Spring Fling: Cactus League baseball and awesome golf in sunny Arizona

By Travel ArticlesMarch 13, 2012, 3:30 am

MESA, Ariz. -- If it's March in Arizona, getting into the swing of things has two meanings: Baseball and golf.

It's the perfect double-header for a sports fan. Play a round of golf at any of the Valley's great courses in the morning, and then hit a Cactus League game in the afternoon.

The best part: There are so many terrific golf clubs in the Valley of the Sun that golfers can play just about anywhere and have no more than a 30-minute drive to the nearest Cactus League ballpark.

So, without further ado, here's a geographic guide to the best golf/baseball combo the Valley has to offer.


The Cincinnati Reds and Cleveland Indians train at Goodyear Ballpark in the far West Valley, and there are several quality courses nearby.

A few miles south is the Golf Club of Estrella, designed by Jack Nicklaus Jr. It's an underrated desert course, but be forewarned: The 83 deep-faced bunkers can be extremely hazardous to a golfer's score.

The Raven Golf Club at Verrado in nearby Buckeye is a must-play course. Located at the foot of the White Tank Mountains, Verrado was named one of the 'Top 10 New Golf Courses You Can Play' by Golf Magazine when it opened in January 2004.


Home to the Seattle Mariners and San Diego Padres, Peoria and its surrounding neighbors on the west side offer several quality courses.

Try the Trilogy Golf Club at Vistancia, a Gary Panks five-star design that is light on the checkbook.

Or head a few miles north to the Carefree Highway and check out Quintero Golf Club, formerly a private club that's now open to public play. Quintero has the most spectacular collection of par 3s in the Valley, and the conditions are always impeccable.


Another West Valley spring training site -- the Texas Rangers and Kansas City Royals play at Surprise Stadium -- and more courses to check out.

About 15 minutes south lie the three courses at Wigwam Resort. There's not a cactus on the property. Instead, its trio of courses are nestled among rolling hills, parkland trees, lakes, canals and streams.

If you can only play one, try Wigwam's Gold Course, a Robert Trent Jones Sr. design that is 7,430 yards from the tips.


The Los Angeles Dodgers and Chicago White Sox train at Camelback Ranch, which is a couple of three-irons away from University of Phoenix Stadium, home of the Arizona Cardinals, and Jobing.com Arena, home of the Phoenix Coyotes.

Golfers can't go wrong with any of the previously mentioned courses in the West Valley, but they can also go a few miles south and east and try the Raven Golf Club near South Mountain. There's no other course like it in the Valley; more than 7,000 pine trees were imported to give the Raven a Southern, parkland feel.


The Milwaukee Brewers play on the west side, in the suburb of Maryvale. Golfers won't find a lot of high-end courses in the area, but Maryvale Golf Course is a municipal that's well worth the few bucks it costs to play. The tree-lined course has several doglegs but is far easier than many of the Valley's top-flight courses.

The Oakland A's are based at Phoenix Municipal Stadium, and there's no shortage of quality courses nearby. Karsten Golf Course is a classic Pete Dye links-style course that is located just across the street from Arizona State University.

Karsten is known for its mounding in the fairways and one of the best finishing stretches in the Valley. No. 16 is a 248-yard par 3, No. 17 a 581-yard par 5 and No. 18 a 471-yard par 4.


It's fitting that this golf mecca now hosts three Cactus League teams: The Arizona Diamondbacks and Colorado Rockies at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick, and the San Francisco Giants a few miles south at Scottsdale Stadium.

Salt River Fields is just across the freeway from the Talking Stick Resort and its two courses. The North Course is links-style golf, the South Course a more traditional tree-lined layout.

Drive a few miles north, and the possibilities are endless. There's the Tournament Players Club of Scottsdale, site of the Waste Management Phoenix Open. You'll imagine the crowd and hear the boos as you play the par-3 16th. Troon North is pricey, but the Monument Course and Pinnacle Course are arguably the best the Valley has to offer.


The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim play at Tempe Diablo Stadium, and golfers will want to check out the Raven at South Mountain, just a few miles away on Baseline Road, and the two courses at Whirlwind Golf Club.

