Cactus Makes Perfect: Spring Training and the Sonoran Desert Make Phoenix the Ideal Spring Golf Getaway
For nearly seven decades, Phoenix has been a spring training haven for Major League Baseball. It was in 1947 when Bob Feller’s Cleveland Indians and Mel Ott’s New York Giants first set up shop in the Valley of the Sun, birthing the newly minted Cactus League and paving the way for an annual desert pilgrimage since enjoyed by millions of sports enthusiasts.
Fourteen MLB teams, including the San Diego Padres and the 2015 World Series champions Kansas City Royals, now make the region their home throughout the month of March, with all game staged within a 35-mile radius in saguro-spiced Phoenix. It’s called “Cactus Makes Perfect,” not just for pitch-and-hit athletes but also for golfers — who drive, pitch and putt their way through the area’s 250 golf courses, most designed by top names like Coore/Crenshaw, Nicklaus, Dye, Weiskopf, Fazio, Jones and Morrish.
It all adds up to a perfect-game golf and baseball vacation.
Camelback Ranch: 10710 West Camelback Road; Glendale; 623-302-5000 camelbackranchbaseball.com
THE OLD BALL GAME: Spring training headquarters for the Chicago White Sox and Los Angeles Dodgers, the 13,000-seat Camelback Ranch complements Glendale’s sprawling “sports and entertainment district” that includes University of Phoenix Stadium (home of the NFL’s Arizona Cardinals), Gila River Arena (NHL’s Phoenix Coyotes) and an array of shopping and dining options when fans hunger for more than the stadium’s signed souvenirs, suds and “Dodger Dogs.” Pro tip: Arrive early — parking is free — and score player autographs on the infield’s third-base side.
PERFECT STAY: For plush and memorable overnight accommodations, reserve a luxury casita at The Wigwam, located 11 minutes southwest of the stadium in nearby Litchfield Park. This historic resort offers award-winning dining, an Elizabeth Arden Red Door Spa, tennis, swimming, fitness center and three 18-hole golf courses including two crafted by legendary architect Robert Trent Jones Sr. wigwamarizona.com
PLAY: Nearby golf recommendations include 36-hole Palm Valley GC (crafted by Arthur Hills and Hale Irwin) and Verrado GC (John Fought/Tom Lehman). For mouth-watering cuisine, look no further than Restaurant Atoyac Estilo Oaxaca (Mexican) and Vincent Guerithault’s Market Bistro (French), both ranked on Zagat’s Top 20 Phoenix Restaurants list.
Peoria Sports Complex: 16101 N. 83rd Ave.; Peoria; 800-677-1227 peoriasportscomplex.com
THE OLD BALL GAME: Frequently a sellout for its home-base San Diego Padres and Seattle Mariners, 12,339-seat Peoria Sports Complex has upgraded its fan-pampering surrounds with fixed and shaded seating, better viewing, souvenir shopping and expanded socializing areas. Pro tip: Before opting for the All-You-Can-Eat Deck ticket upgrade ($20) and ordering from the copious menu of craft beers, stake out Autograph Alley near the right-field concourse to snare photos and autographs from your favorite players.
PERFECT STAY: Peoria is the northernmost of the Valley’s baseball stadiums, making The Boulders Resort & Spa in nearby Carefree the go-to for luxe-level overnights. The AAA Four Diamond property just completed an eight-month, multi-million-dollar renovation that included total bedroom-to-bathroom transformations to the 160 guest casitas, plus a fully revamped main lodge that offers new restaurant dining, enhanced group facilities and a revamped waterfall-over-boulders pool complex. theboulders.com
PLAY: Golfers are further spoiled by The Boulders’ exceptional 36-hole semi-private facility designed by Jay Morrish, with top-rated Quintero (Rees Jones) and Trilogy (Gary Panks) golf clubs nearby. For spectacular off-property dining, feast at innovative Brian’s Black Mountain Barbecue or the James Beard-lauded Chef Kevin Binkley’s Restaurant in nearby Cave Creek.
Salt River Fields at Talking Stick: 7555 N. Pima Rd.; Scottsdale; 888-490-0383 saltriverfields.com
THE OLD BALL GAME: Built in 2011 and shared by the Arizona Diamondback and Colorado Rockies, Salt River Fields is the Valley’s newest baseball park and an integral component of Talking Stick Resort’s collection of premier guest perks. Highlights of the posh 12,800-seat stadium include appetizing food and beverage, ample shade and lawn seating, three elevated “party decks” and concourse autograph sessions prior to every game. Pro tip: Ride the free trolley to and from downtown Scottsdale’s renowned bistros, bars, boutiques and art galleries. Games regularly sell out, so purchase tickets early.
PERFECT STAY: Deluxe accommodations are within walking distance at Talking Stick Resort, which also boasts a 300,000-square-foot gaming casino, award-winning dining, spa, concert venues — see legendary rock guitarist Joe Satriani in March — and 36-holes of Bill Coore/Ben Crenshaw-crafted golf, ranked by Golfweek as among the very best in Arizona. talkingstickresort.com
PLAY: Upgrade your golf vacation by playing nearby 36-hole Troon North (Tom Weiskopf/Jay Morrish) or 36-hole Grayhawk (Tom Fazio and David Graham/Gary Panks), or go test your swing skills at TopGolf Scottsdale’s sensational new family fun center. Gourmet dining recommendations include Citizen Public House (steak and seafood) and Chef Richard Sandoval’s new Toro Latin Restaurant (Asian/Latin).
