Friday, March 3, 2006
Updated: February 8, 5:16 PM ET
By Ron Kaspriske
Golf Digest, February 2002
Updated by Brian DiMenna
• Golf Digest's Best in State Rankings: Florida | Arizona
Long before Sun Belt cities like Phoenix and Orlando built multimillion-dollar stadiums and turned baseball's warm-up season into a full-fledged tourist attraction, Babe Ruth knew the real secret to a successful spring-training trip.
When the legendary slugger boarded the "Orange Blossom Special" train headed for the New York Yankees' spring camp in St. Petersburg, Fla., he had a baseball bat in one hand and a golf club in the other.
Not a bad way to spend a month.
Baseball fans consider a trek to spring training a pilgrimage, but throw in the great golf in these locales and you've got the perfect double-play combination.
Boston Red Sox and Minnesota Twins
Of Fort Myers' two municipal golf courses, Eastwood gets the nod for its scenery, especially because it's one of the rare courses in southwest Florida that doesn't have houses along the fairways. The course plays through cypress hammocks and tall pines, and has water on nine holes.
• Eastwood Golf Course, Fort Myers; Online or 941-275-4848
• Foxfire Golf Club, Sarasota; Online or 941-921-7757
New York Yankees
The first course at Lake Jovita looks like backwoods North Carolina, playing around and through tall pines and freshwater lakes.
• Lake Jovita Golf & C.C., Dade City; Online or 877-481-2652
• Chi Chi Rodriguez Golf Club, Clearwater; Online or 727-726-4673
The River Club, a Ron Garl design, is a good value, not counting all the balls you might lose on the 14 holes where water comes into play.
• The River Club, Bradenton; Online or 941-751-4211
Tampa Bay Rays
• Mangrove Bay Golf Course, St. Petersburg; Online or 727-893-7800
Toronto Blue Jays
The 75-year-old Dunedin Country Club has Donald Ross' signature bowl-shaped greens, some too small to hit with a smart bomb.
• Dunedin Country Club, Dunedin; Online or 727-733-7836
While part of the Disney World resort complex, the Tom Fazio-designed Osprey Ridge Golf Club is far enough from the Magic Kingdom that you won't hear "It's a Small World" on your backswing, and it doubles as a wildlife sanctuary (no, the alligators, ospreys and deer are not animatronics).
• Osprey Ridge Golf Course, Lake Buena Vista; Online or 407-939-4653
Orange County National's Crooked Cat or Panther Lake 18s provide a more affordable Central Florida option. It was built on farmland but has more elevation than you might expect. There's also a great practice area and a nine-hole short course called "The Tooth."
• Orange County National Golf Center, Winter Garden; Online or 888-727-3672
Courses: Panther Lake, Crooked Cat
Southern Dunes was one of Florida's best-kept secrets, but now the Steve Smyers design is just one of Florida's best courses (Scottish links look, expansive waste areas, and 100 feet in elevation change).
• Southern Dunes Golf & Country Club, Haines City; Online or 800-632-6400
• The Club at Eaglebrooke, Lakeland, Online or 863-701-0101
Mystic Dunes (designed by Gary Koch) is a hybrid of links and Carolina low-country golf with its Alister Mackenzie-inspired (as in four-putt) greens.
• Mystic Dunes Golf Club, Kissimmee; Online or 866-311-1234
• Arrowhead Golf Club, Fort Lauderdale; 954-475-8200
Florida Marlins and St. Louis Cardinals
Less than a half mile from the Cardinals' ballpark, Joe Lee-designed Abacoa is vintage Florida golf, with palm trees and water hazards aplenty, along with oversize, undulating greens. The Cardinals' Roger Dean Stadium is new and nice. Afterward, you can check out Town Center's restaurants and shops.
