Jim Abbott on Travel
Postcards from Florida
August 31, 2013
I don't play golf anymore.
I retired from the game in my high-school years, when I overshot a green on a par 3 course in South Florida and watched the ball take a high bounce on a sidewalk into the open window of a passing car. Earlier in the same round, I had picked up my bag by the wrong end, causing clubs to clatter to the fairway.
Sadly, I'm not making that up.
Other than occasional rounds of miniature golf with the kids (outings that inevitably included yet more tragically comic moments), I have existed happily without golf. So I was skeptical about the entertainment value of the World Golf Hall of Fame (worldgolfhalloffame.org) in St. Augustine.
It would take more than a few antique clubs to keep my ego-scarring golf memories at bay.
Still, I gave it a chance on a recent road trip to Green Cove Springs, south of Jacksonville. When a torrential downpour made outdoor activities impossible, I ducked into the Hall of Fame in the lushly landscaped World Golf Village, west of Interstate 95 at Exit 323, inland from the historic sites of St. Augustine.
I passed beneath the grand entrance, with an array of international flags that heralded a United Nation of Niblicks. I handed over $18.50, the Florida resident rate for museum admission, and wondered: Am I going to be bored to death?
My concerns vanished in the first exhibit hall, an impressive assortment of memorabilia from comedian Bob Hope, one of golf's original worldwide ambassadors. I learned that the comedian inspired Apollo astronaut Alan Shepard to transform a retractable tool for gathering moon dust into the makeshift 6-iron that he used to take a golf shot on the moon's surface in 1971. There's a replica of the club on display.
Upstairs, the game's Scottish roots are examined with entertaining flair. Ancient clubs are displayed with arcane rules about what to do if your ball is "run away with by a dog." Bronze busts honor dozens of hall of famers, including U.S. presidents, and the Member Locker Room showcases their trinkets, including a tackle box that belonged to President George H.W. Bush.
Golf is the theme at the nearby Murray Bros. Caddyshack restaurant. Instead, I went west on International Golf Parkway to County Road 13, then south a few miles for a soft-shell crab sandwich at Outback Crab Shack off the St. Johns River. A hole in one.
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