Golf and Spring Training: Turn the Double Play in the Valley of the Sun
Let the Swings of Spring Begin
Spring, the traditional season of hope and rebirth, injects both golfers and baseball fans with a faith in fresh starts. That new putter is going to help you contend for the club championship just like Kyle Freeland’s comeback will deliver the Rockies (with a National League-worst 5.56 ERA in 2019) into the postseason. While both sports begin in April—the Masters is golf’s version of Opening Day—February and March let us revel in optimism. From the snows of Colorado, we head to sunny Arizona to play 18 holes in the morning and watch nine innings in the afternoon. We know neither of these games count for anything more than our own enjoyment and, perhaps, a reason always to let hope triumph over experience.
Other courses may be more convenient to Salt River Fields, but none offers Rockies fans more than Ak-Chin Southern Dunes. Located 30 minutes south of from Sky Harbor in Maricopa, this nationally ranked design by Lee Schmidt, Brian Curley and Fred Couples—which can stretch to 7,546 yards and annually hosts U.S. Open qualifiers—offers a number of sweet stay-and-play packages with Harrah’s Ak-Chin Casino & Resort, including one that features Rockies Spring Training tickets. Players on the team also frequent the Troon-managed course. akchinsoutherndunes.com.
# IS IN THE NAME: Ak-Chin’s six-hole par-3 #miniDunes course offers unlimited play and costs adults $12 and juniors (17 and under) $0. Holes span 61 to 114 yards.
Catch Weezer, Dave Matthews Band and other acts, along with appearances by star MLB ballplayers at the third annual Innings Festival Feb. 29-Mar. 1 at Tempe Beach Park. inningsfestival.com
Its Name is Rio
Like the delectable cabernets and malbecs served at the Box Car Grille in its recently renovated clubhouse, the 44-year-old Rio Verde Country Club improves with each passing year. Located about 45 minutes northeast of Salt River Fields, Sloan Park and HoHoKam Stadium, this private enclave offers 36 holes of Tom Lehman-designed golf, six tennis courts (two lighted), two bocce pitches, a heated resort-style swimming pool, fitness classes and a first-rate art studio. A latticework of mountain trails invites hiking, biking and horseback riding in the adjacent Tonto National Forest and McDowell foothills. Visitors and prospective members can rent homes in the community and enjoy full golf and other club privileges. rioverdearizona.com
We-Ko-Pa Golf Club doubles down on stellar golf with its Scott Miller-designed Cholla Course and the Coore-Crenshaw Saguaro Course. Both offer breathtaking views of the McDowell Mountains, Red Mountain, Four Peaks and the Superstitions. The courses lie on Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation land that will never be commercially developed. wekopa.com
The We-Ko-Pa Resort & Conference Center, recipient of 14 straight AAA Four Diamond Awards, luxuriously handles its course’s stay-and-play deals. A glorious upscale casino will open this summer. wekoparesortandconferencecenter.com
A setting for The Amazing Race, the tribally owned, 20,000-acre Fort McDowell Adventures specializes in trail rides, cattle drives, UTV Tomcar tours, intimate cookouts and more. fortmcdowelladventures.com
Rising in the West Valley
If good things do indeed come in threes, then The Wigwam in Litchfield Park is really good. Since welcoming its first guests in 1929, the venerable resort has grown to comprise 331 elegant rooms, three signature dining venues, three pools and three lush 18-hole parkland-style courses. Called “Arizona’s Monster,” Wigwam’s 7,345-yard, Robert Trent Jones-designed Gold course has hosted numerous regional qualifiers for USGA and NCAA championships, while his 6,000-yard Blue course appeals to shorter hitters and beginners. Splitting the difference, the popular 6,852-yard Red course—designed, appropriately, by Red Lawrence—features 10 holes with water and one of Arizona’s toughest closing stretches. Additionally, The Wigwam offers Hybrid Golf Outings (HgO) as alternatives to standard rounds, and after 11 a.m. on weekends, it shortens one course for Footgolf. Afterwards, recover with a golfer’s spa package at the resort’s 26,000-square foot LeMonds Aveda Salon. The Wigwam’s 440-acre property lies within a 10-minute drive of the Spring Training sites of the Indians, Reds, Dodgers and White Sox. wigwamarizona.com
The West Valley rocks. See a concert at Ak-Chin Pavilion or State Farm Stadium. Catch a Phoenix Coyotes game at Gila River Arena, or the FanShield 500 at Phoenix Raceway. Want culture? Go to the West Valley Art Museum or Arizona Broadway Theatre.
