Posted November 5, 2015
Eric D. Williams - ESPN
SAN DIEGO -- Pete Wlodkowski steadied himself over the ball at home plate and striped a wedge to a kidney-shaped green out in center field.
"I can't remember being that nervous over a golf shot in a long time," said Wlodkowski. "It was fun."
Welcome to The Links at Petco Park, a 9-hole, par-3 course created by Callaway Golf.
The course was drawn up in partnership with Major League Baseball's San Diego Padres and has been in the making for more than a year.
"It's totally a natural," said Dave Neville, senior director of marketing for Callaway Golf. "I go to Padres games all the time. And when you see people at the park, people say, 'I wish I could hit from home plate.' Now you can."
Depending on your playing level, golfers can have anything from a 7-iron to a sand wedge in their hand on the course that plays at just over 1,000 yards.
Neville said the event caught on quickly. More than 1,600 golfers will play during the four-day event, and another 1,000 are on a waiting list.
Golfers will play from 7:30 a.m. to 9:30 at night, so some will get a chance to play golf under the lights at Petco. Greens fees are $50 per player, $200 for a foursome.
Representatives from Callaway did several walk-throughs, bringing with them artificial turf mats and hitting shots from all different areas of the park, with safety and uniqueness of shots at the forefront in the planning of the course.
Golfers start with a few warm-up swings in the Padres' batting cage, followed by a walk through the dugout to the opening tee box at home plate, a 110-yard hole that plays to center field.
From there, golfers stroll through the Padres clubhouse and head up to the second level, playing holes two through eight from the right-field foul pole to left field. The finishing hole is a 144-yard shot that plays from the rooftop of the Western Metal Supply Co. building in left field.
There are a couple of fun holes, including the golf movie-themed No. 7, where golfers have the option to tee off with a hockey stick.
But the main attraction is the majestic view offered at the unique venue of Petco Park and hitting golf shots from the stands, something most golfers dream about.
"It is one of those ideas that's like, well duh, how come nobody else has thought of this before?" said Mike McLoughlin, a San Diego native who runs the social media and golf course review web site TheSandTrap.com. "I'm sure there's going to be some people calling Callaway, asking how they did it and what are the logistics of it.
"It's a really cool idea, and it was a lot of fun to do. And it was a first-class type of event, the way they have it set up."
If things go well, Callaway hopes to make the course an annual event, according to Neville.
The company also has received calls from other MLB teams interested in doing something similar, including the Texas Rangers, New York Mets and Boston Red Sox.
Even an NHL team has shown interest in putting together a golf setup at its venue.
"I don't know how it would work in an ice rink, but we're open to ideas," Neville said.