Five Ways to Elevate Your Desert Vacation – Spring Training Style
By Chris Duthie
[easyazon_image align=”right” cart=”y” height=”160″ identifier=”B075CNFD2V” locale=”US” src=”https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/41tShAyGMDL._SL160_.jpg” tag=”coloradoavidg-20″ width=”104″]Fans of the Colorado Rockies’ Charlie Blackmon — last year’s National League batting champion and MVP candidate — know it’s high time to start planning an exhilarating March vacation to Phoenix, longtime headquarters of Major League Baseball’s Cactus League spring training.
Since 1947, the Valley of the Sun has been a saguaro-punctuated, sun-splashed haven for the boys of summer. Fifteen MLB teams now train and compete in metro Phoenix, including the Rockies and Arizona Diamondbacks, which share the chic and resplendent surrounds of Scottsdale’s new 11,000-seat Salt River Fields at Talking Stick stadium.
For cold-weary Coloradans, this leisurely drive into the panoramic Sonoran Desert offers oodles of warm-weather opportunities, including:
1) Talking Stick Resort, located on site and celebrated for its 36 holes of explosive desert golf designed by Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw. The world-class property also features the top-ranked Vision54 golf school headed by Pia Nilsson and Lynn Marriott, premium live concert entertainment, 300,000 square feet of Vegas-style casino gaming, luxurious guestroom accommodations, and six restaurants that range from casual bistros to elegant dining experiences.
2) TopGolf Riverwalk, located adjacent to Salt River Fields, is a rock-star amenity for golfers of every age and ability. The triple-story entertainment venue offers 102 climate-controlled hitting bays where players hit micro-chipped golf balls into dartboard-like targets at distances varying from 25 to 240 yards. More than a snazzy driving range, the neighborhood-hangout attraction combines golf with exciting, interactive games.
3) Also on site is OdySea in the Desert, the new eat, shop and play entertainment destination. Showcased by the 50-exhibit, 15,000-animal OdySea Aquarium, the popular venue also features the animatronic Pangea Land of the Dinosaurs, Butterfly Wonderland, Laser + Mirror Maze and the just-opened Dophinaris Arizona waterpark where guests interact with bottlenose dolphins.
4) Salt River Fields (pictured atop) is an easy six-mile drive from historic Scottsdale Stadium, the 12,000-seat spring training HQ of the San Francisco Giants. Both ballparks offer the convenience and comfort of the city’s renowned restaurants, breweries, boutiques and art galleries, as well as celebrated resort hotels like Andaz Scottsdale Resort & Spa, The Boulders Resort & Spa, Fairmont Scottsdale Princess, Four Seasons at Troon North, Hotel Valley Ho, Mountain Shadows, The Phoenician and the Westin Kierland Resort & Spa.
5) Scottsdale is home to 51 superlative golf courses — plus 200 more regional layouts are within an hour’s drive. High-five favorites include the Jay Morrish-designed The Boulders, Camelback (Michael Hurdzan/Dana Fry and Arthur Hills), Grayhawk (Tom Fazio and David Graham/Gary Panks), Papago (Billy Bell), The Phoenician (Ted Robinson/Homer Flint), Raven-Phoenix (Panks/Graham), Southern Dunes (Lee Schmidt/Brian Curley/Fred Couples), Troon North (Weiskopf/Morrish), TPC Scottsdale (Weiskopf/Morrish), Westin Kierland (Scott Miller), Wildfire (Arnold Palmer and Nick Faldo) and We-Ko-Pa (Coore/Crenshaw and Miller).
If You Go:
The Colorado Rockies’ spring training competition schedule kicks off Feb. 23 against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Salt River Fields stadium. Workouts, practices and B-squad games are open to the public at no charge. Salt River Fields is open daily 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. during spring training. Single-game reserved seats range from $21 to $44, and general admission lawn seating starts at $13. For tickets and playing schedule go online to rockies.com/spring or call (888) 490-0383.
For more about this year’s Cactus League spring training action, go online to cactusleague.com. For more vacation details about Scottsdale or Phoenix, go online to experiencescottsdale.com or visitphoenix.com.
Chris Duthie is a Durango-based contributor to Colorado AvidGolfer.