Cactus League crowds benefit Arizona golf courses

Less than a month removed from hosting the second most-watched Super Bowl in history and the one of the most raucous golf tournaments in the world (FBR Open), Arizona is again preparing to host a signature sporting event of national interest. Arizona Cactus League

On Thursday, Feb. 28 the Cactus League, which has been an Arizona tradition for over a half-century, opens with an assortment of talented, young teams in town.

The Cactus League’s economic impact on the valley and the state is huge. Last year, Spring Training spending left Arizona’s hotels, restaurants, shops, golf courses and related businesses a combined $310 million richer, according to a joint study completed by the Cactus League Baseball Association and the Arizona Tourism Board.

What began as a two-team league in 1947 has grown to twelve teams playing in seven cities throughout the state.

The league’s popularity is at an all-time high, setting an attendance record with over 1.25 million fans attending in 2005. With games scheduled every day in March, the Cactus League offers baseball enthusiasts an excellent opportunity to enjoy their favorite teams in fan-friendly, state-of-the-art ballparks.

Spring Training baseball also gives visitors the opportunity to sample some of the dramatic, diverse Arizona golf layouts located in the cities serving as temporary homes to MLB franchises.

Some 200 golf courses are located in the Phoenix/Scottsdale area and provide the perfect complement to visitors watching their favorite baseball players prepare for yet another long season.

The golf industry was one of the main beneficiaries of the baseball crowds last year, with nearly a quarter of visitors choosing to play at least a round of golf during their trip. That figure only helps to increase the already large number of golfers descending upon the area in March. Longbow Golf Club

"There is a noticeable increase in golf rounds in March, however we attribute that to higher tourism volume in Arizona in general," said Kris Strauss, director of sales and marketing at Longbow Golf Club. "Even prior to the rise of Spring Training popularity, March was always the busiest golf month of the year. That is not to say Spring Training visitors don't play golf. They do.

"However, they play around the baseball schedule," he continued. "Overall Spring Training is great for Phoenix/Scottsdale as it adds another attraction and reason to come and visit Arizona."

Numbers could be on the rise in 2008 with a number of playoff teams from last season returning to the area in an effort to ready themselves for similar campaigns this year.

Three of the four National League playoff representatives will be in the area, as the National League West champion Arizona Diamondbacks set up shop in Tucson, the NL Central champion Chicago Cubs camp in Mesa and the reigning National League Champion, the Colorado Rockies, join the D’Backs in Tucson.

The defending American League West champions, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, will train for the ’08 season in Tempe.

In Tucson you’ll find the Rockies, Diamondbacks and Chicago White Sox. Tucson is also home to Arizona National Golf Club, home to the University of Arizona Wildcat golf team.

Designed by Robert Trent Jones Jr. in 1995, Arizona National is nestled in the foothills of the beautiful Santa Catalina Mountains adjacent to the Coronado National Forest. The diverse 6,785-yard layout will throw enough decisions and classic desert golf challenges to test players of all ability levels.

Scottsdale welcomes the San Francisco Giants, sans Barry Bonds, to the area. This tourist haven is quickly becoming one of the hottest golf destinations in American. In addition, luxurious resorts, day spas and unique shopping experiences abound in the Scottsdale.

The McCormick Ranch Golf Club is one of Scottsdale’s prime golf locations. The Club features two Desmond Muirhead-designed, 18-hole traditional style golf courses, the Palm and Pine.

Stuart Kirk, General Manager of McCormick Ranch Golf Club, says keeping the course in good shape for this time of year is a must.

“We put much more of our annual maintenance budget towards manicuring our courses during the winter season as well as extra staffing,” he stated.

Kirk also noted that while McCormick does see an increased number of visitors during the spring training period, it is proportional to all other winter visitors. For example, if there are 100,000 extra people here during this period and 33,000 are here to watch baseball, then approximately 1/3 of the increase in golfers comes from the spring training crowd.

The largest annual following can be in found in Mesa at the Spring Training home of the Cubs. According to the joint survey conducted by the Arizona Tourism Board and the Cactus League, Cubs’ fans also registered as the group most likely to play a round of golf during their visit.

Recently renovated Longbow Golf Club in Mesa is one of the courses in line to benefit from the influx of fans.

Designer Kevin Kavanaugh’s open and graceful configuration underwent a redesign in 2001 and now features 12 new holes and six that have been modified slightly to create a desert-style challenge that is a must-play.

Longbow has been supporting the Cubs spring training program for years now and still makes a proactive effort to reach golfers that are in town for baseball.

"Our marketing begins in the fall to key feeder markets promoting Longbow as a great place to play when you are in Arizona," said Strauss. We also have display booths at select games.

"In addition we offer fans the "Longbow Spring Training Double Play" promotion where Cubs fans can show their ticket stub and receive a complimentary replay round to play again that day. We have even taken groups to spring training games and have done special contests like drawings to throw out the first pitch at "Longbow Day at the ballpark." Club West

Phoenix is now one of the largest cities in America and is also home to a wonderful lineup of golf courses. Fans of the Oakland Athletics and Milwaukee Brewers will find a diverse group of layouts to sample while in town.

Two of the best are Raven Golf Club at Verrado and Club West Golf Club.

Club West is tucked away from the busy city, along the southern edge of Phoenix’s South Mountain Park. Open since 1993, the Brian Whitcomb and Ken Kavanaugh design snakes its way through 90 acres of rolling desert and mountainous terrain. Whitcomb and Kavanaugh took full advantage of the foothills and natural characteristics of South Mountain.

The Raven Golf Club at Verrado is one of the greater Phoenix Area’s top golf facilities. It opened in 2004 to impressive accolades. GolfWeek named it one of “America’s Top 10 New Public Golf Courses” while Sports Illustrated hailed it as the best public golf course in Phoenix.

These courses are just a few of the many outstanding layouts to be found by fans making their way to Spring Training in the desert this year.

The 2008 Cactus League schedule is available on


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