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October 13, 2010

Ultimate Man's Weekend: The World Golf Hall of Fame

Posted at 11:02 AM by Jeff Ritter | Categories: Travel, World Golf Hall of Fame


It's one of the great traditions in golf, sports and possibly all of humankind.

Man's Weekend.

After a hectic week of Ryder Cup-infused office work, I traveled to the World Golf Village in St. Augustine, Fla., with five golf-crazed friends. What? You thought a Man's Weekend could only take place in Vegas? For this six-some, a St. Augustine Man's Weekend* was the perfect way satisfy a links fix while also taking in a little history of the game. How do you pass that up?

(* The trip actually spanned a Monday-Wednesday. Technically not a weekend. Semantics, I say!)

With TPC Sawgrass a 30-minute drive up the highway, the resort fills up each May during Players Championship week, but there's plenty to see and do all year round. World Golf Village amenities include a pool, gym, grass mini-golf course and an IMAX theater.

Trips-barrell-of-apples The resort also offers two sweet 18-hole championship courses, the King & Bear (the only Arnold Palmer-Jack Nicklaus collaboration in the world) and the Slammer & Squire (named after Sam Snead and Gene Sarazen, but designed by Bobby Weed). The staff is friendly -- props to beverage cart girls Kristi and Jeannie -- the practice areas are immaculate and the courses are tough but fair. Bonus points for the barrels of fresh, iced apples awaiting weary golfers on the first and 10th tees on both courses, which were directly responsible for a flurry of progressively unfunny How do you like those apples jokes among my group.

King & Bear is the more challenging of the two tracks, and if you only have time for one round, that's the course to play. Photos of Arnold and Jack in their heyday line the interior of the stone-and-wood clubhouse, and several holes offer an element of risk-reward. Arnie once selected the 15th hole for his all-time "Dream 18." With wind whipping (sorry about the audio), trees left and water right, here's my attempt at conquering that tight 360-yard par 4:

Hey, Arnie -- I parred it. How do you like those apples? (See? Not funny. Also, I double-bogeyed the next hole.) While 15 is charming, there are several memorable holes on the two courses, including the meaty 448-yard par-4 ninth at King and Bear, and the winding 522-yard par-5 fourth at the Slammer.

And then there's the 19th hole, Murray Bros. Caddyshack, a short cart ride away from the Slammer's 18th hole. Owned and operated by Andy Murray, Bill's younger brother, the spacious joint specializes in burgers and ribs, and there's a gift shop on site if you're hunting for movie-themed mementos like these.

Trips-hall-wall Last but not least, the Hall of Fame museum is a must-see. One wing is dedicated to the history of the sport, and patrons can practice a few putts with replica antique clubs and old-time golf balls. (Think your putting stroke is a mess now? Try knocking around an oblong feathery for 10 minutes.) Next May new inductees Ernie Els, Masashi "Jumbo" Ozaki, Doug Ford, George H.W. Bush and the late Jock Hutchison will join more than 130 members in the Hall. Their bronzed mugs will be added to the wall in the museum's central area, and the inductees will also receive a spot in the Hall's locker room, where members customize their lockers to reflect their careers. Here's HOF tour guide extraordinaire John Abbott with more on the Hall's ultimate exhibit.

We could've killed two hours in that room alone, but it was time to check out of the World Golf Village and return to our normal lives. With another successful Man's Weekend in the books (the second annual for this group), we're already plotting the next adventure.


(Photos courtesy World Golf Hall of Fame, Jose Alea)

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