARASOTA'S JOHN ANDRISANI is the former senior editor of Golf Magazine and the author of more than 25 books, including his latest, Tiger's New Swing.