Lake Venice Golf Club, a facility open to the public, is a fantastic place to test your golf skills. Regardless of your handicap, you'll find all three nine-hole "tracks" challenging. No matter what combination you choose, you'll be required to play every club in your bag and work the ball around with control to avoid trees, sand traps and numerous water hazards.
I was amazed to find out that Lake Venice has been around since 1959 and wondered why it never gets any real "ink," considering it's close to Sarasota, has a nice variety of par-three, par-four and par-five holes, and is in such good shape.
Located very near the Gulf of Mexico, this Island of Venice golf club where you can choose to walk or ride anytime, with no booked tee times necessary, is deserving of your attention. In fact, now that many of your golf partners have returned back up North, why not give this course a try and meet some new friends and have a drink at the 19th hole? Trust me, you'll feel welcome by the staff and guests at Lake Venice.
LAKE VENICE GOLF CLUB
1801 S. Harbor Drive, Venice, (941) 488-3948
THE LINGO If you find yourself trying to figure out what in the world your playing partners are saying, it's time you brushed up on Golf-speak, the language of the links. Here's a crash-course for building your vocabulary.
Closed face: When the hitting area of the club-head, called the face, points left of target.
Open face: When the hitting area of the club-head aims right of target.
Ground under repair: An area of the golf course being worked on, usually marked off by rope. If a player lands in a G.U.R., he or she is entitled to a free drop clear of the problem area.
Outside-in: The player swings the club back on a path outside the target line, then down on a path inside the target line.
Pull slice: A shot that starts left of target, then turns dramatically right.
Square face: When the face of the club is at a right angle to the target, or square to it.
Snake: A curling putt of 50 feet or more.
Tempo: The speed of the swing; slow or fast.
TIPS FROM THE PROS
If you're a golfer who usually hits thin, line-drive shots out of fluffy sand, rather than lofted shots that carry the lip and land softly next to the hole, here's some advice from Joe Mann, the head golf professional of Rolling Green Golf Club.
Set up open, aiming your feet and body slightly left of target with about 60 percent of your weight on your left foot. Position the ball opposite your left instep.
On the backswing, hinge the wrists early and swing the club back on an upright angle.
On the downswing, unhinge the wrists and slap the bounce of the club into a spot about two inches behind the ball. Follow through.
THE RULES Sarasota County has a lot of good local golfers who, from my experience, truly know the rules of golf. Having said that, many middle- and high-handicap players do not know the rules very well, either because they lack experience or simply because the rules are so darn complicated. Let me set the record straight on a rule involving building a stance in a bunker.
Situation: Player B's ball rests on a steep downhill lie next to the back lip of a sand bunker.
Common mistake: In taking her stance, with her right foot so much higher than her left, Player B finds it extremely difficult to balance. She digs her right foot deeper and deeper into the sand until creating a level lie. Next, she plays the shot. Because she built a stance, she breached Rule 13-3. The penalty for building a stance is two strokes.
Correct procedure: In taking your stance in a bunker, you're allowed to wriggle your feet and set them firmly in the sand. You cannot, however, build a stance to give yourself an advantage.
FUN AND GAMES If your regular foursome is in search of a new game to play on the course, try Instant Replay. Here's how it works.
Each player gets to replay the same number of shots equal to his or her handicap. For example, if your handicap is 14, you'll be given 14 "mulligan" shots during a round.
This game goes a lot faster than you think, because players are happy to get a second chance. Still, it's a game best played in the early morning or on a quiet afternoon when the course is not crowded. As usual, the player with the lowest score wins.
SPECIALTY OF THE CLUBHOUSE
Just as Sarasota is one of the more sophisticated cities on the west coast of Florida, Bermuda is one of the most sophisticated places in the Caribbean. Let me share with you a wonderful libation I first sipped when staying and playing golf at the Belmont, a lovely little hotel and club near the quaint town of Hamilton. The drink, I was told, was named after the birds I heard singing in the still of the night. Both have a calming effect on your nerves.
1 ounce lime juice
1 ounce orange juice
1/4 ounce Galliano
1 ounce white rum
1 ounce dark rum
Shake ingredients with crushed ice. Strain into a Collins glass half filled with crushed ice. Garnish with mint sprig.
John Andrisani is the former senior editor of instruction at GOLF Magazine and the author of nearly 30 books, including his latest, Tiger's New Swing.