If you're a diehard golf enthusiast,you'll marvel at the World Golf Hallof Fame (904-940-4200; www.wgv.com) near St. Augustine, Fla. It's all there,including President Ford's golf bag,President Eisenhower's golf cart, one ofBing Crosby's woods, a Schenectady putter,a Bulger driver, and astronaut AlanShepard's Wilson 6-iron and the balls hewhacked 1500 yards on the moon duringthe Apollo 14 mission, to name a few.
Remnants of the Past
Physician-golfers can marvel at theremnants of golf's past. Leather ballscalled "featheries" from the 17th centuryand a club crafted in Scotland byHendrie Milne in 1690 are fascinatingantiques to see. Admire clubs datingfrom 1770 to 1970, made by 6 generationsof McEwans, in the AuchterlonieCollection, "the Crown Jewels of Golf."Now resting in the Hall of Fame are thefavorite clubs of many of the greats whobrought glory to the marvelous game ofgolf, players sometimes fighting impossibleweather, inaccessible terrain, andeven physical handicap to hole out, winthrough, and make their name in history.
"But it's more than a game," saysAndy Hunold, the World Golf Hall ofFame's director of exhibits and collections."It's a way of life. It's about integrity,dignity, respect, and honestyâ€”it's the only game where you blow thewhistle on yourself."
This odd endeavor to knock a tinywhite ball into a little hole is also the mostinfuriating game in the world. It's a weirdpastime. Even in Scotland, where it allstarted, there are still some who lament,"Golf ruins a good walk."
The Hall of Fame is laid out like agolf course, with the history of the gameshown on the front nine. Visitors willfind the beginnings of the game inScotland clearly displayed on the walls,where footnotes show how alarmed theScottish kings were by their subjectspracticing golf rather than archery. Fearingskills at golf would not be enough tokeep English invaders off their border,the Scottish crown tried to outlaw thegame for more than a century.
But golf caught on. By 1603, James VIof Scotland had appointed a royal clubmaker. Indeed, the king's motherâ€”the illf-atedMary Queen of Scotsâ€”was probablythe first woman golfer, learning toplay the game in the long exile before herexecution. No game goes so far back intime while remaining in its same formâ€”virtually since the 15th century.
The back nine attempts to bring thegame to life through interactive displaysand information on current inductees. Acurrent exhibit on Ben Crenshaw includeshis Master's trophy. Tiger Woods doesn'tqualify for inclusion since he's been onthe Professional Golf Association Tourfor less than 10 years and is under age 40.Between the two nines a display of all themale and female members of the Hall ofFame includes not only their golf careerachievements, but also presents in glasscabinets some of the personal artifacts oftheir lives, such as Sam Snead's lunchbox,Arnold Palmer's toy airplane, and JackNicklaus' fly fishing rod.
Lush Florida Setting
This new tribute to golf opened in1998 as part of the World Golf Villagecomplex, which is 30 minutes south ofJacksonville. It's a sprawling, 75,000-square-foot facility with soaring ceilings,wide windows, and plenty of light thattries in a high-tech way to give exposureto a game often played under gray skieswith medieval rules.
In comparison to the former Hall ofFame at Pinehurst, it's not as cozy, and itdoesn't show visitors many of the greatnames in golf as much as it honors thegame itself. However, a recent specialexhibit successfully celebrates the greatBen Hogan's contribution to the game heenjoyed and dominated 50 years ago.
Adjoining the hall is a 60-story IMAXtheater with an 80-foot-wide screen. ARenaissance Resort lies conveniently nextdoor, and one of the dining options on thecomplex is Sam Snead's restaurant, whichhas many golf artifacts on display.