Depending on whom you talk to these days, Fred Couples (winner of one major championship and 15 PGA Tour titles) does or does not deserve to be going into the World Golf Hall of Fame on May 6. What’s indisputable is that you should go there yourself, if you haven’t already.
Golf’s pantheon has come a long way since its birth at Pinehurst in 1974 when the 13 charter inductees were Patty Berg, Walter Hagen, Ben Hogan, Bobby Jones, Byron Nelson, Jack Nicklaus, Francis Ouimet, Arnold Palmer, Gary Player, Gene Sarazen, Sam Snead, Harry Vardon, and Babe Zaharias. It hummed along in the Sandhills, serene but ignored, for nearly a quarter century before then-PGA Tour Commissioner Deane Beman spearheaded an effort to transplant it 400 miles south, to St. Augustine Florida, as the centerpiece of World Golf Village, a resort/real estate community that includes two courses, a 301-room hotel, a convention center, and an IMAX theater.
Today, 141 of golf’s luminaries are properly enshrined in a three-story, 75,000-square-foot showcase that also celebrates the game’s history. Among the attractions: a life-size replica of the Swilcan Bridge of St. Andrews; the Wall of Fame, where each member’s achievements are summarized along with a portrait in bronze relief; and a “locker room” with a cabinet for each Hall member loaded with personal items and memorabilia that tell his or her life story. In addition, a rotation of major exhibits feature individual members, with the spotlight currently on two of the most charismatic, Bob Hope and Nancy Lopez.
You can meander through the exhibits on your own or opt for “Voices from the Hall,” an audio tour, narrated by the Hall of Famers themselves, with 175 different stops. For those who crave a bit more interaction, there’s a golf simulator loaded with several championship courses and a practice green where you can try your hand with hickory-shafted putters. Just outside is an 18-hole natural grass putting course and a 132-yard challenge hole, modeled after the 17th at the TPC Sawgrass, where you can test your swing and nerves with a shot at the island green. It’s all included in the price of admission ($19.50, with discounts for juniors and seniors).
This year’s honorees, in addition to Fred Couples, are Colin Montgomerie, Ken Venturi, former European PGA Tour Chief Executive Ken Schofield, and 1887 and 1889 Open Champion Willie Park Jr. Tickets to the induction—indeed full packages including golf and accommodations—are available at worldgolfhalloffame.org.