World Golf Village: ‘You must go’

At the top of the list for any golf vacation to Florida is the World Golf Village and Hall of Fame, located in St. Augustine, the oldest city in the United States, dating to 1565.

Not only can golf fans browse through artifacts the greats of the game utilized in their diverse roads to glory, but they also can play the two world-class courses on the property, named after four of those all-timers.

As Gary Player, World Golf Hall of Fame Global Ambassador, says in TV commercials for the Hall: “For the love of golf, you must go.”

The King and Bear Course, about 3 miles from the Hall of Fame but still on land owned by the World Golf Village, is the only collaboration in golf course design by Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer.

Palmer and Nicklaus played a match that was televised for Shell’s Wonderful World of Golf to mark the opening of the course in 2000, which also hosted the Champions Tour for the Liberty Mutual Legends of Golf in 2001 and 2002.

The Slammer and Squire, named for Sam Snead and Gene Sazarzen, was designed by Bobby Weed, although he received input from those great champions, who were still alive when the course opened in 1998.

The original course on the property, located a short walk from the Hall of Fame and the hotels on the property, the Slammer and Squire hosted the Liberty Mutual Legends of Golf in 1999 and also was the venue for the PGA Tour Qualifying School and Champions Tour Qualifying School.

The King and Bear is the more challenging of the courses, playing to 7,279 yards and a par of 72 from the back tees, with a course rating of 75.2 and a slope of 122.

It is what the British would call a parkland course, with wide fairways (for which Nicklaus designs are known) on the front nine lined by loblolly trees. The more winding fairways on the back side are framed by 200-year-old live oaks.

The 17 lakes that dot the King and Bear are lined by coquina rocks.

“Arnold and I have varying styles on how we do golf courses,” Nicklaus said. “(The King and Bear) reflects both of our styles.”

The course opens with two strong par-4s, measuring 426 and 435 yards, but there are five sets of tees, and there is plenty of room in the driving areas.

Stay well clear of the water and sand all down the right side at No. 1, where the green is guarded by a large bunker complex. The water on the tee box at No. 2 should not come into play, and the shot to a green protected by three bunkers on the left is slightly uphill.

The best par-5 on the course probably is No. 7, a dogleg that swings left and measures 573 yards, with a large lake on the left to deal with on the layup and the shot to the green.

The front nine finishes with two more challenging par 4s, No. 3 and 1 in difficulty on that side, at 462 and 448 yards from the back, respectively. The eighth has water on both sides of the fairway and the ninth features a large lake all the way to the green.

Palmer included No. 12, a 412-yard par 4, as one of his “Dream 18” in a Sports Illustrated article in 2006. Considered the signature hole, it winds around a lake to the left to a green sitting on a small peninsula.

No. 14 is a 200-yard par 3 with water and sand on the right, although there is bail-out room on the left, and it leads to a strong finish.

Following three more exceptional par 4s at 360, 467 and 427 yards, the King and Bear finishes with a 563-yard par 5 devoid of water, although there are wetlands to collect any shot pulled left of the bunker that runs the length of the hole on the left.

The par-72 Slammer and Squire Course, more of a user-friendly resort course even though both a eminently playable for golfers of all abilities, measures 6,939 from the tips, with a rating of 73.8 and a slope of 135.

The course plays through native wetlands, hardwood hammock trees and old-growth pine trees.

After a relatively straightforward start, the golfer reaches the No. 1-handicap hole on the course, No. 4, measuring 522 yards from the back tees. Water and sand run down the right side off the tee before the hole doglegs dramatically to the left to a green protected by water on three sides.

The seventh is a 178-yard par 3 on which the water on the left must be carried from the back tees, with bunkers guarding both sides of an elevated green that requires an extra club.

The front nine concludes with a 401-yard par 4 that plays back toward the Trophy Tower that sits atop the Hall of Fame, and although there is no water on the hole, there are eight bunkers to deal with from tee to green.

The best hole on the back nine probably is the par-4, 442-yard 12th, which has a water hazard that cannot be seen from the fairway about 120 yards from the hole. Collection areas on three sides of the green make it difficult to get up and down for par if you miss the putting surface.

The finish is challenging, starting with the 576-yard, par-5 16th, the longest hole on the course with sand and water challenges.

The Slammer and Squire finishes with par 4s measuring 459 and 425 yards, respectively, which both bend to the left. The penultimate hole has water on both sides as you approach the green, and the final green has a spectacular view of the Hall of Fame across the water.

The fun isn’t over when your round ends at the World Golf Village, because there are hands-on exhibits in the Hall of Fame, which features “Shanks for the Memories,” an exhibition dedicated to comedian Bob Hope’s love of golf.

Another exhibit is Honoring the Legacy: A Tribute to African Americans in Golf.

A third special exhibit, Nancy Lopez: Pride, Passion and Personality, currently is on display.

In addition to the largest PGA Tour merchandise shop in the world, the property also includes Caddyshack Restaurant, owned by the Murray brothers. It is a tribute to Bill Murray’s role of assistant course superintendent Carl Spackler in the movie “Caddyshack.”

If you don’t have time for a round of golf, you can still play the 18-hole natural-grass putting course, take a shot to an island green on the 132-yard Challenge Hole reminiscent of No. 17 at TPC Sawgrass or watch a movie in the IMAX Theatre.

The World Golf Village and Hall of Fame are only about a 20-minute drive from TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach, home of the PGA, Champions and Web.com tours. On the Sawgrass property are Pete Dye’s Valley Course and the Stadium Course, with its infamous island 17th green, site of the Players Championship this week.

Also in the area are Royal St. Augustine Golf and Country Club, St. Augustine Shores Golf Club, the Golf Club at South Hampton in St. Augustine, Ponte Vedra Golf and Country Club at Sawgrass, St. Johns Golf and Country Club in St. Augustine, the Ocean Course designed by Jack Nicklaus at Hammock Beach Resort in Palm Coast, Queens Harbour Yacht and Country Club in Jacksonville, Magnolia Point Golf and Country Club in Green Cove Springs, and Eagle Harbor Golf Club in Orange Park.

About an hour’s drive south on Interstate 95 in Daytona Beach is LPGA International, home of the LPGA Tour, with the Legends Course, designed by Arthur Hills, and the Champions Course, designed by Rees Jones.

Stay on the grounds of the World Golf Village at the Renaissance Resort, the Comfort Suites, Luke’s Laterra condos or the Grande Villas, which all offer golf packages for the Slammer and the Squire, and the King and the Bear.

Historic St. Augustine is the oldest European settlement in the United States, first visited by Ponce de Leon in 1513, and there are numerous hotels and B&Bs in and around the city. Among the best are the Bayfront Marin House, the Casablanca Inn on the Bay, Casa Monica Hotel, the Bayfront Westcott House, St. George Inn, Our House Bed and Breakfast, Alexander Homestead Bed and Breakfast, the Pirate Haus Inn and the Carriage Way B&B.

Other golf resorts in the area include the Hammock Beach Resort in Palm Coast and Amelia Island Plantation in Fernandina Beach.

ON THE WEB: www.golfwgv.com.

 

–Story courtesy of The Sports Xchange, TSX Golf Editor Tom LaMarre

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