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Clubbing It


More Southwest Florida golfers are choosing to live in communities that include a course and clubhouse, both for the convenience and the social connections that arise when neighbors become golfing partners and close friends. Some golfers, of course, still prefer to join private clubs, such as the new Calusa Pines Golf Club in Naples, and separate their home life and friends from their club-life partners. Others prefer to play a variety of well-manicured and challenging public courses where they are made to feel like a member for the day. But many recreational golfers, particularly snowbirds and early retirees from the North, say it doesn't get any better than golf-community living.

"I'm that person," says Mike Curtin, senior vice president of marketing and sales for WCI, Florida's largest real estate developer. "Just the other day I left my garage in my golf cart, drove to the course, played eighteen holes, returned home to my office, drove back to the course to hit balls on the range, had a Hurricane at the Tiki-Bar, then drove back home to rest. Afterwards, the family visited the club for dinner. This lifestyle-where you don't just buy a house but what's behind the gates-grabs me and is grabbing others."

Statistics back him up. According to Feasinomics, a Naples-based researcher, the number of buyers in WCI golf communities alone has risen from 3,064 in 1997 to 5,010 in 2001. Other developers report big increases as well.

"Golf course living is exploding on the west coast," says Brian McCallen, senior travel editor of GOLF Magazine. "And if any metropolis qualifies as the golf course/real estate king of the Sunshine State, it's Naples, where there are more golf holes per capita than in any other American city."

The Lingo

Ever think you've entered a foreign country when you step onto the green and hear so many unfamiliar words and phrases? Here's a quick course in golfspeak:

Barkie: In a betting game, a player earns a point for a barkie when his or her ball hits a tree and par is scored.

Crossing the line: The club shaft points right of the target line when the player reaches the top of the swing.

Dance floor: The green.

Getting home: When a golfer hits the ball onto the green from the fairway. For example, "I got home with a five-wood on the fourth."

Laid off: The club head points well left of the target when the player reaches the top of the swing.

One ball out: Explains how much break to allow for, say on a right-to-left putt. "Play it one ball out to the right," one might advise.

Snake: A very long, curving putt.

The Rules

The typical club-level player fixes ball marks, rakes footprints left in the sand after hitting a bunker shot, repairs divot holes in the fairway, stays still while others are preparing to hit the ball, and lets faster players through. Some players, however, violate certain points of etiquette. These are not written down in the Rules of Golf (published by the United States Golf Association) but will nonetheless lose them points with their fellow players. Be sure to:

1. Shut off your cellular phone during play or limit your calls.

2. Ask permission to smoke when riding in a golf cart with a fellow member of your club.

3. Avoid suggesting a high-stakes game of golf.

4. Control your on-course drinking, especially if you are the driver of the powered cart.

5. Avoid cursing.

6. Refrain from excessive flattery.

Fairway Fashions

Women golfers have suffered when it comes to golf-wear fashions. That's because, until recently, pro shops were filled with plain and boxy skirts and tops, mostly in white and sky-blue, that looked as if they had been made from bed sheets or ironing board covers. Worse, the fabrics did not breathe well.

Now, thanks to veteran fashion designers Ralph Lauren and Tommy Hilfiger, along with innovative golf sportswear collections on offer from new companies, women golfers are getting casually smart clothing that's colorful, creative, comfortable, cool and, at last, tapered!

Among the new sports companies responsible for producing wide-ranging lines and making women look handsome on the course include Jamie Saddock, EP PRO, Tehama, Como Sport and Marcia.

Marcia, a California-based sports apparel company, offers choices in everything from Bermuda shorts to capri pants to sleeveless polo shirts-golf clothing that doubles as off-course wear and appeals to across-the-board age groups.

Marcia is available in such stores as Rich Lamb's Golf Shop and Ron Leatherwood Golf Shop, both in Fort Myers, and at various pro shops, including the Wilderness Country Club in Naples, Florida. To view Marcia's 2002 golf collection, which ranges from island pastels to smart black and white, log onto www.marciagolfandtennis.com.

Fun & Games

For those of you tired of playing a weekend Nassau game, try Vegas.

You'll need a pencil and paper to keep track of points scored. A side's score for a hole is determined by each player's performance on the hole. Say, for example, that one partner scores a four and the other a five. Their score would be forty-five (the low number goes first). If the other side shoots a five and a six, for a fifty-six, the first side would be up by eleven. Additionally, if someone scores a birdie, the other team has to reverse its scores. If the team shooting birdie, for example, goes two-four and the other side goes three-six, that would mean scores of twenty-four and a sixty-three for a differential on the hole of thirty-nine. Pretty heavy, which is precisely why you should consider playing for a dime a point rather than a dollar.

Winning Tips

Practically every country-club player wants to hit a short iron or wedge shot that lands on the green and spins back to the hole. But many golfers have problems hitting this shot because their swing is too flat or rounded and there is too much tension in the wrists. To impart backspin on the ball, you need to swing the club on a more upright angle or plane and hit down sharply through impact.

Rick Smith, one of the world's top golf instructors, teaches PGA Tour star Phil Mickelson along with recreational golfers at Tiburón. Smith once showed me a drill for correcting an overly flat swing plane. Try it if you have a problem hitting short shots with backspin.

Drill: Swing the club with your right hand only, allowing the right wrist to hinge back at its base. Instantly, you will feel the club swinging on a more upright plane.

Once you feel you have grooved this tension-free backswing action, put both hands on the club. Swing back, feeling the right wrist hinge. Swing down, feeling the right wrist unhinge and the angle of attack becoming steeper in the hit-zone. Look up after impact and enjoy the sight of your ball hitting the green and spinning back toward the hole.

Specialty of the Clubhouse

The Gateway Golf and Country Club in Fort Myers is a private golf community that offers various home choices, equity golf memberships and a clubhouse membership with golf privileges from May to October along with tennis and social memberships. The bonus is that the public is welcome for lunch. If you visit, and you're in the mood for a unique cocktail, try the club's specialty drink: Gateway to Heaven.

Comprised of one-and-one-quarter ounce of Smirnoff Vodka along with 7-Up and a splash of orange juice, this drink is lightly blended, then garnished with an orange slice and cherry flag. Cheers!

Southwest Florida resident John Andrisani is the 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 atJAGOLF3238@aol.com.

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