If you're a golf geek like I am, memorabilia matters.
Golf celebrates its past probably more than other sports. I've been fortunate enough to see several collections of golf's greatest artifacts. I toured Arnold Palmer's office across the street from Latrobe Country Club in rural Pennsylvania this summer, just before he passed away. The sheer volume of clubs, photos and money clips should be transformed into a museum. Pat Ruddy, the owner and designer of The European Club in Ireland, allowed me to page through some of golf's oldest books in his climate-controlled personal library above the clubhouse.
Certain clubhouses at famous private clubs can be even better. East Lake Golf Club outside Atlanta, home of the Tour Championship, showcases a trove of Bobby Jones memorabilia. In 2012, Cherry Hills Country Club outside Denver finished off its sweet Hall of Champions exhibit, a series of glass display cases and a giant mural of Palmer's famous hat fling in winning the 1960 U.S. Open, all celebrating the club's tournament history.
But I realize not everybody can get into Palmer's office or East Lake. In that case, here are 15 unique alternatives, places where any golfer who loves the history of the game can seek out some really cool stuff.
World Golf Hall of Fame in St. Augustine, Fla.: The Hall of Fame moved from Pinehurst, N.C., to this historic city in northeast Florida in 1998, blossoming into a destination where golfers can stay and play two resort courses and tour special exhibits dedicated to the majors, female and African-American golfers, Olympic golf and also the legendary Bob Hope. Museum tickets, ranging from $5 to $21, include one shot on the "Challenge Hole" and a round on the 18-hole putting course.
Heritage of Golf Museum at Gullane Golf Club in East Lothian, Scotland: The tiny room adjacent to the Gullane Golf Club pro shop holds the private collection of Archie Baird, an honorary club member who has extensively researched the history of the game. Baird, a retired fighter pilot and veterinary surgeon, debunks the myth that Scotland, the "Home of Golf," invented the game by showing off the various paintings, artwork and drawings he's found. Clubs, balls and trinkets are piled up everywhere, all stories waiting to be told. His enjoyable 15-minute presentation is only available by appointment. Contact information is found at heritageofgolf.org.
Archie Baird inside his Heritage of Golf Museum in Scotland
USGA Museum in Far Hills, N.J.: The artifacts here tell the story of the game's development in America with a particular focus on USGA champions and championships. Admission is $10 for adults. Playing the Pynes Putting Course -- a 16,000-square-foot green behind the museum that was inspired by the world-renowned Himalayas Putting Course in St. Andrews -- costs an additional $5.
Tufts Archive in Pinehurst, N.C.: The free archive, located in a wing of the Given Memorial Library in the village, was built in 1975, spurred by Richard S. Tufts, grandson of village founder James Walker Tufts. It's full of books -- Golf Advisor's Brandon Tucker found a rare copy of Tom Doak's first edition of "The Confidential Guide to Golf Courses" inside -- and photographs and historical documents about Pinehurst, the self-proclaimed "Home of American Golf."
The Tufts Archive in Pinehurst
Jack Nicklaus Museum at Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio: This museum chronicles every aspect of the former Buckeye's career, from his 18 majors to his design career, his family and The Memorial Tournament he founded at Muirfield Village Golf Club in nearby Dublin, Ohio. Admission is $10. Visit nicklausmuseum.org for more information.
Prestwick Golf Club in Prestwick, Scotland: Prestwick Golf Club home of the first Open Championship in 1860 -- and 23 others until 1925 -- sets the standard for historic artifacts. Two of the most famous scorecards of Young Tom Morris hang in the clubhouse: the first-ever Open hole-in-one in 1869 and his 1870 card. There is also a correspondence to Prestwick from Old Tom Morris, the club's first keeper of the greens, of his intended return to St. Andrews in 1864. The Open collection contains the original sketch supplied to the silversmiths in Edinburgh with the design for the engraving of the Challenge Belt and buckles; the notice for the first Championship in 1860 and the excerpt from the Club's Minute Book, noting the scores of the players in that first 1860 event. For those who don't know, the Challenge Belt (a replica is also on display) was awarded to The Open winners until the claret jug came along in 1872.
