What a way to while away a month: spring training baseball and golf. Here’s a guide to the best available – or in some cases, my favorite – public-access courses close to Major League Baseball’s 23 spring training parks. Bring your clubs, and plenty of sunblock.
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Grapefruit League – Florida
BALTIMORE ORIOLES, ED SMITH STADIUM, SARASOTA
One of Florida’s most famous municipal tracts lies only two miles east of the ballpark (pictured). Bobby Jones Golf Club, 36 holes, includes an original 18-hole layout by Donald Ross from 1927.
BOSTON RED SOX, JETBLUE PARK AT FENWAY SOUTH, MINNESOTA TWINS, HAMMOND STADIUM, FORT MYERS
The city is home to two baseball options: a beautiful, scaled-down version of Fenway Park, and the recently renovated Hammond Stadium. Fenway South is 14 miles from a muni that does 60,000 rounds a year, Fort Myers Country Club, a 1917 Ross design restored two years ago by Steve Smyers.
ATLANTA BRAVES, CHAMPION STADIUM, LAKE BUENA VISTA
The Rees Jones-designed Waldorf Astoria Golf Club (pictured) in Orlando is only a mile away as the baseball flies, but 4.4 miles by car. Waldorf Astoria GC occupies a nearly flat site with lots of lateral mounding, and half the holes have pond frontage. It’s readily walkable, which is a treat in Florida.
DETROIT TIGERS, JOKER MARCHANT STADIUM, LAKELAND
The Club at Eaglebrooke, 11 miles south of Tigertown (pictured), is a popular, well-groomed Ron Garl design from 1996. Good separation of tees – from 4,783 yards up to 7,030 – and a discernible rhythm, from open front nine with free-form stretch bunkers to demanding, water-lined final six.
HOUSTON ASTROS AND WASHINGTON NATIONALS, BALLPARK OF THE PALM BEACHES, WEST PALM BEACH
North Palm Beach Country Club, nine miles northeast of the ballpark, was Seth Raynor’s last design (1926), built two years later by Charles Banks. Now it’s a Jack Nicklaus renovation with demanding greens for a municipal tract and a lovely mid-front nine run along the North Palm Beach Waterway.
PITTSBURGH PIRATES, LECOM PARK, BRADENTON
Bradenton Country Club, a 1924 Ross design routed in classic core-golf fashion without real estate, offers “country club for a day” access three miles west of the ballpark.
NEW YORK METS, TRADITION FIELD, PORT ST. LUCIE
Just hop across I-95, so to speak, three miles to the west, and you’re at PGA Golf Club (pictured at left) at PGA Village’s three compelling courses. Wanamaker is ranked No. 16 in the state, Dye is No. 27 and there’s also the Ryder and an amazingly diverse practice ground.
MIAMI MARLINS AND ST. LOUIS CARDINALS, ROGER DEAN STADIUM, JUPITER
Only six miles to PGA National Resort & Spa’s Champion Course (pictured), ranked ninth on the Golfweek’s Best Florida public-access list and home of the PGA Tour’s Honda Classic.
TAMPA BAY RAYS, CHARLOTTE SPORTS PARK, PORT CHARLOTTE
Aptly named Riverwood Golf Club, two miles west of the Rays’ spring training field is a real estate layout with a lot of woodland and exposure to lowlands along the Myakka River.
TORONTO BLUE JAYS, FLORIDA AUTO EXCHANGE STADIUM, DUNEDIN
Belleview Biltmore Golf Club, a 1925 Ross design providing a comfortable stroll unimpeded by on-course real estate, is six miles south of the park.
PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES, SPECTRUM FIELD, CLEARWATER
Innisbrook Resort’s Copperhead Course (pictured), home of the PGA Tour’s Valspar Championship, is 11 miles north. It’s worth the trip to the state’s No. 8 public layout.
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Cactus League – Arizona
ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS AND COLORADO ROCKIES, SALT RIVER FIELDS AT TALKING STICK, SCOTTSDALE
Talking Stick Golf Club is two miles east on the other side of the Loop 101 – 36 holes of Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw design, where the faux-parkland style South Course with pop-up greens contrasts sharply with the at-grade, desert-edged North Course (ranked No. 15 public in Arizona).
CHICAGO WHITE SOX AND LOS ANGELES DODGERS, CAMELBACK RANCH, GLENDALE
You can’t do better out on the west side of town than the 54 holes at The Wigwam Resort in Litchfield Park, five miles from the ballpark. The Gold Course, a 1965 design by Robert Trent Jones Sr. and recently renovated by Tom Lehman, is No. 28 on the state’s public list. My own favorite is the resort’s Red Lawrence-designed Heritage Course (1974).
CHICAGO CUBS, SLOAN PARK, MESA
ASU Karsten Golf Course in Tempe is 2.5 miles west of the Cubs springtime home. This 1989 design by Pete and Perry Dye is a bit tight but a lot of fun.
CINCINNATI REDS AND CLEVELAND INDIANS, GOODYEAR BALLPARK, GOODYEAR
Golf Club of Estrella, No. 19 on the state’s public-access list, is a dramatic Jack Nicklaus design from 1999 amidst real estate in the desert foothills eight miles south of the ballpark.
KANSAS CITY ROYALS AND TEXAS RANGERS, SURPRISE STADIUM, SURPRISE
There’s a lot of real estate golf in the area; arguably the best might be Cimarron Golf Club, five miles northwest of the ballpark. This 2003 design by Greg Nash features two counterclockwise loops through real estate at the foot of White Tank Mountain Regional Park.
MILWAUKEE BREWERS, MARYVALE BASEBALL PARK, PHOENIX
The west side of Phoenix is seeing some much-needed redevelopment. Case in point: Grand Canyon University Golf Course, only 1.5 miles west of the stadium. John Fought just completed a massive overhaul of what used to be a run-down muni. Now it sparkles as a college-owned layout.
OAKLAND ATHLETICS, HOHOKAM STADIUM, MESA
Longbow Golf Club, a Ken Kavanaugh design from 1997, looks and feels like an elegant club. It offers a core routing unencumbered by homesites with lushly overseeded fairways and large, scalloped-out bunkering. Longbow, 11.5 miles northeast of the ballpark, is rated No. 30 on our Arizona public list.
SAN DIEGO PADRES AND SEATTLE MARINERS, PEORIA SPORTS COMPLEX, PEORIA
One modest road trip needed, because the West Valley is light on quality public golf. Get on the Loop 101. Head 23 miles east and alight at TPC Scottsdale for two wonderful layouts, including the Stadium Course, home of the PGA Tour’s Waste Management Phoenix Open and No. 6 on our Arizona list. Playing those famously telegenic closing three holes is like taking major-league batting practice.
LOS ANGELES ANGELS OF ANAHEIM, TEMPE DIABLO STADIUM, TEMPE
Prolific Arizona architect Gary Panks created Legacy Golf Resort in 1999. It’s 3½ miles southwest of the stadium and ranked No. 16 in Arizona. The resort is popular for its ornamental plantings and historic building architecture, including three converted silos on the final hole.
SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS, SCOTTSDALE STADIUM, SCOTTSDALE
Great location – within walking distance of downtown and a mere five miles to Papago Municipal Golf Course (pictured), a 1964 design by William F. Bell that’s an uncluttered joy atop gently canted desert foothills.