“If you build it, they will come.” The line from the baseball movie "Field of Dreams” couldn’t be more accurate.
However, this time, it wasn’t a corn field made into a baseball field. It is a baseball field that has turned into a golf course, thanks to the creative minds at Callaway golf. Known as “The Links at Petco Park,” this nine-hole track is an amazing golf experience unlike any other, and for the lucky people who get to take their shot, it will be something to remember for the rest of their lives.
From the time you enter San Diego’s Petco Park, you’ll be treated to a first class experience. Upon checking in, golfers are escorted to a warm-up area in the batting cages on the field level of the stadium. After hitting a few balls into a net, you are led through the tunnel that takes you to the dugout, and then to the first tee at home plate, where Callaway has a bag full of wedges and irons from which to choose.
AmateurGolf.com had the distinct honor of being the first to tee off on Media Day on Wednesday. Company founder Pete Wlodkowski had the honor with his name announced over the PA system as he addressed the ball (but no cool walk-up music as in baseball).
“I was a little nervous being the first to tee off – more nervous than I am at most golf tournaments,” Pete said.
Looking out over the course from home plate, you’ll see all the targets spread across the field, but each hole is different. The first hole is 110 yards from home plate out to center field, with a bunker protecting the front side of the green and palm trees just off to the side. Make it onto the green and you have par. Snuggle it close inside the circle around the flagstick, and you have birdie. Anything off the green is bogey, and out of bounds is a double bogey. Each golfer gets to play two balls per hole for the first eight holes, then gets one shot at glory on the ninth.
After completing the first hole, players are escorted to the second hole. This time you are on an elevated tee, hitting from the corner of the upper deck along the right field line to a different target. This is a 145 yard shot that plays closer to 118 yards, but still is a challenge. This is also a beer hole, with beverages available and prizes from the San Diego Beer Fest.
Moving from right field to left on the upper deck, there are holes with distances of 76 yards, 132 yards, 125 yards and 112 yards, with trees, bunkers and water hazards to provide fodder for your swing thoughts. Each hole has a different theme, including a “bad weather” hole, where fake snow was blown in from up above to (almost) simulate golf outside of Southern California.
One of the favorite holes is the movie-themed 7th hole, with references to Happy Gilmore and Caddyshack. There was even a Carl Spackler (Bill Murray’s character in Caddyshack) lookalike to hand you a club. Or a hockey stick. When you have two shots at a 62-yard green from an elevated tee, sometimes the hockey stick is the perfect way to go.
Sadly, the Links at Petco Park has a last hole, the 9th, which is a 144-yard shot from the tee box atop the Western Metal Supply building in left field, aiming at a target in right field. Standing up on the platform provides a majestic view of the course below and downtown San Diego, and serves as a reminder of the great time had on this unique layout.
After finishing the 9th hole, players are invited to the Clubhouse set up in the Western Metal Supply Building, where food and drink are available in addition to a full array of Callaway and Padres gear.
This innovative event is something that Callaway would like to do on a yearly basis, and based on the numbers, there should be a lot of demand. The event, originally slated for a media day on Thursday and two days open to the public from 9 a.m to 4 p.m., sold out immediately. Extra days were added and the media event moved up a day to Wednesday and the public now playing from Thursday through Monday, and the tee times going from 7 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. There are 1,600 people registered to play with a waiting list of 1,000 and growing.
Callaway Golf and Petco Park did an amazing job putting the event together, ensuring everyone has an awesome experience and memories that will be long lasting. We hated for the round to end, but now dream of the next opportunity to play golf inside a ballpark.
If they build it, we will come. You can count on it.