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Finesse, not brute force, is needed here

As a public service to subscribers, I not only drove out to Whispering Oaks to explore the facilities, I also decided to see how tough the eighth hole really is.

They told me in the pro shop that the key to playing the par-4, which ranges from 305 yards to 237 and involves vast amounts of water, is to hit a medium first shot and then pitch to the green for an easy birdie try.

From the white tees, which sit 295 yards from the green, you can see a small lake that lines the left side of the hole and two arms of water that extend into the fairway. Also off to the left are some trees that tend to take up even more of the fairway and force you to aim your tee shot a little right.

To the right, though, are more oak trees that alter your shot and make you aim for the middle of the fairway, which is where the water comes in.

You have about 100 yards to the first arm of water and about 195 yards to the second, both of which extend almost all the way across the fairway and leave what amounts to a 75-foot island at which to aim your first shot.

Ideally, you would take a middle iron and plop your tee shot past the first water and up against the second. That would leave about 100 yards to the green.

I took out a 6-iron and got way under the ball, leaving myself 150 yards to the pin. Considering my golfing ability, that usually means I'm in trouble.

I also decided, as a public service, to see if there is another way to play this hole _ the brute force way.

I teed up the ball and addressed it with the longest club in my bag _ the oversized metal driver. My goal was to see if the water could, in fact, be cleared. It couldn't.

My first experimental blast was a huge slice and I'll never see the ball again. The second test launching went the other way, clearing the houses. But the third shot proved the point.

It went straight and it went long as I got every bit of club and muscle I had into it. But it also went splash _ as in, I cleared the first water but smacked the second pond pretty hard.

Playing the first 6-iron shot, for my second shot I used a 3-iron. It went a whopping 60 yards and would have been lost among the slider turtles and other waterfowl had it not taken a dramatic right turn.

A soft 9-iron and the ball was on the green, about 35 feet from the hole. It was still fairly early and the greens didn't have a chance to lose most of the dew yet so I knew I was in good shape. Hit the ball hard and watch the moisture slow it down, I thought.

That's exactly what happened. The ball shot off the putter and rolled nicely to the cup, throwing up a stream of water behind it. It slowed down at precisely the right moment and rolled to within an inch. A tiny tap and I had a bogey.

That's when John Kant stepped up and showed me the way it was supposed to be done.

Kant, who said he plays Whispering Oaks about five days a week, dropped a little eighth-hole knowledge on the cocky, younger sportswriter when he smacked a tee shot with his 1-wood and put it in the middle of the fairway, between the two water hazards.

He then grabbed a 3-wood and belted it across the water and let it bounce once before skipping up onto the green, inches from the hole. A simple putt and he had a bridie.

"All you have to do is stay short of the water, that's all," Kant said. "I use a driver and a 3-wood because I'm not that strong anymore. But it worked out well. I got a birdie."

Kant then drove off to the next hole; I drove home.

SIGNATURE HOLE

No. 8 at

Whispering Oaks G&CC

PAR: Four.

DISTANCE: 305 yards from the blue tees, 295 from the whites, 237 from the reds.

STRATEGY: General manager Charlie Hackett may have said it best: "Hit it out about 120 yards, then hit it onto the green, and then just putt for birdie." It's almost that simple. A good, medium-distance tee shot followed by a strong approach will put you on the green and in good position for a birdie. Drive a little to the left and you're wet; go right and you're hitting from resident's lawns and against houses.

About the course

PAR: 72.

YARDAGE: 6,325 yards from the blue tees, 6,067 from the whites, 5,174 from the reds.

RATING: Blue tees 70.0/120, whites 68.7/116, reds 69.8/117.

LANDSCAPE: Because Whispering Oaks winds through a housing development, it tends to be fairly narrow, though the front nine is somewhat wider than the back. Water comes into play on at least eight holes, and woods and trees are plentiful as well. The course is very picturesque, and at times it is easy to forget you are playing right next to houses.

FEES: From 7-11 a.m. it is $18; from 11 to 2 p.m. it's $15; after 2 it's $12.50. Nine holes cost $10 all day.

PHONE: (352) 583-4233.

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