Courses and Travel

Travelin' Joe's five favorite baseball spring-training tracks

Photo: Dennis Murphy/Dennis Scully

Talking Stick puts you close to the Arizona Diamondbacks.

1. Innisbrook Resort (Copperhead), Palm Harbor, Fla.
Ernie Els called Copperhead “the best course the PGA Tour visits in Florida.” Carolina-style pines and elevation changes, liberally sprinkled lakes and fiercely trapped greens will have you agreeing with the Big Easy. While Innisbrook is normally reserved for resort guests, it's worth a stay, especially since the Philadelphia Phillies' Bright House Field is only a 15-minute drive to the south.

2. PGA National Resort & Spa (Champion), Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.
Current home of the PGA Tour's Honda Classic and a former site of the PGA Championship and the Ryder Cup, this watery Tom and George Fazio/ Jack Nicklaus spread is a terror when the March winds blow, most alarmingly at the “Bear Trap” holes of 15-17. Fans of the St. Louis Cardinals and Miami Marlins have but a 13-minute commute to Roger Dean Stadium in Jupiter.

3. Talking Stick Golf Club, Scottsdale, Ariz.
Both the North and South courses are flat, tribally owned Bill Coore/Ben Crenshaw designs with artfully sculpted bunkers and strategic holes, such as the North's par-5 2nd. The South displays more trees, but from either course, the ride is a mere five minutes across Highway 101 to Salt River Fields at Talking Stick, which serves as home to the Arizona Diamondbacks and Colorado Rockies.

4. The Raven Golf Club, Phoenix, Phoenix, Ariz.
Less than a 10-minute drive from Tempe Diablo Stadium, where the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim spend their spring, this memorable Gary Panks/David Graham design is pure parkland in the middle of the desert. Thousands of pine trees frame challenging but playable holes. Only the mountain backdrops serve to remind you that you're not teeing it up in the North Carolina Sandhills.

5. Streamsong Resort, Streamsong, Fla.
Granted, it's not right around the corner from venerable Joker Marchant Stadium in Lakeland, where the Detroit Tigers hold court in March. But the 27 miles of rural driving are worth the trek when the dazzling destination is the new Streamsong Resort, with its Coore/ Crenshaw–designed Red and Tom Doak/ Renaissance–designed Blue. Both courses are magnificent and weave in and out of massive scrub-covered sand piles, playing as firm and fast as many Open Championship venues.
 

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