Phoenix/Scottsdale golf courses: Where do baseball's stars play in the spring?
GolfArizona.com helps you plan your Arizona Spring Training/golf vacation with this look at the golf courses in Scottsdale and Phoenix most likely to be haunted by MLB baseball players.
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Barry Bonds -- the slugger that baseball fans love to mutter disapprovingly about and then cheer as his towering home runs soar through the warm desert air -- is only one of the reasons Scottsdale Stadium looms the toughest ticket in the Cactus League.
The rest have everything to do with geography. The San Francisco Giants' spring training home is right in the heart of downtown Scottsdale, which means you're steps from some of this area's trendiest shops, restaurants and clubs.
Just don't expect to get close to Bonds or any other Major League Baseball stars in them.
When baseball's best are out partying in Scottsdale, the entourages are in full force. On the golf courses -- and big leaguers have loved to golf their spring hours away since the days Babe Ruth lugged his clubs on the train -- it's a much different story.
Of course finding major leaguers in a golf paradise with more than 200 golf courses to chose from sounds about as easy as stepping in against a Roger Clemens fastball. Many fans assume that the high-profile, high-dollar courses like Troon North and Grayhawk are the surest bets.
This is Scottsdale, though, and even a $300 public course is still a public course. In the Phoenix Valley, celebrities and regular high-rollers love getting on a private course where Average Joes cannot play. The more exclusive, the better.
"Membership rules don't usually apply to big-name athletes," a golf pro at a very private Phoenix area club said, laughing.
The more respected a player and his team are goes a long toward determining just how many golf doors open.
Game on at Southern Dunes
Southern Dunes would hardly be the first golf club that springs to mind when it comes to a major leaguer's golf haven. For one thing, it's pretty far out there in the Valley. For another, it's not very well known.
Then again, fairly recent ex-Met and Dodger Todd Hundley is a member, as well as other current pro athletes like NFL quarterback Jake Plummer. When there a number of athletes in a club, you can bet that others will find their way to play.
It doesn't hurt that golf gambling is revered at Southern Dunes either.
"There's always a game to be had," Head Professional Garrett Wallace said. "Whether it's a $1 Nassau or a $500 Nassau, you can show up and find whatever you're looking for."
Another club where players show up regularly is the Phil Mickelson-designed Whisper Rock. Eight tour pros are members here and baseball's pros love to test themselves against the best. Regular hackers will not find getting on so easy.
You must be invited to join and sponsored by two existing members.
What, you thought Bonds would golf at $10 bargain course?
Spring stadium convenience
It's not always about the exclusive clubs, however. Sometimes major leaguers go for the easiest, quickest, quality golf option. This is especially prevalent for teams with spring training homes that aren't in the heart of the golf mecca.
The San Diego Padres and Seattle Mariners share a stadium complex in Peoria, Ariz., and can be sometimes found playing on nearby courses like the underrated Trilogy at Vistancia.
Ichiro Suzuki happens to be a diehard golfer. No word on whether he's as much of a magician with his irons as he is with a baseball bat. He plays in the spring, though. A lot.
"I love baseball but being here I've been able to play golf every day," Ichiro told the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. "I can't play in Japan because every course has caddies, and the caddies all want autographs and don't want to let me golf."
Over in Surprise, Ariz., where the Texas Rangers and Kansas City Royals train, the quick golf getaway for the players is ... well, a surprise. Falcon Dunes Golf Club, the course at Luke Air Force Base, sometimes gets major leaguers swinging next to the men in uniform.
It doesn't hurt that Falcon Dunes is usually kept in great shape.
The Wigwam Resort and its two renovated Robert Trent Jones Sr. golf courses actually serves as the official spring training resort of the Royals.
Assuming you know who Gil Meche and Ryan Shealy are, this could be your place to find them.
Finding the more-popular-than-ever Cubs on course will not be so easy. They play their spring games in Mesa, Ariz., for one thing, which isn't exactly full of wowing golf courses. Even more limiting, Piniella told his players that if they're going to golf this spring it will have to be twilight golf. Baseball practice apparently comes first.
Some people obviously have their priorities messed up.
February 27, 2007