The two Gary Panks designs at Whirlwind, Cattail and Devil's Claw, are located on the Gila River Indian reservation and are as much a history lesson of American Indian culture as they are golfing adventures.


No Cactus League team -- with the possible exception of the Diamondbacks -- are as popular as the Chicago Cubs, who play at HoHokam Park.

Two Mesa golf courses should have favored status as well: Red Mountain Ranch Country Club is a Pete Dye design that is much tougher than its length (6,653 yards) would suggest because the mounding around the greens makes approach shots, well, Dye-abolical.

Longbow Golf Club isn't visually spectacular -- it's situated in the flight path of Falcon Field Airport -- but the Ken Kavanaugh design is a simple, straightforward course whose best feature is its lightning-quick greens.

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Rahm manages frustration, two back at CareerBuilder

By Randall MellJanuary 21, 2018, 1:21 am

Jon Rahm managed the winds and his frustrations Saturday at the CareerBuilder Challenge to give himself a chance to win his fourth worldwide title in the last year.

Rahm’s 2-under-par 70 on the PGA West Stadium Course left him two shots off the lead going into the final round.

“I wasn’t really dealing with the wind that much,” Rahm said of his frustrations. “I was dealing with not being as fluid as I was the last two days.”

Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

The world’s No. 3 ranked player opened with a 62 at La Quinta Country Club on Thursday and followed it up with a 67 on Friday at PGA West. He made six birdies and four bogeys on the Stadium Course on Saturday.

“The first day, everything was outstanding,” Rahm said. “Yesterday, my driver was a little shaky but my irons shots were perfect. Today, my driver was shaky and my irons shots were shaky. On a course like this, it’s punishing, but luckily on the holes where I found the fairway I was able to make birdies.”

Rahm is projected to move to No. 2 in the world rankings with a finish of sixth or better on Sunday.

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Cook leads by one entering final round at CareerBuilder

By Associated PressJanuary 21, 2018, 12:51 am

LA QUINTA, Calif. – Austin Cook hit a hybrid into the fairway bunker on the par-4 18th on a breezy Saturday afternoon at La Quinta Country Club, then chunked a wedge and raced a chip 20 feet past the hole.

Kip Henley, the longtime PGA Tour caddie who guided Cook to a breakthrough victory at Sea Island in November, stepped in to give the 26-year-old former Arkansas star a quick pep talk.

''Kip said, 'Let's finish this like we did on the first day at the Nicklaus Course.' We made a big par putt on 18 there and he said, 'Let's just do the same thing. Let's get this line right and if you get the line right it's going in.'''

It did, giving Cook an 8-under 64 and a one-stroke lead in the CareerBuilder Challenge going into the final round on the Stadium Course at PGA West. Fellow former Razorback Andrew Landry and Martin Piller were tied for second, and Jon Rahm and Scott Piercy were a another stroke back after a tricky day in wind that didn't get close to the predicted gusts of 40 mph.

Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

''I know that I wouldn't have wanted to play the Stadium today,'' Cook said. ''I think we got a great draw with the courses that we got to play on the days that we got to play them.''

Cook played the final six holes on the front nine in 6 under with an eagle and four birdies.

''Starting on my fourth hole, I was able to make a birdie and kind of get the ball rolling and it never really stopped rolling,'' Cook said. ''Kip and I were doing really good at seeing the line on the greens.''

After a bogey on 10, he birdied 11, 12 and 15 and parred the final three to get to 19-under 197.

''I think that tonight the nerves, the butterflies, all that will kind of be a little less,'' Cook said. ''I've been in the situation before and I was able to finish the job on Sunday. I think it would be a little different if I didn't play like I did on Sunday at Sea Island.''

He's making his first start in the event.

''I came in from Hawaii on Monday, so I only had two days to prepare for three courses,'' Cook said.

Landry, the second-round leader, had a 70 at the Stadium. Piller, the husband of LPGA tour player Gerina Piller, shot a 67 at La Quinta. Winless on the PGA Tour, they will join Cook in the final threesome.

