Doctor's Review: Medicine on the Move

December 6, 2021
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Golf immersion

Swing by Florida's World Golf Village if you want to eat, sleep and breathe the game

"Golf is deceptively simple and endlessly complicated," Arnold Palmer once remarked. "It satisfies the soul and frustrates the intellect. It's at the same time rewarding and maddening, and it's without a doubt the greatest game mankind ever invented."

If you share Palmer's sentiments, drop your stethoscope, pick up your golf bag and make a pilgrimage to the golf mecca: World Golf Village, just north of Saint Augustine, Florida. This billion-dollar baby opened in 1998 and is to golfers what a candy store is to children; it's the ultimate destination for any golf nut. WGV is a multifaceted complex with accommodations, shops, restaurants, a superb golf course, IMAX theatre and the World Golf Hall of Fame. Not your typical museum, this shrine to the game takes you on an interactive journey through 18 separate exhibits. There's everything you can imagine, from its infancy in Scotland to astronaut Alan Shepard's unforgettable "moon shot" to "Tigermania."

The museum is laid out like a golf course: the front nine exhibits illustrate the history of the game. To play at St. Andrews may still be a dream, but on the second hole you can stroll across a life-size replica of the Swilcan Burn Bridge on the 18th fairway of the old course. On the fourth hole, test your short game on an 1880s-style green using a replica wood-shafted putter and a brown gutta-percha ball from that era. Newsreels and old photographs will help put you in a nostalgic mood.

Separating the front and back nine exhibits, the Hall of Fame honours over 70 of the world's golfing greats. I could've spent hours on the computer checking scrapbooks and video clips of my favourites, from Dinah Shore to Bob Hope to Gary Player to Steve Ballesteros. Quirky donated artifacts add a personal dimension to each hall of famer. Items include Jack Nicklaus's fly-fishing rod, Babe Zaharias's harmonica, Sam Snead's black lunch pail and Nancy Lopez's Barbie doll. Take the elevator to the Tower Shrine and you'll get a panoramic view of World Golf Village, including the Slammer and Squire course, named in honour of Sam Snead and Gene Sarazen.

The back nine focuses on the modern game. The Global Golf Centre on the 12th hole has Internet stations with a live feed and a leader board to provide up-to-date news on current tours. Think you know the score? Stop at the 15th hole and play the Rules Challenge. One of the most popular stops is the "swing analyzer" on the 16th; you hit three balls into a fairway screen and a computer informs you how far, how fast and which golf pro's swing resembles yours the most. Apparently Juli Inkster and I have something in common -- I wish.

Outside, the Walk of Champions encircles Kelly Lake and links the various attractions of World Golf Village. Paved with over 115,00 bricks, the Walk features signatures of Hall of Famers that are engraved in granite; for posterity you can purchase a commemorative brick and put your name on it.

Beside the Walk is an 18-hole putting course and the par-three Million Mile Challenge hole, which is reminiscent of the famous 17th hole at the Stadium Course at nearby Sawgrass. For $7 you get two tries at a hole in one and a chance to win one million Delta SkyMiles. Donations go to The First Tee, a good cause and a good program with the goal of making golf lessons and facilities accessible to kids who otherwise might not have the means to play.

What would a golf mecca be without the ultimate emporium? The PGA Tour Stop offers more golf garb, gadgets and gizmos than you can shake a putter at. If you want ostrich golf shoes, a Tiger Woods virtual golf video, or perhaps an armoire with golf scenes painted on the door, this is the one-stop spot. Take the escalator up, and you can test the latest in club technology on a practice range. Demonstrations take place in the centre of this mega pro shop.

At that point, you should be eager to hit the links, and you won't have far to go. World Golf Village is built around the Slammer and Squire course. The King and The Bear, named after its designers Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus, is under construction. So beautifully tended are the greens and fairways, you'd swear minions had trimmed them with scissors in the middle of the night; however, you pay big bucks for a round here: $130 to $238 with a cart, depending on the season.

The name of the game is to go for a "Stay and Play" package offered by an organization called Florida's First Coast of Golf. Vistana Resort, for example, just about a three-wood from The Hall of Fame, offers one- and two-bedroom villas, each with fully-stocked kitchen, laundry, whirlpool tub, spacious living and dining rooms and a screened porch where you can watch the sun go down over the Slammer and Squire.

For non-golfers or for an après tee, the resort facilities include tennis, volleyball and basketball courts, heated swimming pool, hot tubs and a fitness centre. Packages at Vistana, including a choice of 21 golf courses and a cart, start at $97 per person, per night. You can pre-book your tee times, too. Order Florida's First Coast of Golf, a magazine that includes all participating hotels, resorts and golf courses (tel: 800-555-0807).

World Golf Village is open daily from 10am to 6pm. Adult admission prices are $13 for the Hall of Fame and exhibits, $7 for the putting green and $7 for two balls in the Million Mile Challenge (tel: 904-940-4000; www.


This article was accurate when it was published. Please confirm rates and details directly with the companies in question.


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