Scottsdale Stadium: 7408 E. Osborn Road; Scottsdale; 480-312-2586 scottsdaleaz.gov/scottsdale-stadium (12,000/1992)
THE OLD BALL GAME: Cactus League venue of the San Francisco Giants since 1992, 12,000-seat Scottsdale Stadium also anchors Old Town Scottsdale’s celebrated restaurants, clubs, boutiques and galleries. The stadium further indulges sports fans with Bay Area craft beers, Napa Valley wines and an all-inclusive food and beverage ticket upgrade within the shaded Charro Lodge arena ($85). Pro tip: On sunny days, opt for top-of-stadium bleacher seating for the shade and skin-cooling misters. Downtown Scottsdale offers free trolley transport and free public parking.
PERFECT STAY: For home-run luxury choose The Phoenician, a AAA Five Diamond and Forbes Five Star property. Sited at the base of Camelback Mountain just minutes from Scottsdale Stadium, the 250-acre resort features six restaurants, 22,000-square-foot spa, 11-court tennis center, swimming, boutique shopping and 27 holes of Ted Robinson- and Homer Flint-designed golf. thephoenician.com
PLAY: Golfers also should reserve a tee time at nearby ASU Karsten Golf Club (Pete Dye) or Raven GC-Phoenix (Gary Panks/David Graham). Afterwards, steal up the Scottsdale Ale Trail to sample small-batch IPAs, ales and lagers at Fate Brewing, Goldwater Brewing, Craft 64, Two Brothers Taphouse, Papago Brewery and Union Barrel House. For extraordinary cuisine, dine at Mastro’s City Hall (steak and seafood), ShinBay (Japanese) or T. Cook’s (Mediterranean).
Tempe Diablo Stadium: 2200 W. Alameda Dr.; Tempe; 888-796-HALO tempe.gov/diablo
THE OLD BALL GAME: Notch a grand slam memory at 9,785-seat Tempe Diablo Stadium, spring training digs for the Los Angeles Angels and its superstar slugger, Mike Trout. Back-dropped by rugged Twin Buttes, the ballpark is favored for easy access to players who indulge fans with autographs and photo ops. Pro Tip: Tempe Diablo Stadium is notorious for its limited shade. For better viewing, arrive early and request shaded seating on the first base side from Row W up in Sections 10-12 or Row U up in Sections 13-22.
PERFECT STAY: Minimize traffic concerns by staying at the Marriott Tempe at the Buttes, located an easy half-mile walk from the stadium and only three miles from Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport. Amenities include newly renovated guest rooms, award-winning dining at Top of the Rock Restaurant, full service spa, fitness center, waterslide-equipped pool, tennis and desert hiking. marriott.com
PLAY: Golf is plentiful and within easy reach, including the Gary Panks-designed Legacy Golf Club, Raven Golf Club-Phoenix (Panks/David Graham) and Arizona Grand Golf Course (Forest Richardson). Foodies will savor the delectable offerings at Quiessence at The Farm (steak and seafood), or Aunt Chilada’s authentic Mexican fare and tequila bar at Arizona Grand Resort.
Teams: Chicago White Sox; Los Angeles Dodgers
Nearby Golf: Palm Valley Golf Club; Quintero Golf Club; Trilogy Golf Club; Verrado Golf Club; Wigwam Golf Club; Wildfire Golf Club
Teams: Cincinnati Reds/Cleveland Indians
Nearby Golf: Golf Club of Estrella; Palm Valley Golf Club; Quintero Golf Club; Trilogy Golf Club; Verrado Golf Club; Wigwam Golf Club
Teams: Oakland Athletics
Nearby Golf: ASU Karsten Golf Club; Longbow Golf Club; Longbow Golf Course; Papago Golf Course; Raven Golf Club-Phoenix; Talking Stick Golf Club
Maryvale Baseball Park
Teams: Milwaukee Brewers
Nearby Golf: Arizona Biltmore Golf Club; Camelback Golf Club; Maryvale Golf Course; Papago Golf Course; Phoenician Golf Club; Wildfire Golf Club
Peoria Sports Complex
Teams: San Diego Padres/Seattle Mariners
Nearby Golf: Boulders Golf Club; Kierland Golf Club; Quintero Golf Club; TPC Scottsdale; Trilogy Golf Club at Vistancia; Troon North Golf Club
Salt River Fields at Talking Stick
Teams: Arizona Diamondbacks/Colorado Rockies
Nearby Golf: Grayhawk Golf Club; Kierland Golf Club; McCormick Ranch Golf Club; Talking Stick Golf Club; TopGolf Scottsdale; Troon North Golf Club
Teams: San Francisco Giants
Nearby Golf: ASU Karsten Golf Club; Papago Golf Course; Phoenician Golf Club; McCormick Ranch Golf Club; Talking Stick Golf Club; Wildfire Golf Club
Teams: Chicago Cubs
Nearby Golf: ASU Karsten Golf Club; Longbow Golf Club; McCormick Ranch Golf Club; Papago Golf Course; Raven Golf Club-Phoenix; Talking Stick Golf Club
Teams: Kansas City Royals/Texas Rangers
Nearby Golf: Quintero Golf Club; Trilogy Golf Club at Vistancia; Wickenburg Ranch Golf Club; Wigwam Golf Club; Wildfire Golf Club
Tempe Diablo Stadium
Teams: Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
Nearby Golf: Arizona Grand Golf Club; ASU Karsten Golf Club; Legacy Golf Club; Papago Golf Course; Raven Golf Club-Phoenix; Whirlwind Golf Club