Your new favorite golf course is ... Petco Park?
SAN DIEGO - Since it opened in 2004, Petco Park has had the reputation for being a forgiving place for Padres and opposing pitchers alike.
Will the same hold true for … golfers?
On Thursday, the first of 1,500 golfers attempted to find out, as they took aim at The Links at Petco, a nine-hole golf experience in partnership with Callaway Golf.
On a sun-splashed morning, Tom Yankle of San Diego, part of a foursome, fired a birdie on the second hole and marveled at the field.
"It's so different to see how different the field looks with golf holes on it instead of players," Yankle said.
The event, originally planned for three days, sold-out so quickly - three hours, to be exact - was expanded to five days, with golfers teeing off beginning at 7 a.m. with the last tee time set for 9 p.m. - under the lights of the downtown ballpark.
"It was absolutely a no-brainer. It's so cool, different and unique and I was excited just to be a part of it," said Yankle said.
All available spots, which range from $50 per person and $100 per twosome, are spoken for, which was a small surprise of sorts for Padres team president and CEO Mike Dee.
"It surprised me a little but I thought it would be popular, that people would dig the novelty of it," Dee said on Wednesday, as he stood near the tee box for the second hole, which is located on the upper deck in the right field corner.
"But I think what people are going to be surprised at is it's not like something you want to do once. We hope to do this every year. It's cool to play. It's challenging golf, you're taking full swings, the conditions out here, there's wind, there's sand traps, there's elements."
The holes of the Par 3 course, all of which are laid out on the playing field at Petco Park, range from No. 7, which is a 62 yards to the second hold, which is 145 yards.
Six of the holes tee off from the upper deck of the ballpark, with the 125-yard No. 5 located directly behind home plate, offering a panoramic view of the ballpark and buildings located behind Petco Park.
The ninth hole, covering 144 yards, actually tees off from atop the Western Metal Supply Co. building. The first hole, which covers 110 yards, is the only one to tee off on the field and is located at home plate.
"It has been great. The layout here has been pretty awesome," said Kyle Hillier of Riverside, who was making his first trip to Petco Park. "It's really like a golf course instead of a ballpark. I liked teeing off from the bleachers. That was pretty cool."
Each hole has a unique theme - the second hole is Beerfest, on the third hole the golfers can get tips from a Callaway pro. The fourth hole has a snow machine and is the designated 'bad weather' hole.
The seventh hole offers a movie theme and golfers can use a hockey stick - think 'Happy Gilmore' - instead of their club in attempts to cover the 62 yards.
Each golfer who gets a hole-in-one wins a Big Bertha Driver from Callaway. The company, located in nearby Carlsbad, is providing clubs for golfers to use at the event and there's a Callaway rep at every hole to assist golfers.
"I have come out secretly and hit golf balls at places where I've worked [Fenway Park and Sun Life Stadium in Miami]," Dee said. "When we were talking to Callaway about a new partnership, a lot of the conversation was based on activation; it shouldn't just be around a sign, our brand or their brand.
"And kudos to [Callaway CEO] Chip Brewer, who got it [idea] right away."
Trent Brown of Los Angeles, who was also making his first trip to Petco Park, said he had a blast - even if his scorecard didn't always reflect it.
"My first shot was a birdie," Brown said. "The rest of the round was lackluster."