Road Trips

Spikes out: Arizona golf and Spring Training


Call it “Adult Spring Break.” Neither thorns nor prickles, splinters nor spines are to be found with a sweet spike-to-spike segue sliding Phoenix-area guests from desert golf to Cactus League Spring Training season. Reaching the proverbial fever pitch in March, the region’s dozens of legit golf options pair a spring scorecard with 10 area ballparks, housing the hardball exhibitions of 15 MLB teams.

Searching and scrolling for segues can take more time than a round or ballgame, so omit the surfing with this pair of itineraries. With most games starting around 1:05 p.m., aim for a pre-game tee time around 8:00 a.m. to ensure a full day of balls both dimpled and stitched.

Scottsdale Double-Dip: The Phoenician to either Scottsdale Stadium or Salt River Fields

Fresh off a $90 million resort renovation which upgraded everything from resort rooms to the Spa to the Athletic Club and pools to, yup, the golf course, The Phoenician proves among the most deservedly-popular stay and plays for the Spring Training set.

“March is out biggest month of the year; it’s not even close,” says Erik Broka, director of golf and tennis at The Phoenician. “A lot of our guests, if not most, are here for a week from cold weather climates, mixing in some golf with Spring Training and time at the pool.”

Golfers who haven’t visited the grounds in the past year or so will revisit a totally redesigned track which architect Phil Smith transformed from 27 to 18 holes. The resulting, 6,518-yard grounds of play pair resort-style flair amid the Sonoran Desert spread and adjacent sentry of Camelback Mountain. Getable fairways couple with massive, swaling greens, which puts a scoring premium on strong wedge and putter play throughout a continually fun and engaging round.

“The course is now re-maturing, and we’re seeing the (TiffEagle) greens really take hold and rolling a little faster,” adds Broka. “It’s a golf course you can play again and again and not get bored with it; and it won’t beat you up, either, whereas a lot of the courses in the area can prove really difficult.”

The course and resort is one oft-enjoyed by team execs and players themselves.

“We do see a lot of Cubs players and executives out here; and, of course, the Diamondbacks are our team, so we have a great relationship with them,” Broka says. “And a lot of those guys will bring out their buddies from other teams, as it’s some of the only time they can spend together before the season gets underway.”

Enhancing the MLB vibe, the Phoenician’s on-cart Shark Experience feature couples GPS with game broadcasts and a score ticker.

“And in our pro shop, we’ve got Titleist hats for every Cactus League team,” says Broka.

Post-round Cactus League choices abound, with Scottsdale Stadium a mere three miles from the resort and Salt River Fields at Talking Stick (shared home of the D-Backs and Colorado Rockies) just six miles away.

Originally debuted back in 1956, Scottsdale Stadium’s current version was opened in 1992, with a full renovation in 2005 followed by a $50 million reinvestment this offseason past. Sporting capacity of 12,000 (with about 3,700 stadium seats), the spring home of the San Francisco Giants offers the club’s signature garlic fries with an active city scene amid the heart of Old Town Scottsdale.

Pro tip: It may be best not to drive to the park, but rather get dropped off via cab or ride app, as, post-game, a caravan of Old Town bars and restaurants are at the ready to golf cart your foursome for furthered Adult Spring Break time into the evening hours.

Mesa Double-Dip: Superstition Springs Golf Club to Sloan Park or Hohokam Stadium

Players wanting to pocket a li’l extra bread for ballgame beers will want to check out a great value play at Superstition Springs Golf Club in Mesa, where rack rates are under $90.

A one-time PGA Tour Q-School host, the ’80s design from Greg Nash tips out at a shade over 7,000 yards and is an area original in layout and aesthetic.

“We have a pretty unique design out here for the Phoenix area; I liken it to Florida golf,” says Kyle Jones, assistant general manager at Superstition Springs. “We have a lot of palm trees, a lot of grass mounding to shape the fairways and small greens to test the approaches. A lot of Arizona desert golf is target-style with natural desert-scape. For us to have almost wall-to-wall turf is different, and you’ll also find a lot of water challenges out here, especially on our par 3s and out shorter par 4s.”

Nos. 4 and 5 mark a fun, back-to-back run of risk-reward.

“On the par-4 No. 4, the fairways runs out at about 250 yards; so even if you hit a hybrid or a long mid-iron, the shot could run out into the drink,” details Jones. “Hitting, say, 7-iron, gives you that birdie chance with a wedge, maybe as much as going for the green with driver, which can leave you with a tough up-and-down.

“And on the par-4 fifth hole, you can try and hit a high fade over trees to the green, which requires a carry of about 280 yards. If you miss, it’s well-guarded by bunkers; and if you’re short, it’s a tough little pitch to an elevated putting surface. A lot of players opt for a 200-yard shot from the tee and then wedging in.”

During the Waste Management Phoenix Open, Superstition starts to see MLB players (namely Dodgers) across its grounds before the onset of spring training brings the am masses.

“Spring Training is almost a season unto itself,’ says Jones. “Golfers are coming out here for baseball, and we really put a special focus on the experience. Yeah, we’re a public course, but this time of year, we adapt to a ‘resort course’ mentality. We know people are here on vacation. We see a lot of ballcaps – particularly Cubs. So we work to cater to them with logo balls, Chicago Dogs on the menu and other stuff like that.”

Jones is also well-aware that tee times segue to first-pitch times.

“A lot of players in our 8:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m. range are looking to catch that 1:05 p.m. game, so we do keep that in mind and make pace a focus,” he adds.

Following the home hole, Hohokam Stadium, spring training home of the Oakland A’s, is 12 miles from the course, while, for those Cubs fans, Sloan Park is only 16 miles away.

The most modern of Cactus League parks, Sloan is a peach. Opened in 2014, the park is designed to vibe a mini-Wrigley Field, with its iconic Cubs’ scoreboard, Chicago-style fare, brick backstop and grassy outfield berm.

Parking is easy and ample across the park’s surrounds ($10 for a 5-minute walk), and while spring training’s most popular park does bring with it MLB-priced concessions, the beauty of the structure and laid-back setting are all worth the price of the scorecard.

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Judd Spicer

Judd Spicer