World Golf Village, Hall of Fame, and Other Attractions
ST. AUGUSTINE, FL - You're into golf. Deep into golf. You play twice a week, religiously. Sacrificing sleep. You know that Tiger just switched from Titleist to the Nike Tour Accuracy ball. You understand "smash factor." You bought the Alien Wedge. You're reading this.
You've been saving your money and now it's time to make that golf pilgrimage. You're considering your options: St. Andrews, the Monterey Peninsula, St. Augustine...St. Augustine?
Well, if you were a baseball fan, isn't it logical to assume that you might make a pilgrimage to its Hall of Fame in Cooperstown? For paying homage to the sport of golf, St. Augustine, Florida, is a natural choice. This is, after all, where the World Golf Village and the World Golf Hall of Fame are located, which opened in 1998.
World Golf Village is the brainchild of none other authority than the PGA Tour, who saw the need to consolidate the numerous memorial and historical sites and organizations under one proverbial roof. The Tour received sanction and developmental help from the Senior PGA Tour, the LPGA, the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews, the USGA, the PGA of America and twenty other national and international golf associations.
In case you're wondering, that's just about everyone that matters in golf. Having Shell Oil a Founding Partner doesn't hurt either. With all these players on board, World Golf Village has as preeminent a backing as could be. If these organizations all say that this is world golf headquarters, who are we to argue?
The site of your pilgrimage, 12 miles south of Jacksonville on I-95 at its own exit, is a self-contained enclave hyper-charged with golf. The centerpiece of the Village is the World Golf Hall of Fame, an attraction that has at last brought together in one locale the varying honorariums and memorabilia of the game and its legends that had previously been scattered from Pinehurst, North Carolina, to New York, to Scotland. The building itself is a stately, thoroughly modern structure punctuated by the Tower Shrine, a soaring minaret memorializing the enshrined members of the Hall of Fame.
Inside are eighteen interactive exhibits that provide a comprehensive tour through the history of the game. Highlights include a green simulating putting conditions pre-1900 along with vintage putter and ball, and a computerized swing-analyzer that matches your swing to that of a Hall of Famer. Hundreds of pieces of memorabilia are showcased throughout the tour, from the engraved trophies of nearly every major golf tournament to the actual clubs used by golfing greats to win those trophies. "The Age of Television" site and "Great Championship Moments" exhibits honor the broadcast history of golf, and you can even try your own voice at live broadcasting in the "production" exhibit. Do that at Pebble.
In the midst of all this fun you'll come across the room where you are reminded of what all this is for. In an airy, sun-bathed hall are the pedestals that honor members of the Hall of Fame along with that year's inductees. Their names and images are etched in conical crystal plaques, which are aligned in arcing rows designed to capture the sun's light and cast it in bright glowing rays throughout the hall. An elevator takes you up to the top of the Tower Shrine where you will have a panoramic view of the village and Florida beyond.
And for golf (that's why you're really here, isn't it?), two tremendous courses await. The Slammer & The Squire is a magnificently manicured golf course designed by Bobby Weed in consultation with Hall of Fame legends Sam Snead and Gene Sarazin. The second course, debuted in November of 2000, is a track called The King & The Bear, co-designed by Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus. Both courses are operated by the Honours Golf and tee times are reserved up to 30 days in advance at 904 940-6088.
The resort can be the one and only stop if you want to headquarter your stay at the World Golf Village Renaissance Resort, a 300-suite hotel literally a sand wedge from the Hall of Fame and The Slammer & The Squire. The Resort is attached to the St. Johns County Convention Center, 40,000 square feet of meeting space, and together these comprise the largest combination hotel/conference center between Orlando and Atlanta, just in case you wanted to bring along your company for a week of golf and meetings. Guests may take advantage of different golf packages for the two courses. Call 904 940-8000, or toll free at 888 446-5301, for information.
This is by far the most complete golf destination experience you're likely to find. The combination of golf, Hall of Fame and resort is possible only at World Golf Village, but the fun doesn't just stop there. Other attractions include a 300-seat IMAX theater showing travel, educational and golf films on its 80-foot-wide, six-story screen.
For shopping the PGA Tour Stop is an impressive 30,000 square feet of name brand golf merchandise at surprisingly low prices. The complex also features outdoor entertainment as well. Take a shot at hitting the 132-yard island green at the center of the Village to win prizes, and families might enjoy a round on the eighteen hole, real-grass putting course.
Basically there is no shortage of golf excitement at World Golf Village. "A comment we hear a lot from guests is that this is the 'Disney World of golf,'" says Cathy Harbin, Director of Golf at The Slammer & The Squire.
World Golf Village is just minutes away from downtown St. Augustine, the oldest city in America, which practically drips with historical relevance, especially in the downtown area. O.C. Whites is the place to be on weekend nights for live music and appetizers. Cortesses, a mile north of the fort, is a classy stop for martinis and cigars, and offers the most sophisticated menu in the area.
Drive south on A1A to St. Augustine Beach and try the Sea Market, a small unpretentious restaurant that serves some of the best seafood in this part of the state.
After that, head back north a few blocks, still on A1A, and stop off for drinks at the Oasis where you'll experience the true beach-life vibe and the island sounds of live steel-drum music. The Conch House is another wonderful place for drinks in the summer and offers outdoor seating overlooking the water with great views of St. Augustine inlet.
So now you know. Even though golf was born in Scotland, raised on American soil in New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania, and grew up as it headed west, it is now residing, and doing quite well, in Florida. Home is where the Hall of Fame is, and that's in St. Augustine. Where will you make your golf pilgrimage?
Visit the World Golf Village website at www.wgv.com.