Glendale’s glamorous outdoor Westgate Entertainment District sports 30 restaurants to fuel its shoppers. Those hungering for more intimate West Valley dining head to Arrowhead Grill, Bella Luna Ristorante or the Wigwam’s delightful Litchfield’s.
Longbow Hits the Target
Located in Mesa, just minutes from Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport and Old Town Scottsdale, the Ken Kavanaugh-designed Longbow Golf Club ranks as one of Arizona’s top courses—especially among the Cubs and Athletics fans who fill the tee sheets each spring. The superb 7,050-yard, par-71 layout opens with a monster par 5 that tips out at 626 yards, and closes with a 556-yard three-shotter. You can surf all 18 holes on a Golfboard for $25, and cool off with the misters that keep things chill on The Grille’s patio. longbowgolf.com
Where They Played 18
For the first 18 years of their existence, the Colorado Rockies and their fans would head each spring to Tucson, where the team played at Hi Corbett Field and the faithful could go tee off practically next door at the municipal Randolph Park or 17 miles up the road at Omni Tucson National—both of which had hosted the PGA TOUR’s Tucson Open. They also frequented the 27-hole resort facilities at JW Marriott Starr Pass and Westin La Paloma.
Although the Rockies may now train 125 miles north, those stellar Tucson courses, as well as the ones at Sewailo and Ventana Canyon remain less than a two-hour drive—and a world away—on I-10. visittucson.org/golf
Discover the best-kept secret in Southern Arizona 45 minutes from Tucson. Located on the site of a historic Spanish Colonial
ranch, Tubac Golf Resort & Spa sports 98 distinctive luxurious suites and guest rooms, 27 holes of golf, a world-class spa and restaurant, and the distinction of having some of the best scenes from Tin Cup filmed on property. tubacgolfresort.com
Come Spring Training, baseballs and golf balls fly all over the Valley of the Sun. This map and key reference the courses* near each Cactus League stadium. No ballpark lies more than an hour’s drive from another; nor do most courses from most stadiums.
A. CINCINNATI REDS
& CLEVELAND INDIANS
1933 South Ballpark Way, Goodyear
Courses: Wigwam, Estrella, Tres Rios at Estrella Park, Palm Valley, Verrado
B. TEXAS RANGERS
& KANSAS CITY ROYALS
15850 North Bullard, Surprise
Courses: Wigwam, Coyote Lakes, Hillcrest, Rancho de los Caballeros, Cimarron, Trilogy at Vistancia, Wickenburg Ranch
C. SEATTLE MARINERS
& SAN DIEGO PADRES
Peoria Sports Complex
16101 N. 83rd Ave., Peoria
Courses: Quintero, Trilogy at Vistancia, Sun City West (7 courses), Westbrook Village
D. LOS ANGELES DODGERS
& CHICAGO WHITE SOX
10710 West Camelback Rd, Glendale
Courses: Wigwam, Palm Valley, Sun City, Sun City North, Verrado
E. MILWAUKEE BREWERS
3600 N. 51st Ave., Phoenix
phoenix.gov/sports; 800 933-7890
Courses: Papago, Raven Phoenix, Verrado
F. LOS ANGELES ANGELS
Tempe Diablo Stadium
2200 W. Alameda Dr. Tempe
Courses: Ak-Chin Southern Dunes, Papago, Raven Phoenix, The Legacy, Wild Horse Pass
G. SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS
7408 E. Osborn Road, Scottsdale
Courses: We-Ko-Pa, Camelback, McCormick Ranch, McDowell Mountain, The Phoenician, Westin Kierland
H. COLORADO ROCKIES
& ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS
Salt River Fields at Talking Stick
7555 N. Pima Rd, Scottsdale
Courses: Ak-Chin Southern Dunes, Eagle Mountain, Rio Verde, We-Ko-Pa, Talking Stick, Troon North, Grayhawk, McCormick Ranch, The Boulders, TPC Scottsdale, Wildfire
I. OAKLAND ATHLETICS
1235 North Center Street, Mesa
Courses: Longbow, We-Ko-Pa, Arizona Grand, Papago, Raven-Phoenix, Superstition Springs, The Legacy, Whirlwind
J. CHICAGO CUBS
2330 W. Rio Salado Pkwy, Mesa
Courses: Ak-Chin Southern Dunes, Longbow, We-Ko-Pa, Arizona Grand, Papago Park, Raven Phoenix, Superstition Springs, The Legacy, Whirlwind, Las Sendas
In the Magazine
This 2020 Spring Training Guide was also featured in the Spring 2020 issue of Colorado AvidGolfer.
Colorado AvidGolfer is the state’s leading resource for golf and the lifestyle that surrounds it, publishing eight issues annually and proudly delivering daily content via coloradoavidgolfer.com. Follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.