Something akin to golf was played by legions of the Roman Empire, who took it abroad as their armies advanced. You can take along your version of golf, too, as you advance on vacation. Or you can simply enjoy the special museums throughout the United States and Canada that offer golfing facts, figures, history and lore.
It was the Scots and their rolling turf and dunes that fashioned the game we've recognized for about 600 years. To get a feel for the history of the sport, here are some museums and collections to swing by:
James River Country Club Golf Museum and Library. Founded in 1932 by non-golfer Archer M. Huntington, principal owner of the Newport News Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Co., this is believed to be the oldest golf museum in the world.
Boasting about 400 old clubs, including cleeks, baffies, jiggers, brassies, spoons and niblicks, it is possibly the finest collection in the country. Highlights include a Scottish-made wooden putter of the 1780 period, a concave-faced sand iron dated 1820 and the golf ball's evolution from early featheries to present.
More than 1,000 volumes document the game from medieval to contemporary times and include the rare 1566 Black Acts and the 1597 Scots Lawes and Acts, important because they contain the first known printed references to golf _ and the laws that prohibited its playing because it interfered with either the crown's archer's practice, church attendance or other aspects of life.
Located at 1500 Country Club Road, Newport News, VA 23606, (804) 595-3327, the museum is open to the public at no charge. However, since the club is private, curator Weymoth Crumpler recommends to call ahead.
USGA Golf House Museum and Library. Opened in 1972 near the borough of Far Hills, N.J., the museum and library is housed in a former residence built in 1919 by John Russell Pope, who also designed the Jefferson Memorial.
As the custodian of golf's history in the United States, the USGA makes this facility adjacent to its headquarters available for research as well as browsing. Along with about 8,000 volumes dedicated to golf, exhibits include a vast collection of clubs and balls signifying the three distinct eras in the evolution of the game: the feather ball, gutta percha ball, and the rubber ball periods.
America's enthusiasm for the game inspired rapid changes in equipment, and golf course construction boomed after World War II. Artifacts and memorabilia include paintings, photographs, sculpture, ceramics, glassware, silver pieces, golf garments and the club used by astronaut Alan Shepard on the moon. Exhibits feature course architecture and turf maintenance, hands-on and video presentations.
Located on Liberty Corner Road (State Route 512) in Far Hills, NJ 07931-0708 (908) 234-2300, Golf House is free of charge, open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday; it's closed New Year's Day, Easter Sunday, Thanksgiving and Christmas.
PGA/World Golf Hall of Fame. From its appropriate stance overlooking the fourth hole of Donald Ross' masterpiece Pinehurst No. 2, the Golf Hall of Fame nestles among dogwoods, azaleas and longleaf pine in Pinehurst, N.C.
A repository of antiques, artifacts, artworks, publications and equipment, two marble-columned structures display the development and history of golf over the past 300 years. Exhibits include the Old Clubmakers Shop, Auchterlonie Collection of 101 antique clubs, PGA Library and golf carts through the years.
Located on PGA Boulevard, Pinehurst, NC 28374, (919) 295-6651 or (800) 334-0178, the Hall of Fame is open March 1-Nov. 30, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. seven days a week. Admission is $3 for adults, $2 for children ages 10-18, free to children 9 or younger. AAA members and senior citizens pay $2.50.
The Tufts Archives. Richard S. Tufts, grandson of Pinehurst's founder, James Walker Tufts, established the Tufts Archives wing in 1975 to house the Given Memorial Library. The archives contain a display of photographs, papers and memorabilia pertaining to the early development of Pinehurst, a golfing mecca.
Located at Village Green East, Pinehurst, NC 28374, (919) 295-3642, the Tufts Archives is open from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday and from 2 to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, and is free of charge. A brief taped tour is available, as is a regularly scheduled "History of Pinehurst" lecture on the second Saturday of each month.
American Golf Hall of Fame. The Foxburg Golf Course is said to be the oldest course in continuous use in the United States, the game played here since 1887. Housed in the Foxburg Country Club's quaint log clubhouse, the library/museum depicting 400 years of history was developed by the Tri State PGA Hall of Fame in conjunction with the American Golf Hall of Fame, with exhibits that include ancient clubs and golf memorabilia.
Located in Foxburg, PA 16036, (412) 659-3196, the museum, golf course and clubhouse are open to the public seven days a week, from April through October.
The Robert Trent Jones Jr. Room: Except for time spent attending Harvard and making golf movies in Hollywood, Bobby Jones lived his entire life in Atlanta and played out of the Atlantic Athletic Club. It is here that this golfing great is immortalized. Pictures, books _ many authored by Jones _ golf clubs, personal memorabilia and trophies gleam from emerald green-lined wooden cases. Along with his Grand Slam awards, probably the exhibit's most prized piece is the St. Andrews Freedom of the City Presentation awarded in 1958 (the only American previously so honored was Benjamin Franklin in 1759).
The club is on Athletic Club Drive in Duluth, Ga., in north Fulton County, eight miles west of Roswell, (404) 448-2166. Since the Atlanta Athletic Club is private, general manager A. Christopher Borders suggests calling ahead for an appointment.
Ouimet Museum and Golf House: This small treasure is named for Francis Ouimet, the unknown 20-year-old who astounded the sporting world with his playoff victory over the British giants of golf Harry Vardon and Ted Ray in the 1913 U.S. Open. The library is filled with mementos, trophies and books that attest to the range and influence of Ouimet.
