The Vinoy Renaissance St. Petersburg Resort & Golf Club

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Experience the golf course that started with a bet over a golf trick by Walter Hagen.




The Vinoy's golf course in St. Petersburg emerged in the early 1920s following a bet made during a house party.

A wealthy businessman named Aymer Vinoy Laughner hosted parties to entertain his friends and community, including the famed golfer, Walter Hagen. During a party at Laughner’s home, the business magnate engaged in a good-natured dispute with the flashy and charismatic Hagen over the power of his drive. According to one story, Laughner specifically attested that Hagen’s swing—while powerful—had no chance of damaging the crystal within his pocket watch. The haggling reached its crescendo when Hagen wagered a bet of $170,000 that he could, indeed, smash its glass casing. Placing the watch firmly on the ground, Hagen proceeded to forcefully launch golf balls several dozen yards away on a distant neighbor’s lawn. But much to the golfer’s surprise, the watch had somehow survived the contest unscathed. Flabbergasted, Hagen surrendered all the money to a grinning Laughner. Hagen could afford it: Considered one of the greatest golfers of the 20th century and a leader in the growth of professional golf in the 1910s and 1920s, he was the first player to make a million dollars at the game. Party guests mused that Laughner ought to use that money to build a spectacular holiday destination in downtown St. Petersburg: The Vinoy. The rest is history.

The Vinoy Renaissance St. Petersburg Resort & Golf Club opened in 1925 and it was inducted into Historic Hotels of America in 1991. The hotel’s golf club opened in 1927 and guests played the game on an 18-hole Snell Isle Golf Course, created by landscape architect and golf course designer John R. Van Kleek. Van Kleek designed courses across the United States’ east coast from Florida to Maine, and as far west as Alburquerque, New Mexico. In 1992, the championship Vinoy Golf Course was designed by Ron Garl on Snell Isle. Garl, who specialized in the study of turf grass in college, designed courses with the philosophy that a golf course should “sit softly on the land.” Today, holiday-goers and golf professionals play Garl's 18-hole, par 71 championship course, with opportunities to enjoy clubhouse amenities and receive lessons from professionals.

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