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Where the New World Meets the Old

By Kathleen Walls - American Roads Travel Magazine

The St. Johns-St. Augustine Chamber of Commerce has always boasted about the Nation's Oldest City. Now it's bragging about the newest addition to the county's attractions, World Golf Village. For golfers and non-golfers alike, it provides a world of fun.

The Village is the ultimate destination for golfers wishing to play on The Slammer and The Squire, a recently completed world class course named after Sam Snead and Gene Sarazen. As you drive in from I-95, you wend your way past this challenging course. It was expertly carved from the Florida flat woodland of an old pine plantation. You are surrounded by native Florida vegetation. Numerous small lakes and ponds add to the beauty as well as preserve the balance of nature.

Honours Golf Company and architect Bobby Weed have created a course with a diversity of options that excite any golfer, novice or expert alike. Another plus, thanks to Florida's climate, the greens stay green year round. Driving past on International Golf Parkway in early morning or late evening, you may see deer grazing near the course.

Everyone can enjoy the Golf Hall of Fame. It is best described as a celebration of the game. Laid out like a golf course in 18 exhibits, many of them interactive, it traces the history of golf. The experience is enhanced by the use of Acoustiguide, an audio player you carry and use at your own speed.

Hole one is "Golf - The Royal and Ancient Game". Here bagpipe music accompanies your exploration of the roots of golf. The second hole takes you to St. Andrews in Scotland. You cross a life sized replica of the Swilcan Burn Bridge on the 18th hole of the famous Old Course.

Next you discover the families that made their living crafting the implements of the sport. The fourth hole is a putting green where you are invited to test your skill with 19th century clubs on a green of that era.

The next two exhibits follow golf's expansion to the rest of the British Isles and America. Between the Wars chronicles the Golden Age of golf in this country. Leveling the Playing Field portrays the struggles of handicapped and minority golfers who made the game accessible to all. You are then introduced to the literature of golf.

The back nine begins with that important golf figure, the caddie. Then you are brought up to par on the impact of television and internet on the game. You can even surf the internet for golf highlights at the Global Golf Center.

Hole 13 and 14 explain the design and upkeep of a green. You will sweat just viewing some of the hand powered machinery used in the past.

The next stop moves you into the rules of the game and lets you challenge rulings in tournament situations. Then you are given the opportunity to participate in the game. Finding the Swing lets you select a driver from different decades, hit a ball and receive a printout analyzing your swing. The World of Golf Hall of Fame Open gives you the chance to experience winning a major championship tournament as you sink a long put.

The last stop relives some of golf's most exciting moments projected on three screens with a video production called Great Championship Moments.

The Tower Shrine invites you to ascend to its 190 foot peak. Arising like a beacon, the tower is a monument to golf legends, living and dead. The multi windowed shrine has a shimmering prism at its peak creating brilliant shafts of light that reflect off the crystal plates honoring each member of the Hall of Fame. The tower also gives a great view of the village. In front, the Walk of Champions circles the lake and fountain in the middle of the village.

Next door, the IMAX theater allows you to view films like Journey into Amazing Caves, China: The Panda Adventure and Destiny in Space on a six story high screen. The impact is the next best thing to being in the midst of a raging blizzard deep in Alaska's wilderness or deep beneath the ocean playing with a wild dolphin.The World Golf Village is currently developing an IMAX film to celebrate golf around the world.

Strolling around the Walk of Champions is exciting. You will find a putting course with complete eighteen holes on real grass. If you sink your first put on the seventeenth hole you will win a free prepaid Shell gas card. The Challenge Hole gives you an opportunity to drive a ball 132 yards to an island green. Talk about show off...

And speaking of shows, the show must go on, frequently during the summer, the village treats its guests to a free concert and fireworks around the lake. Just bring your lawn chairs and dancing shoes and enjoy.

You will also find art shows, antique auto cruise-ins, and lots of other family fun in the village.

Shopping offers a balance of toys for the "big kids" as well as the little ones. Golfers of all ages will delight in The PGA tour Stop Shop. This interactive store meets all a golfer's needs, from clubs to clothes. It provides a putting green where you can try out a club right in the store before you buy it.

Toys delights the younger generation with hard to find and unique toys.

Kennedy Art Studio provides a great place to purchase a memento of your trip. Kennedy's offers framed artwork featuring St. Augustine scenes.

You won't leave the village hungry. For lighter fare, try World Golf Hall of Fame Cafe or Legends Grill and Tap Room, Murray Bros. Caddyshack or Sam Snead's Tavern. If you are in the mood for more elegant dining, Cypress Point Restaurant and Lounge fills the bill. Mochapelli's Deli and Coffee Shack is great for sandwiches.

To satisfy your sweet tooth, visit Kilwins and choose between twelve different styles of homemade fudge and 32 ice cream flavors.

If you venture south down Highway 13 along the river there are two unique restaurants. Scuttlebutts is a new restaurant on Trout Creek. A bit farther along you will find Six-Mile Marina and Outback Crab Shack. Here you can enjoy seafood in a rustic setting on the waterfront.

One treat that cost nothing is a drive along the St. Johns River at sunset. The view is fabulous. You may spot an alligator or a Blue Heron. Among the priceless memories you will carry home from your visit is the sight of the sun dipping into the waters of the river. It paints sky and water every imaginable shade of red. When viewed through draped Spanish moss it will be a perfect finish to an unforgettable vacation experience.

Provided by American Roads Travel Magazine - Visit American Roads Travel Magazine website.