Located at 190 Park Road, Weston, MA 02193, (617) 891-6400, the museum is part of the Massachusetts Golf Association headquarters and is open to the public at no charge from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.
Jack Nicklaus Collection: Trophies and golf memorabilia are continually added to the Jack Nicklaus Collection permanently displayed at Muirfield Village Golf Club, close to his hometown of Columbus, Ohio. Showcased are copies of all major trophies, including the Ryder Cup and Muirfield's Memorial Tournament Cup, along with an extensive book collection and the set of clubs Nicklaus used to win the Masters. Eventually, a museum is planned to house the growing collection. Nicklaus founded Muirfield's Memorial Tournament and the Club's Memorial Park pays tribute to the winners.
Located at 5750 Memorial Drive, Dublin, OH 43017, (614) 889-6700, visitors are welcome to view the collection; however, since the club is private, general manager John Hines suggests calling ahead.
The PGA of America: The National Headquarters of the PGA of America in Palm Beach Gardens toasts golf's greats with its mezzanine-level heritage and memorabilia displays, old clubs used by PGA champions and trophies from PGA events such as the Ryder Cup, PGA Championship and the Harry Vardon Trophy.
Located in the headquarters building, (407) 624-8400, the exhibit is free and open to the public daily from 8 a.m. to 4:30 m.
The PGA Tour Hall of Fame and Museum: Stay tuned for this one; it's being built near St. Augustine. The new museum will feature golf heritage melded with high-tech innovative exhibits and be part of a larger complex that eventually will include two championship courses, resort hotel and residential community.
The Tournament Players Club at Sawgrass Collection: Home of the PGA's Tournament Players Championship each March, the Gallery at the entrance of the TPC at Sawgrass features copies of most PGA Tour event trophies. The display includes the pineapple-studded Hawaiian Open trophy, the Las Vegas Open's look-alike slot machine trophy and a Waterford crystal collection won by the Tournament Players Champion.
Located at 110 TPC Blvd., Ponte Vedra Beach, FL 32082, (904) 285-3700, just east of Jacksonville. Though the club is private, manager Bill Reid welcomes visitors.
Ben Hogan Trophy Room: One of the best trophy rooms around, Fort Worth's Colonial Country Club sports Ben Hogan's accomplishments in style. Recently the focus of a first-of-its-kind special exhibit at the USGA's Golf House in Far Hills, treasures cover his career from the silver cup won as a 16-year-old west Texas amateur to five gold U.S. Open Championship medals.
Located at 3735 Country Club Circle, Fort Worth, TX 76109, (817) 927-4278, 10 minutes southwest of Dallas/Fort Worth. Visitors are welcome, says tournament manager Dennis Roberson.
The Ralph W. Miller Golf Library/Museum: The only public golf library and museum in the western United States owes its extensive collections to Ralph W. Miller, a prominent Los Angeles lawyer who gathered the core of the exhibit over 40 years. More than 5,000 books and 1,500 bound periodicals make it a popular research center with museum displays that include clubs, balls, paintings dating to the late 1800s, ceramics, medals, trophies and an extensive video collection.
Located at the Industry Hills Recreation and Conference Center, 1 Industry Hills Parkway, City of Industry, CA 91744, (818) 854-2354, the library is open to visitors from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. seven days a week, and is a few steps from the first tee of the Dwight D. Eisenhower golf course, ranked in the top 25 public courses in the United States.
The Royal Canadian Golf Association Museum and Canadian Golf Hall of Fame: Situated at Glen Abbey Golf Course, the permanent home of the Canadian Open in Oakville, Ontario, the museum dedicates its coverage to the evolution of golf from its medieval roots, Scottish birth and development in Canada. Highlights include memorabilia of Canada's greatest golfers and supporters, the 1904 Olympic Trophy, early clubs, and a library stocked with golf literature. It's a reference library, so appointments must be made with the librarian.
Located on Rural Route 2, Oakville, Ontario, L6J 4Z3, Canada, (416) 849-9700, one half mile north of the Queen Elizabeth Way on Dorval Drive, the museum is open free of charge from 9 a.m. to 4:45 p.m. Monday through Friday year-round. For a weekend visit, curator Karen E. Hewson suggests contacting her for an appointment. Oakville is 20 minutes west of Toronto.
British Columbia's Golf Heritage Museum & Library: The new kid on the block and the only provincial golf museum in Canada, B.C.'s Golf Museum opened in 1989 in a restored 1930 British India bungalow-style clubhouse, rescued from the wrecking ball. The idea of local golf historian Mike Riste, displays come from his extensive 6,000-piece collection and include an old club-making shop, large assortment of hickory-shaft clubs, feather golf balls of the 1800s, B.C.'s Golf Hall of Fame, 1,200-volume reference library, photos and memorabilia.
Located at 2545 Blanca St., Vancouver, B.C., Canada, V6R 4N1, (604) 222-4653, the B.C. Golf House is open to the public at no charge (donations are appreciated) from noon to 4 p.m. six days a week (closed Monday).
Freelance writer Carol Godwin grew up helping her dad, the former executive director of the Florida State Golf Association for 27 years, run tournaments. She lives in Jacksonville.