ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. – The World Golf Hall of Fame is leaving St. Augustine and returning to North Carolina, where it will be part of the USGA’s campus at Pinehurst and stage two induction ceremonies during the U.S. Open weeks in 2024 and 2029.
The move will involve relocating some of the artifacts that have been on display at the World Golf Hall of Fame, which opened in 1998. The visitor experience also will include the USGA museum and its vast library.
The USGA, which has its main headquarters in Far Hills, New Jersey, began last month to build a “Golf House Pinehurst” with golf equipment testing as the centerpiece.
Jay Monahan, the PGA Tour commissioner who chairs the World Golf Foundation, said Wednesday's announcement would “cement the long-term relevance and viability” of the Hall of Fame and expand on the partnership with the USGA.
“Both organizations are committed to prioritizing the preservation of golf history, which will serve fans well in the years to come,” Monahan said.
People at the World Golf Village today told News4JAX they were surprised and disappointed by the announcement.
“It was just shocking honestly,” said Jake Sylak, a college golfer visiting from Ohio. “It’s just a place as an amateur golfer as a kid growing up watching golf you want to be able to come here and see the history of it and it’s crazy to see all that history can move just like that.”
Tiger Woods was part of the last induction class in March at PGA Tour headquarters in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida. In recent years, induction ceremonies were links to big events — St. Andrews during the 2015 British Open, Liberty National during the 2017 Presidents Cup, Pebble Beach in 2019 during the U.S. Open.
It was not immediately decided if there would be other induction ceremonies between the 2024 U.S. Open and the 2029 U.S. Open and U.S. Women's Open in Pinehurst.
“There’s no better connection to golf’s past, present and future than Pinehurst, and no organization that works harder than the USGA to preserve the history of this great game," said Mike Whan, CEO of the USGA. "It just makes sense. And together with the Hall of Fame, we’re more committed than ever to delivering experiences that build even deeper connections between golf fans and those that have truly led the way in this great game.”
Golf long has struggled to put together a Hall of Fame that would be in line with Cooperstown (baseball) and Canton (pro football), in part because its roots involve more than one organization.
The Hall of Fame opened in 1974 in Pinehurst was privately operated. The PGA of America took over management in 1983 and acquired it three years later, merging its Hall of Fame that dated to 1940. The World Golf Hall of Fame brought a global aspect to golf, including the LPGA Tour.
But traffic to the World Golf Village was slow. Attendance was more than 250,000 a year at its peak and last year dropped to about 60,000. The World Golf Foundation's 25-year lease expires at the end of next year.
Monahan had been looking at ways to preserve golf's rich history even without the physical structure in St. Augustine, and the partnership with the USGA provides a clear path.
The USGA will be responsible for the day-to-day operations. The World Golf Foundation will continue to oversee the selection process and induction ceremony.
Along with artifacts from the World Golf Hall of Fame — such as Johnny Miller's clubs from his 63 at Oakmont in the 1973 U.S. Open and the wedge Seve Ballesteros used to win his first British Open — the shrine will include the comprehensive collection from the USGA Golf Museum and Library.
Miller and Nick Faldo were the first players to be inducted in the Florida facility in 1998. The last induction ceremony at the World Golf Village was in 2013, a class that included Fred Couples and Colin Montgomerie.
The closing is not expected to immediately affect nearby businesses like the Caddyshack restaurant, the Renaissance Hotel and nearby golf courses.
Now the question is, what happens next?
“I guess I would just like to see some life,” said St. Johns County resident Amy Thomas. “I wish that there was some reason that people could be here at night and, you know, with this great water property here that you could maybe have some restaurants around it where people could walk and hang out and listen to music that would be great.”
St. Johns County Commissioner Sarah Arnold said she sees potential in the property.
“I think with the proper vision; the Hall of Fame property can be re-developed into something that the community will embrace and support. I’m looking forward to seeing what’s next,” Arnold said in a statement to News4JAX.
Fellow commissioner Henry Dean agrees and says he’d like to see a multi-use area with more housing, restaurants and parks.
“I think we could come up with a plan that will be very exciting. Very good for not only the residents but also tourists,” Dean said.
Commissioner Dean said he wants to have a series of town hall meetings to get input from public and private stakeholders to try and come up with some ideas on what should go in the space next.
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