• Abacoa Golf Club, Jupiter; Online or 561-622-0036
Los Angeles Dodgers
Just outside the left-field stadium wall is the tame nine-hole Dodgertown Golf Club (the opener is a 452-yard par 5). Base-stealing great Maury Wills, now a coach for the Dodgers, learned golf here because it was the only place black golfers could play in Vero Beach in the 1950s. Wills plays across the street now at the heftier Dodger Pines -- there's a 670-yard par 6 -- an old-style Florida parkland golf course with parallel fairways and flat greens that former Dodgers owner Walter O'Malley helped design. Dodgertown and Holman Stadium are spring training circa 1955. Even the names of the thoroughfares -- Jackie Robinson Boulevard, Duke Snider Street -- bring back memories.
• Dodger Pines Country Club, Vero Beach; 561-569-4400
• Dodgertown Golf Course, Vero Beach; 561-569-4800
New York Mets
Port St. Lucie
PGA Golf Club is less than two miles from the Mets' complex, which is just off Interstate 95. There are 36 holes designed by Tom Fazio and 18 by Pete Dye (Fazio's South Course is ranked 21st in Florida by Golf Digest), and there's one of the best practice areas you'll ever see.
• PGA Golf Club, Port St. Lucie; Online or 800-800-4653
• Viera East Golf Club, Viera, Online or 321-639-6500
There are 36 solid holes at Talking Stick Golf Course, and the fairways are plenty generous (thus a good place to start). Longbow Golf Course is the rare good desert-style course that is less than $100 to play on a weekend morning. Game a little rusty? Hit balls instead at CrackerJax in Scottsdale (open until 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, and until midnight on Friday and Saturday).
• Talking Stick Golf Course, Scottsdale; Online or 602-860-2221
• Longbow Golf Course, Mesa; Online or 480-807-5400
Kansas City Royals and Texas Rangers
• Granite Falls Golf Club, Surprise; 623-546-7575
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
• The ASU Karsten Golf Course, Tempe; Online or 480-921-8070
The Robert Trent Jones Sr.-designed Wigwam Resort Gold Course is one of Arizona's classics (tiny, contoured greens and close to 100 bunkers).
• The Wigwam Resort (Gold), Litchfield Park; Online or 800-909-4224
Aguila Golf Course is a new desert-style muni that cost the city of Phoenix $6.5 million to build. It includes a nine-hole par-3 course. Papago Golf Course is a parkland layout that costs just $46 to play. The ballparks for the Angels (Tempe's Diablo Stadium) and A's (Phoenix Municipal Stadium) are just 10 minutes apart.
• Aguila Golf Course, Laveen; Online or 602-237-9601
• Papago Golf Course, Phoenix; Online or 602-275-8428
San Diego Padres and Seattle Mariners
The Legend at Arrowhead's memorability may be marred by houses, but the topsy-turvy greens will stick in your mind (or craw) for a long time.
• The Legend at Arrowhead, Glendale; 800-468-7918
San Francisco Giants
The TPC of Scottsdale-Stadium, site of the Phoenix Open, while steep at $215, is still a thrill, particularly the four finishing holes. Las Sendas, among Golf Digest's top 25 in the state, is a spectacular journey through foothills and craggy terrain.
• TPC of Scottsdale (Stadium), Scottsdale; Online or 480-585-3939
• Las Sendas Golf Club, Mesa; Online or 480-396-4000
Arizona Diamondbacks and Chicago White Sox
Ventana Canyon Golf & Raquet Club has two Tom Fazio-designed courses, both of which are brutal from the back tees. The 107-yard third hole on the Mountain Course cost nearly $1 million to build. Arizona National Golf Club (Formerly the Raven Golf Club at Sabino Springs) is classic wall-to-wall target golf with mountain views.
• Ventana Canyon Golf & Racquet Club, Tucson; Online or 800-828-5701
• Arizona National Golf Club, Tucson; Online or 520-749-3636
The Randolph Park Golf Course South Course is player-friendly with wide fairways, while the North, site of the annual LPGA Welch's/Circle K Championship, has thick rough. The facility is next door to Hi Corbett Field, made famous when Bill Veeck brought the Cleveland Indians to town in 1947, giving birth to the Cactus League.
• Randolph Park Golf Course, Tucson; Online or 520-325-2811;