Best Public Golf Hole 2009 | Fifth Hole, Encanto Golf Course | Arts & Entertainment | Phoenix

It sets up as a deceptively easy shot, even for duffers like us. About 180 yards dead ahead from tee to pin, maybe uphill a hair. Piece of cake, right? Nope. First, there's that big trap that looms to the immediate left of the green. Damned thing seems to call golf balls like an invisible siren. To the right of the green is a ridge that runs down toward a waterway that separates the course from the city's adjacent Enchanted Island Amusement Park. We've hit into that water more times than we'd like to admit. But it's the green itself that's the real killer. Depending on pin placement (which never seems to be generous), it's near impossible to get the ball to stop near the hole, especially if those greenskeepers diabolically put the flag on the edge of the upper tier. Putting uphill on number five is flat-out treacherous, because if you don't hit it hard enough, the ball might come right back to you. And if you're putting downhill, well, beware of sending it right off the green. Encanto is Arizona's third-oldest golf course. We only can imagine how many triple-bogeys have been recorded here. We personally know of at least five. But we'll really try not to make it six.

With the arrival of the snowbirds comes the most dreaded day in the life of any brave Phoenix summer golfer: September 1, winter-rates day at many Valley courses. It's like having cold water thrown in your face. The course you played for months at $15 a round instantly triples in price. You say to yourself, "But nothing's changed. It's the same course!" Only it has changed; people actually want to play golf when it's less than 115 degrees outside. Ken McDonald understands your pain. The par 72 championship course is scenic and always in great shape. They just got brand new carts and, most importantly, you can still play on the cheap. Winter rates at Ken McDonald fluctuate but rarely go above $38, and a round can be as low as $28. So don't put your clubs in the closet for the winter or settle for crappy executive courses; go to Ken McDonald.

Troon North is one of the premier golf courses in the world; but who's planning a trip to the Valley in the summer? That's when a devoted local golfer needs to pounce on the countless deals available.

For July and August, you can double-bogey your way through Troon for about $50 per round. This past summer, Troon offered a two-round package that came with a $140 Callaway golf bag. The package itself cost $140. So if you happen to need a new golf bag next summer, check with Troon; maybe you can buy a golf bag and get two rounds free. Makes heat stroke seem downright delightful.

The NBA is notorious for outrageous ticket prices. But we have discovered a relatively affordable way to see Steve Nash and the boys in person. The trick: Pick a corner, any corner. Only Shaq could have afforded seats parallel to the court, and end zone seats, while cheap, limit your view of what's happening on the other side of the floor and are therefore worthless (unless you only want to watch half the game). For $20.50, you can sit in section 231, row 6, seat 15, and have a full view of the whole court. You're still pretty close to the clouds, but lucky for us, basketball players happen to be quite tall.

Let us not forget, the Arizona Cardinals are the improbable NFC champs. They took us all the way to the Super Bowl last year. If you don't go to a game this year to show your support and at least say, "Thank you," you deserve to live in Tucson. Tickets, however, are pricey; some cost as much as $430 each. Don't waste your money. Section 437 is where it's at. For $40, you're not even sitting in the nosebleed section, and you have a great parallel angle of the field. There are $60 seats where the view is a little better. However, for a true fan — who just spent three hours in the parking lot with a 30-pack, a funnel, and your most immature friends — by the time you actually get inside the stadium, you shouldn't care where you're sitting.

In case you've forgotten — and judging by Phoenix Coyotes attendance records, you have — Phoenix has a hockey team. For how long is anyone's guess; they did just file for bankruptcy and almost moved to Canada (where people might actually go watch them). Well, while they're still here, is there anywhere to sit in Arena and not feel like you just got robbed? Of course! We've got the best seat in the house for you, for only $15. Right in the corner of the arena, section 205 gives you a great angle on all the action without the high prices that are keeping Phoenicians from actually going to the games. Hockey is an awesome sport. Check it out (while you still can).

After the Diamondbacks' atrocious season, it's hard to believe that anyone would still want to go to a game, no matter how cheap the seats are. It's a good thing they're in the same division as the Dodgers or they might not ever fill that place again. Chase Field is one of the best stadiums in all of baseball, and to be honest, there really isn't a bad seat. The best seat for your buck, though: anything in Section 108. Section 108 offers a great view of the field and hovers right over the opposing team's bullpen. And for $15, you can do something in Section 108 that you can't do in any other section of the stadium: Scream your head off at the opposing pitchers while they warm up. To any true fan, that's almost better than sitting in the dugout.

For the softballer who gets drunk in the parking lot before the game, and doesn't hold twice-weekly practice, any dusty old field will do. For the serious athlete, Big League Dreams Sports Park has the only fields worthy of such talent.

The park has eight replicas of iconic professional baseball stadiums like Fenway Park, Wrigley Field, and Yankee Stadium, scaled down to softball field-size dimensions. At Big League Dreams, you can hit one over Fenway's "Green Monster," touch the ivy at Wrigley, or take the mound at Yankee Stadium.

The stadiums will make you feel so much like a professional baseball player, you're gonna want to do steroids.

Best Place to See a Spring Training Game, Old School

Phoenix Municipal Stadium

The "ballpark village" known as Goodyear Ballpark, Cactus League home of the Cleveland Indians and Cincinnati Reds, cost $100 million to build. Camelback Ranch Stadium, the spring digs of the Los Angeles Dodgers and Chicago White Sox, features a fish-filled lake, a sunken playing field, and practice fields that mimic the exact dimensions of Dodger Stadium and Chicago's U.S. Cellular Field. By comparison, the city's dear old Phoenix Muni may seem a little drab, but if you're an open-air baseball geek, the preseason home of the Oakland A's has everything you require: warm sun, cold beer, a perfectly groomed field, and cozy environs with not a bad seat in the 7,885-seat house. And with the red buttes of Papago Park towering over the left-field fence, Muni exudes the kind of old-school Cactus League charm that even 100 million bucks can't buy.

Best Place to See a Spring Training Game, New School

Camelback Ranch

Picking your favorite spring training ballpark is like picking your favorite Beatle: Even if you're comfortable with your choice, you have to concede there are certain merits to the options you've passed up. Still, having been to every park in Arizona, we give the nod to Glendale's $100 million Camelback Ranch, home to the Chicago White Sox and Los Angeles Dodgers. As one of the brand-new Cactus League parks, it's got all the amenities of Chase Field in an intimate setting that mirrors the atmosphere in the best old-time ballparks. Parking is a cinch, the ushers aren't as Draconian about seat-sneaking as what you'll find at, say, Peoria Sports Complex, and the Chicago-style hot dogs are cheaper and tastier than the ones the Cubbies sell in Mesa. The architecture is what really sets this park apart, though: The copper-colored oxidized steel shell of the grandstand blends beautifully into the surrounding countryside, the gently sloping lawn unfolds gracefully inside the gate, and the Gabion stone retaining walls add a fresh modern touch. The overall atmosphere is still far from a finished product, and will come as the park is broken in, but it's already our favorite place to watch a game.

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