ST. AUGUSTINE, Florida — The World Golf Hall of Fame and Museum will be in business for one more week in St. Augustine — after a quarter-century that included 16 induction ceremonies, 76 new members, special exhibits honoring the game’s greatest players, entertainers and U.S. Presidents — plus the memories of as many as 280,000 visitors per year at its peak.
Therein lies the problem: attendance dipped to around 40,000 during the pandemic year of 2020 and was around 60,000 in 2021 and 2022.
That wasn’t enough to financially sustain the facility and some of its assets — and the brand — are being shipped to the Pinehurst Resort in North Carolina as part of the United States Golf Association’s new USGA Golf House Pinehurst, set to open in the late spring of 2024.
And it’s been with a mixture of curiosity, sadness and regret that visitors are prowling the halls and exhibit rooms of the Hall of Fame in the final days.
“It was so much fun to come here,” said Melody Herbert of St. Augustine, who came to the Hall of Fame with her husband Hank and their granddaughters Camille and Audrey to escape the heat of a late summer afternoon. “I loved the putting course and now that they’re old enough for that, it’s gone. I thought they had made improvements after [the recession of 2008].”
Another set of visitors were the Reyes brothers Benny (and his wife Janie) and Arnold (and his wife Elizabeth) from Corpus Christi, Texas. Arnold Reyes’ son had graduated from the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol Field Operations Academy in Brunswick and they took the opportunity to drive to St. Augustine when they read about the facility closing.
“It’s a bucket list item,” said Benny Reyes. “We’re just lucky we could get here before it closed. It’s a shame, really. If you’re a golf fan this is an incredible place.”
They’re not alone with those feelings.
“We are sad … the vision 25 years ago was incredible,” said Sarah S. Arnold, vice-chairman of the St. Johns County Commissioner who represents District 2, which includes the World Golf Village. “Unfortunately times have changed.”
Henry Dean, the District 5 commissioner who formerly represented the district where the World Golf Village is located, said the county has an opportunity for the future of the property,…