History does not record whether Don Juan Ponce de Leon brought his clubs when his expedition may have landed in what is today St. Augustine. But a lot of visitors since 1513 have.
Part of what is called Florida's First Coast, which stretches all the way along the Atlantic Seaboard from Amelia Island to Palm Coast, St. Augustine is in the middle of some of Florida's best golfing country. In addition, the area is home to the World Golf Hall of Fame
Those who visit the Hall should bring their clubs along. There are two excellent courses to sample once one has wandered through the exhibits. The Slammer and The Squire
was the first course to open near the World Golf Hall of Fame. The course was designed by Florida architect Bobby Weed, with design input from two of the game's greats, "Slammin'" Sammy Snead and Gene "The Squire" Sarazen.
As might be expected, the course combines classic design features with all the modern amenities and conditioning. The two consultants grew up in a game where shot making trumped power, and this course reflects that. Weed routed the course through the usual Florida terrain of wetlands and flatwood forests, bringing water frequently into play.
To add a present-day challenge to golfers visiting the World Golf Village
, longtime rivals (and good friends) Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer were contracted to build the next course, The King and The Bear
. Opened in 2000, this course combines a tightly wooded nine with a more open, links-style nine. The two stars collaborated on all the holes, rather than dividing up the work.
Still, one can see influences from Nicklaus on the holes that move from left-to-right, with typically Nicklausian terraced fairways and angled greens. Likewise, the right-to-left holes, the way Palmer played the game, have collection areas and open spaces on the left.
Put together, it's a great modern-day golf course, built for brawn yet rewarding of good short-game shots. It's located a mile or two from the Hall of Fame.
The World Golf Village provides a great location for those who want to stay and play. Choices include the World Golf Village Renaissance Resort, Comfort Suites Inn, Grande Villas, The Residences
and the LaTerra Resort & Spa
Après round, golfers are always welcome at the Murray Bros. Caddyshack
restaurant – owned by the six Murray brothers including actor Bill. Caddyshack's motto is "Eat, Drink & Be Murray," and this American pub-style place is always fun and relaxed.
Of course, golfers visiting the area can go just a bit further afield and find layouts that challenge the pros or touch base with history.
A top choice is a pilgrimage to the Stadium Course at the TPC Sawgrass
, home to THE PLAYERS Championship and home of the PGA TOUR. Built by renowned architect Pete Dye, the Stadium Course
features the instantly recognizable 17th hole, a par 3 with its iconic "island" green.
Two more options with their own water-related dramatics await at Ponte Vedra Inn and Club
. Positioned along the Atlantic Ocean and a network of lakes and lagoons, both the Ocean Course and the Lagoon Course feature undulating fairways and dramatic vistas.The Ocean Course
opened in 1928, giving the area its first resort golf experience. It was designed by British architect Herbert Bertram Strong, and has served as a site for U.S. Open qualifying.The Lagoon Course
is not as long – at 5,574 yards and par 70 – but the Robert Trent Jones design requires control and shot-making for success on its narrow fairways and small, fast greens.
Even Ponce de Leon would have enjoyed it!