Replicas of the Challenge Belt and claret jug at Prestwick
Cinnabar Hills Golf Club in San Jose, Calif.: I had no idea this really good 27-hole public facility existed until I moved nearby in 2016. The bigger shock was seeing just how much golf history was hidden inside the Cinnabar Hills clubhouse. All of the items in the Brandenburg Historical Golf Museum are from course owner Lee Brandenburg's personal collection. The most interesting pieces are full-size replicas of golf's major trophies, including a letter from the USGA demanding he dispose of its replica trophy or face legal action. A Masters green jacket owned by President Eisenhower, and two sets of clubs used to shoot 59 -- one from Chip Beck and another from Al Geiberger -- are pretty rare finds, too.
Archive Room at The Nairn Golf Club in Nairn, Scotland: This upstairs room was inspired by a couple of members who visited Royal County Down Golf Club in Northern Ireland for the 2007 Walker Cup, said Fraser Cromarty, chief executive officer at The Nairn Golf Club. It isn't so much what's inside as it is the presentation of the photos, books and hickory-shafted clubs hanging on the walls or displayed in the glass cases. I wish I could get the organizer of it all to decorate my office.
Royal Lytham & St. Annes Golf Club in Lancashire, England: Virtually all of The Open venues are worthy of inclusion in this story, but upstairs of Royal Lytham & St. Annes Golf Club features several unique items: A life-like painting of Bobby Jones, and clubs that helped Jones win the 1926 Open and Gene Sarazen win the Masters in 1935.
PGA Golf Club in Port St. Lucie, Fla.: The hallways of the PGA Gallery replaced the PGA Museum of Golf in 2015 as home to golf's four major championship trophies, along with many other select artifacts from the Ryder Cup and PGA Championship. Visitors may follow a timeline chronicling the birth of the PGA of America in 1916 and its growth to becoming one of the world's largest sports organizations. You can have lunch or dinner at the adjoining Taplow Pub, named after the business group that inspired the birth of the PGA.
Branson Hills Golf Club in Branson, Mo.: Under the club's former name, the Payne Stewart Golf Club, its memorabilia display solely recognized Stewart's career. With the recent name change to Branson Hills Golf Club, the glass case display is now called the Missouri Golfers Museum featuring photos of Missouri golf legends such as Horton Smith, Tom Watson, Judy Rankin and Stewart.
The Canadian Golf Hall of Fame & Museum at Glen Abbey Golf Club in Oakville, Ont.: The uncertain future of the famous club, which reportedly could be redeveloped into a new subdivision, could jeopardize this museum celebrating the history of the Canadian game and the Glen Abbey Golf Club course, which has hosted the Canadian Open 27 times. Admission is $10.
Old Sport & Gallery in Pinehurst, N.C.: If I won the lottery, one of my first shopping sprees would be at this delightful shop in the village. While traveling and playing professionally in the United States, the Asian, Australian (New Zealand) and South American tours, owner Tom Stewart amassed tons of treasured art and artifacts. I love the randomness of it all, how around every corner awaits a new surprise and gorgeous paintings and artwork are strewn about like children's toys.
Old Sport & Gallery owner Tom Stewart
Golf Links to the Past at The Lodge at Pebble Beach in Pebble Beach, Calif.: As with everything else at Pebble Beach, bring a fat credit card if you want to buy anything at this small retail shop that's always an entertaining walk-through. How about an old Crosby National Pro-Am program for $50 or a decanter for $800? A 2001 Masters Contestant Badge will cost you $1,300, according to the shop's Web site.
Golf's greatest bar
Dunvegan Hotel in St. Andrews, Scotland: This popular watering hole and hotel is less than a tee shot from the Old Course at St. Andrews. After finishing a plate of fish and chips, walk about and look at all the photos and autographs of famous golfers who have played in The Open at St. Andrews.
Dunvegan Hotel in St. Andrews, Scotland