No matter what private or public club I visit in our area, when the round is over and I'm eavesdropping on other players sitting at nearby 19th-hole tables, as is the golf writer's job, almost without fail I'll hear a golfer ask someone, "Have you played Waterlefe?"
I understand why golfers get excited about this wonderful course, located so close to Sarasota; it's certainly worth visiting, particularly now, when many of your club's regular members are probably back up North, playing golf on the Cape or in Nantucket, or simply taking in the sun and salty smell of the sea in the Vineyard.
The Waterlefe Golf and River Club is semi-private, and because many year-round residents play it regularly, I suggest you call up seven days in advance to book a tee time. It's that popular.
The expression "water, water everywhere" describes Waterlefe well, as several of the holes border the Manatee River, and manmade water hazards dot the course. Unless you're a low-handicap golfer who thrives on a tough challenge, my advice is to think twice about playing the back tees of the five featured, or else you could find yourself hitting lots of shots into the drink.
What I like most about Waterlefe's layout is that the first hole is a par five, always easier than starting on a par three or par four. After this opener, you will find yourself having to work the ball left or right on dogleg holes in order to stay out of trees and rough bordering the fairways and hit accurate approach shots avoiding the sand bunkers that guard the greens. Hole 18 is an eye opener, since it requires the ultimate shot-making precision to hit an on-target shot onto an island green. Miss the putting surface, and I guarantee you'll score bogie or worse and be the one buying cocktails in the clubhouse bar.
WATERLEFE GOLF & RIVER CLUB
1022 Fish Hook Cove, Bradenton (941) 744-9771
THE LINGO: If you're a newcomer to the Sarasota golf scene, you'd better take this refresher course on "Golf-speak," the language of the links.
Blade: To hit the ball with the club-head's leading edge rather than the center of the clubface.
Dead: A shot that lands inches from the hole is considered dead.
Duck-hook: A shot that flies dramatically from right to left.
Fried egg: A partially buried lie in a bunker. When a ball lands in sand it partially embeds itself and displaces the sand, giving the lie the appearance of a fried egg.
Match play: A hole-by-hole format of competing. The player with the lowest score wins the hole. The player who wins the most holes wins the match.
Roadie: If a player goes on to score par after his or her ball hits a paved road inside the boundary of the course, a point for a roadie is awarded.
Stroke play: In a stroke-play competition, the winner is simply the player who shoots the lowest total score.
THE RULES: When playing in a match-play competition, you must be especially careful of how you tee up the ball, as the following situation will illustrate.
Situation: Player A hits a tee shot 10 feet from the cup on a par-three hole.
Common mistake: Even though Player A hit a very good shot, he made the error of teeing up the ball more than two club-lengths behind the tee markers.
In a match-play event there is no penalty, but Player A's opponent, Player B, has the right to ask him to re-tee the ball and play the shot again within the boundaries of the teeing area as defined by the rules of golf. The same procedures would apply if Player A hit a shot from in front of the tee markers. He still would have played outside the teeing ground.
In the course situation described, Player B would surely ask Player A to hit another shot, with Player B betting on Player A to be upset and hit a bad shot.
Correct procedure: When teeing off on a par-three, par-four or par-five hole, the player must tee off within a rectangular area two club-lengths from the tee markers. The front and sides of the imaginary rectangle are defined by the limits of the two markers. The ball is considered outside the teeing area when it lies fully outside the rectangle. Rule 11 covers the teeing ground.
TIPS FROM THE PROS
Having written numerous instruction books with the best tour professionals and top golf instructors in the world, I admit to being surprised by this exceptionally good tip given to me by Josh Harris, assistant professional at Heritage Oaks Country Club. The tip is designed to help golfers recover from a buried lie in sand, when the bunker features a low lip and there's about 60 feet of green between the fringe and the hole. If you encounter such a lie, here's what to do.
Set up open, aligning your feet and body left of target. Position the ball opposite your left instep, set the majority of your weight on your left foot and leg, and then lay the face of the club wide open.
Swing the club back well inside the target line. Swing down forcefully, with the neck of the club-head contacting an area of sand two inches behind the ball.
The ball will come out a little "hot," with no backspin, and fly on a low trajectory, but that's good. After carrying the bunker's lip and landing on the green, the ball will roll all the way to the hole.
SPECIALTY OF THE CLUBHOUSE
Tom Kelly, a longtime friend and early retired Wall Street broker, managed to break away from life on Nantucket to play golf with me and some friends in Sarasota. However, the highlight of the week was not the golf, but rather the libation he introduced that, once tried, promises to be a favorite.
Sake Bull Market Martini
1 ounce sake
1 ounce vodka
1 ounce gin
2 dashed dry vermouth
1 lemon peel
Stir vigorously over ice cubes in a mixing glass, strain into a chilled martini glass, add twist of lemon.
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.