Florida Golf Guide -- Sunshine state has the golfer's dream
Fittingly, the first thing you see at the World Golf Village as you exit Interstate Highway 95 is a golf course: Slammer & Squire, named respectively after two Hall of Famers who helped design it, Sam Snead and Gene Sarazen. You go to check in at the Renaissance Resort, and you're greeted by a bell captain wearing plus-fours golfer pants.

You walk outside the hotel, and there's a putting green to the right and the World Golf Hall of Fame to the left, where there is enough memorabilia in one building to make golf historian (and Hall of Famer) Ben Crenshaw take notes.

You look in the distance. What's that? It sure looks like a green in the middle of the lake. It's not just any hole, in fact, but a to-the-yard replica of the infamous island 17th hole at nearby TPC Sawgrass. The view appears to be, as NBC announcer Gary Koch famously called it, better than most.

Less than a pitching wedge away from the resort hotel is yet another man's version of the 19th hole. It's the Murray Bros. Caddyshack restaurant, where the waiters wear caddy bibs and the movie that spawned the name of the place is playing on a loop reel in an adjacent gift shop. Look closely, and you'll see that the restaurant owner, Andy Murray, bears a strong resemblance to a certain assistant greenskeeper in the movie, a character named Carl Spackler ( Bill Murray). Andy is Bill's brother.

Notice a trend? Debbie Epstein of Indialantic, Fla., did a few years ago. That's why she and her husband make a semiannual pilgrimage here. "I started playing golf four years ago, and I just got hooked on the sport and this place," she said. "If you're a golfer, what's not to like? You can live and breathe the sport here."

Indeed, though St. Andrews in Scotland will forever be known as the home of golf, the World Golf Village could at least be known as the sport's vacation spot.

Every November, the greatest players in the game congregate here to welcome another class of players to the World Golf Hall of Fame. (This Nov. 2, Lanny Wadkins, Jose Maria Olazabal and Christy O'Connor Jr. will be enshrined along with one of the most noted American golfing presidents, Dwight Eisenhower. The ceremony is free and open to the public.

And every spring, golf's fifth-most important tournament, The Players, is held about half an hour away at TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach, home of the PGA Tour headquarters.

Besides the Hall of Fame, the World Golf Village boasts a second world-class layout, King & Bear, co-designed by legends Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus. It has hosted events on the Champions Tour. Also on site is the PGA Tour's Golf Academy (to help hackers improve their game) and a PGA Tour Stop that sells all things golf.

"There're a lot of important things in golf that happen here or near here," said Jack Peter, World Golf Hall of Fame senior vice president and chief operating officer.

The annual induction ceremonies give fans an opportunity to visit a place that tells more about the game than any other golf museum in the world. Most visitors, however, prefer the real-life stuff on the two golf courses situated in the World Golf Village. Slammer & Squire is a little more friendly to high handicappers, while players with more skills (and golf balls) can test King & Bear, though both courses hosted the Champion Tour's Liberty Mutual Legends of Golf twice (1999 and 2000 at Slammer & Squire, 2001 and 2002 for King & Bear). Rates range from $59 to $159 per person. (Visit wgv.com, or call 904-940-6088.)

And when the last putt drops, the golf doesn't have to end. Not with the Caddyshack around. Who knows? Maybe you will run into Carl Spackler. There has been talk of hosting another "Caddyshack" (the movie) reunion here. "I can't guarantee you you'll break 90 here," Andy Murray said. "But I promise you'll have a good time."

So you have that going for you. Which is nice.

Florida 35% - Exp 7-31-09 (468x60)