''Piller's a good guy and we have played a lot together and same with Cookie,'' said Landry, the only player without a bogey after 54 holes. ''Hope the Hogs are going to come out on top.''

Rahm had a 70 at the Stadium to reach 17 under. The third-ranked Rahm beat up the par 5s again, but had four bogeys – three on par 3s. He has played the 12 par 5s in 13 under with an eagle and 11 birdies.

''A little bit of a survival day,'' Rahm said.

The wind was more of a factor on the more exposed and tighter Stadium Course.

''The course is firming up,'' Rahm said. ''I know if we have similar wind to today, if we shoot something under par, you'll be way up there contesting it over the last few holes.''

Piercy had a 66 at the Stadium.

''I controlled my ball really well today,'' he said.

Adam Hadwin had a 67 at La Quinta a year after shooting a third-round 59 on the course. The Canadian was 16 under along with Grayson Murray and Brandon Harkins. Murray had a 67 on the Nicklaus Course, and Harkins shot 68 at the Stadium.

Phil Mickelson missed the cut in his first tournament of the year for the second time in his career, shooting a 74 on the Stadium to finish at 4 under – four strokes from a Sunday tee time. The 47-year-old Hall of Famer was playing for the first time since late October. He also missed the cut in the Phoenix Open in his 2009 opener.

Charlie Reiter, the Palm Desert High School senior playing on the first sponsor exemption the event has given to an amateur, also missed the cut. He had three early straight double bogeys in a 77 on the Stadium that left him 1 over.

John Daly had an 80 at La Quinta. He opened with a triple bogey and had six bogeys – four in a row to start his second nine - and only one birdie. The 51-year-old Daly opened with a 69 on the Nicklaus layout and had a 71 on Friday at the Stadium.

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Phil misses CareerBuilder cut for first time in 24 years

By Randall MellJanuary 21, 2018, 12:48 am

Phil Mickelson missed the cut Saturday at the CareerBuilder Challenge. It’s a rare occurrence in his Hall of Fame career.

He has played the event 15 times, going back to when it was known as the Bob Hope Classic. He has won it twice.

How rare is his missing the cut there?

The last time he did so, there was no such thing as a DVD, Wi-Fi, iPods, Xbox, DVR capability or YouTube.

Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

The PGA Tour’s Jon Rahm didn’t exist, either.

The last time Mickelson missed a cut in this event was 1994, nine months before Rahm was born.

Mickelson struggled to a 2-over-par 74 in the heavy winds Saturday on the PGA West Stadium Course, missing the 54-hole cut by four shots. He hit just four of 14 fairways, just nine of 18 greens. He took a double bogey at the 15th after requiring two shots to escape the steep-walled bunker on the left side of the green.

Mickelson won’t have to wait long to try to get back in the hunt. He’s scheduled to play the Farmers Insurance Open next week at Torrey Pines in La Jolla, Calif.

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Defending champ Gana co-leads Latin America Amateur

By Randall MellJanuary 20, 2018, 11:20 pm

Toto Gana moved into early position to try to win a return trip to the Masters Saturday by grabbing a share of the first-round lead at the Latin America Amateur Championship.

The defending champ posted a 3-under-par 68 at Prince of Wales Country Club in his native Chile, equaling the rounds of Argentina’s Mark Montenegro and Colombia’s Pablo Torres.

They are one shot ahead of Mexico’s Alvaro Ortiz and Mario Carmona, Argentina’s Horacio Carbonetti and Jaime Lopez Rivarola and the Dominican Republic’s Rhadames Pena.

It’s a bunched leaderboard, with 19 players within three shots of each at the top of the board in the 72-hole event.

“I think I have my game under control,” said Gana, 20, a freshman at Lynn University. “I hit the ball very well, and I also putted very well. So, I am confident about tomorrow.”

The LAAC’s champion will get more than a Masters invitation. He also will be exempt into the The Amateur, the U.S. Amateur and any other USGA event he is eligible to play this year. The champion and players who finish runner-up are also exempt into the final stages of qualifying for The Open and the U.S. Open.

The LAAC was founded by the Masters, the R&A and the USGA, with the purpose of further developing amateur golf in South America, Central America, Mexico and the Caribbean.