ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. – With apologies to the Ponte Vedra Inn and Golf Club, when it comes to golf in the Jacksonville area, two destinations come to mind: one is the TPC Sawgrass, home of The Players Championship and headquarters to the PGA Tour, and the other is World Golf Village.
If you're a golfer, both should be on your bucket list, but if you were visiting the Jacksonville area and could only choose one, which one would it be? While the TPC Sawgrass offers Pete Dye's Players Stadium Course, World Golf Village has the World Golf Hall of Fame, another must-see for any golf enthusiast.
Here, then, is a tale of the tape between the two to help you make up your mind. Or if you're really fortunate, take an extended golf vacation and hit both of them. At the very least, even if you spend most of your vacation at one, save a day to visit the other.
World Golf Village: The Renaissance Resort of World Golf Village has 300 recently renovated luxurious rooms and suites. The atrium-style hotel offers a 24-hour health club, lounge and full-service concierge.
In addition, guests can also stay at the Grande Villas at World Golf Village, a Bluegreen Vacation Club resort, which overlooks parts of the Slammer & Squire Golf Course. There's no spa, per se, but the Renaissance does have a sauna, a large pool and a hot tub.
TPC Sawgrass: The resort of choice for TPC Sawgrass is the nearby Sawgrass Marriott, which has a number of exclusive licensing agreements with the TPC.
The beautifully appointed hotel, which sits on 15 acres of magnolias, palms and winding lagoons, hosts many special events associated with The Players Championship as well as weddings. There are 508 elegantly appointed guestrooms, as well as 24 spacious suites that look more like modern penthouses than hotel rooms.
There are also 80 villas, perfect for families or foursomes. In addition, the resort offers the Ponte Vedra Spa, a 25,000-square-foot, Zen-inspired escape that offers 19 private rooms for various treatments as well as a whirlpool or heated outdoor pool.
World Golf Village: There are two 18-hole courses, one right next to the hotel and World Golf Hall of Fame, and the other a few miles away in a gated community.
The Slammer & Squire Course, which pays tribute to its consultants -- Sam Snead and Gene Sarazen -- is by far the easier of the two. Designed by Bobby Weed, the course offers wide fairways, easier greens complexes and fewer forced carries.
The King and Bear Course, named for designers Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus, is appropriately difficult considering the pedigree of the two great champions. You'll see design traits common to both throughout, and with plenty of bunkers, water on most holes and some tricky greens, the nearly 7,300-yard course is very challenging. Both courses are always in top condition, as you might expect.
TPC Sawgrass: The Players Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass is the ultimate play, especially the finishing holes that include the par-3 17th island green. And then there's Pete Dye's Valley Course, which may be slightly underrated.
Renovated in 2010, this classic Florida layout hosts a Nationwide Tour event in the fall. Some 85 percent of the tee times on the Players Stadium Course are booked through the Sawgrass Marriott, which also provides guests access to six other courses in the area, including exceptional Sawgrass Country Club, which hosted The Players Championship from 1977-1981.
World Golf Village: WGV's PGA Tour Academy features all the bells and whistles you might expect in a top-notch teaching center. Teachers use three teaching and video analysis systems in individual lessons, two- to five-day golf schools, outings and clinics for groups of all sizes.
TPC Sawgrass: Featuring some of the best instructors in the business, the Tour Academy TPC Sawgrass has all the latest bells and whistles when it comes to golf instruction. Plus it's located right on the practice facilities at the Players Stadium Course.
World Golf Village: This is the crown jewel of the resort, where the game's greatest are enshrined, and artifacts and exhibits are preserved. A day really isn't enough time to spend at the Hall of Fame, but if that's all you got, use it.
Exhibits span the development of the game as well as equipment, memorabilia from the great tournaments and plenty of exhibits on the inductees, including lockers showcasing priceless material donated by the legends and their families.
TPC Sawgrass: There's no Hall of Fame, but the 77,000-square-foot clubhouse certainly serves as a museum to the PGA Tour and The Players Championship.
Throughout, you'll find artwork, club exhibits, trophies depicting the history of The Players, a room dedicated to the Presidents Cup and so much more. Guided tours of the clubhouse are provided and recommended.
World Golf Village: There are several places to eat, including 500 South: An American Grill, but perhaps the one most people talk about is Murray Bros. Caddyshack, which is owned by actor/comedian Bill Murray and his five brothers.
Inside, there are all kinds of memorabilia from the classic golf comedy. The menu ranges from bar food to classic entrees, but the real kick is in hanging out at the bar with a cold one and soaking up the vibes.
TPC Sawgrass: Sawgrass really excels here, whether it's at the TPC or at the Sawgrass Marriott. The clubhouse offers everything from fine dining to light fare after the round, including one of the best happy hours in the area at its Nineteen restaurant and bar.
At the Marriott, there are 10 dining options. For example, for fine dining and great steaks, there's the Augustine Grille, the 619 Ocean View Restaurant has great views of the surf and V. Kelly's Pub not only features a nice selection of comfort food, but a pretty good Guinness pour as well.
World Golf Village: Starting with the commemorative Walk of Champions that encircles a lake in the center of the resort, WGC has a lot to offer. On that walk, you'll find several shops, including the 30,000-square-foot PGA Tour Stop, a two-level specialty store with golf merchandise, club fitting and hitting bays.
There's also the World Golf Hall of Fame IMAX Theater, recently upgraded with the largest 3D Digital IMAX screen in the world. Next to the IMAX is an enjoyable 18-hole putting course and island green on the lake, reminiscent of the 17th on the Stadium Course at Sawgrass. Resort meeting facilities include the adjoining St. Johns County Convention Center as well as ballrooms and meeting space in the Renaissance and Shell Hall in the World Golf Hall of Fame.
TPC Sawgrass: The Sawgrass Marriott has four outdoor pools, three whirlpools, 24-hour fitness facilities, hiking, biking, deep-sea fishing, family activities and 11 tennis courts (at the neighboring facility for the Association of Tennis Professionals). There's also the Cabana Beach Club right on the Atlantic Ocean.
Besides the board rooms and outdoor space at the TPC Clubhouse, the Sawgrass Marriott has more than 56,000 square feet of meeting space to accommodate all types of events. The hotel is also a prime site for weddings and receptions as is the TPC Clubhouse.
Both World Golf Village and the TPC Sawgrass are premium products, and that's usually reflected in the price.
But considering the green fees at the Players Stadium Course at the TPC Sawgrass (upwards of $400 during peak season), World Golf Village is probably a little more affordable.
Both offer vacation packages that may not necessarily save you money but will take care of every detail of your stay.
September 9, 2011