ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. – Short of Masters week at Augusta National, when all the stars align and ghosts roam the fairways, there is no better place to access the history and highlights of golf than the World Golf Hall of Fame.

Located off Interstate 95 near St. Augustine, the Hall of Fame houses an impressive array of exhibits in addition to the central attraction, the large wall which honors those chosen for membership. Here Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus share the display with dozens of other members of golf’s elite, including Annika Sorenstam, Nancy Lopez, Seve Ballesteros, Fred Couples, some presidents (of the country) and, for balance, a comedian (Bob Hope).

The hall is a gathering of champions in several senses. Prior to the construction of the World Golf Hall, golf’s greatest were honored in halls of fame scattered across the country. Members of those halls were chosen through a confusing variety of methods; the new hall brought together men’s and women’s honorees in one facility.

The already elected Class of 2022 will add Tiger Woods, Marion Hollins, Tim Finchem and Susie Maxwell Berning to the hall list. Plaques highlighting each member make up the hall wall in the heart of the display area. That display is well-designed, but wait—there’s more. Located around the corner are “lockers” designed for each member. They include golf bags used by the players, clothing they wore during tournaments, scorecards, trophies and other items unique to each member. A curious fan could spend hours in this section.

The “Tales from the Collection” exhibit includes featured items from many of the hall members, illustrating in greater depth their stories and accomplishments.

Lopez, one of the greatest female golfers in the history of the game, is celebrated in a special exhibit outlining her story. Photographs and trophies and other items important in the career of Lopez (including, yes, Barbie dolls) are highlights of the exhibit.

Other exhibits honor the accomplishments of African-American golfers, show highlights of the Players Championship and display numerous items from the career of Bob Hope, the beloved comedian who had strong connections to golf and often held a golf club during his monologues.

The history of the game is explored through an exhaustive display of equipment, photographs and journals from across the years. Everyday golfers who complain about their scarred and weary five-year-old sand wedges will appreciate cases that contain caveman-like clubs from the early decades of golf. They look more like weapons of war than sporting equipment. And the balls? They’re almost round.

Walking through all this golf history almost automatically makes the visitor want to swing a club, and that urge, too, is covered. There is a high-level golf simulator in one corner of the hall and a putting green in another. A few practice swings will prepare you for one of the hall of fame’s best experiences – a shot on the so-called Challenge Hole. 

Included in admission to the hall is one shot at the 132-yard hole in front of the hall building. Clubs and balls are provided. The shot is over water onto an island green, giving visitors a feel for what it’s like to play the par-three 17th at Sawgrass. If your shot drowns here, don’t be discouraged. You’re one of many.