November 27, 2014

A Place To Nest

Should a member of Pelican's Nest Golf Club, a private golf club in Bonita Springs, ever ask you if you would like to play a round of golf at this top-notch facility, take my advice and say: "Yes." For your round, you can play either the Gator course, comprised of the Gator and Seminole nines, or the Hurricane course, comprised of the Hurricane and Panther nines. "All are superb golf layouts designed by premier architect Tom Fazio, and every one is in wonderful condition," says Jeff Carter, director of golf.

The good thing about Fazio is he is what is called a strategic designer, meaning that he offers golfers two basic routes: the daring and the conservative. In fact, in a conversation I had with him, I'll never forget his words: "If you take a risk, say try to cut a dogleg or carry the widest part of a water hazard, and succeed, you will be rewarded. However, if you do not hit the shot just right, you will be penalized. The more conservative route will always leave you a clear shot to the green, yet it will be longer than had you gambled and hit the ball pretty much perfectly along a daring line."

In playing Pelican's Nest, you just can't get up and take a wild swipe at the ball, which you can do on many "open" Florida courses. You have to think your way around, concentrating hard on where you want to land the ball in order to be able to attack the flag on your approach shot into the green, and where you want to hit the ball on the green in order to set yourself in the best possible position to score birdie or secure a two-putt par.

Pelican's Nest is a mature course, too. The original 18 holes opened in 1985. The third nine holes was completed in 1988, the fourth in 1993. Because this golf facility, owned by the members since 1995, has been around, the fairways are lush and the greens smooth, making hitting shots a joy.

Based on my research, heed these few words of advice before you play:

* Don't be afraid or embarrassed to take out a wood on the Hurricane course's par-three seventh hole called Eagle Trace, since it plays a hefty 206 yards from the gold tees.

* Use a long iron off the tee on Hurricane's short par four 17th hole called Spring Creek, since water guards the left side of the fairway and trees the right side.

* When playing the Gator course's par four ninth, called Valley of Sin, take out a three wood, since direction more than distance should be your priority on this tough driving hole.

* On the Gator course's par four 18th hole, Black Rush, what most players consider the club's signature hole, keep your tee shot left of center to avoid a cluster of bunkers and hit one or two more clubs than you think into the green, since the putting surface is two-tiered.

You probably won't run into any famous celebrities at Pelican's Nest, yet make no mistake the place has star quality, that extra-special something.

The Lingo

Brush up on your vocabulary with these translations from the Golfspeak:

Albatross: Score, on a hole, of three shots under par. Example: A hole-in-one on a par four.

Army golf: A golfer plays army golf when he or she hits a shot that flies left, another right, another left, and so on. Thus, the marching lingo: left-right, left-right, left-right.

Bermuda: A coarse type of grass common on greens in Bermuda (and Florida) that causes the ball to roll more slowly than across bent-grass greens common on Northeastern golf courses.

Texas wedge shot: A shot hit with a putter, from the fringe grass surrounding a green.

Threading the needle: Hitting a ball through a narrow opening of trees.

The Rules

Knowing the rules helps you avoid penalty strokes and win more matches. Therefore, learn from Player A's following on-course mistake involving putting a new ball in play.

Situation: Player A hits a thin iron shot from the tee, on a par-three hole. Arriving at the ball, lying well right of the green, he notices that it is cut.

Common mistake: Player A puts down a new ball and hits his second shot onto the green. When arriving on the green, Player B his match play opponent notices the new ball with a different number on it. Player B informs Player A the he has just lost the hole for not complying with rule 4-3, which governs putting a new ball in play.

Correct procedure: Before you announce your intention to remove a damaged ball from play, you must give your opponent the opportunity to examine the ball and confirm that it is, indeed, unfit for play.

Winning Tips

PGA Tour pros Scot McCarron and Brad Faxon, two former winners of the Franklin Templeton Shootout, an annual team event hosted at Tiburón in Naples by Greg Norman, take different approaches to putting. Both work, so if you have problems on the greens, you should try each method to see which one helps you sink more putts.

McCarron uses an extra-long 48-inch putter because he thinks it promotes an arms-shoulders controlled stroke. According to McCarron, when you incorporate too much hand and wrist action into the stroke, the tendency is to lift up the putter on the backstroke and chop down on the down-stroke. The long putter helps him keep the putter-head moving low during the putting stroke which, in turn, allows him to roll the ball nicely across the green along the target line. Your lesson: If you consistently miss putts left or right of the hole, try the long putter.

Faxon uses a conventional 36-inch putter, but he incorporates a slight degree of wrist action into his stroke to give him better feel for distance. Your lesson: If your long putts finish well short of the hole, try hinging your right wrist a little on the backstroke. On the downstroke, allow the right wrist to unhinge early, since this causes the putter-head to spring back into the ball and roll it all the way to the hole.

New Products

I never expected to see any golfer better than Jack Nicklaus, but then Tiger Woods emerged on the professional scene a few years ago and has since dominated the PGA Tour.

By the same token, I never expected any golf-club manufacturer to produce a driver that outperforms the longtime popular Big Bertha engineered by Callaway, a California company. Again, I was proved wrong. Power Claw, a Minnesota-based company, has just launched its new Power Claw Titanium-head driver that outperformed Callaway in independent testing and beat out other top competitors, most notably Taylor Made and Ping, in the categories of power and accuracy.

Having played the game of golf for 45 years and tested clubs while senior editor of GOLF Magazine for 16 years, I have experimented with hundreds of drivers. Not one club comes close to the Power Claw when it comes to performance. Its 350-cubic-centimeter club head gives you that can't miss feeling. The long, 46-inch shaft allows you to create a wide swing arc and generate added power. As advantageous as these features are, it's the club's unique Claw hosel designed by principal owners Byron and Elliot Gates, and the club's graphite shaft designed by club-maker (and renowned fishing rod designer) Bobby Loomis, that allow you to launch the ball powerfully into the air toward the target.

The Power Claw is available in metallic black, to prevent sun glare, and in two lofts: nine and 10 degrees. Suggested retail: $359. For further information, call (888) 530-8931.

Specialty of the Clubhouse

If you and the members of your foursome are cigar-smoking Scotch lovers, consider making the Ritz-Carlton Golf Resort your 19th-hole destination.

The Bar at the luxurious new Naples Ritz Carlton, as opposed to the old established hotel near the beach, offers a superb selection of cigars, including Davidoff, Arturo Fuente, and Diamond Crown, plus an array of rare Scotches, most notably Louis XIII, Macallan 1946, and Highland Park 1958.

With leather sofas and mahogany furnishings complemented by two beautiful billiard tables, fireplace, card tables, backgammon and chess setups, you'll know you are in the perfect spot to go over your round, settle your bets, have fun, and appreciate the immortal words of American humorist Mark Twain: "If I cannot smoke cigars in heaven, I shall not go."

Southwest Florida's John Andrisani is former senior editor of instruction at GOLF Magazine and the author of more than 25 books, including The Tiger Woods Way and the recently released Think Like Tiger. Send questions and comments to John at jagolf3238@aol.com