"It's just such a unique concept," said Jaclyn Lash, the Padres director of special events. "From my perspective, we've learned so much about building a golf course within a ballpark that we've perfected it more and more. Each year it gets better, and this year is our best year yet."
The Padres had already sold out all public tee times before the course opened Thursday morning. It features four new tee box locations, five different elevations and a unique scoring system: At each hole, golfers are permitted two shots, taking the best one. They're given a birdie, par or bogey, based on proximity to the flag.
This year's course was designed to challenge avid golfers a bit more than in years past, with bunkers and trees designed to make pin-seeking riskier. Once the Padres had established the tee boxes throughout the park, the design was sent to Gil Hanse, the golf course architect who designed the 2016 Olympic course in Rio.
"This course has a bite to it this year, for sure," said Nate Adelman, Callaway's marketing manager who helped create the concept. "If you're a really avid golfer, you'll come out here and appreciate the realism to a real golf course."
The course begins with a tee box on the third-base line hitting toward the first hole location in left field. It progresses to the upper deck, where the course's longest hole begins behind home plate and extends 167 yards into right field.
Hole 5 features a tee box behind home plate. And the course finishes with various holes beginning in left field -- including one under the scoreboard and another from atop the Western Metal Supply Co. Building.
"The Padres couldn't do it without us, we couldn't do it without the Padres; it truly is a collaboration to build something we couldn't do by ourselves," said Adelman. "The Padres know their facility better than anybody else, they know the cool parts of the park that they want the public to be a part of. And because of the character in this building, there are so many unique parts."
Added Lash: "We try to activate our ballpark here at Petco Park 365 days a year. It really is more than just a ballpark. Anything we can come up with creatively to activate the ballpark, we're going to look to do."