Arizona good ‘mancation’ locale in spring

Being the hip (do we still say hip?) travel planner that I am, I was eager to help my partner and his buddies organize a spring getaway to Phoenix, where they will golf, watch baseball, drink beer and perhaps behave badly.

When this foursome headed to Biloxi three years ago, you’d simply call it a guys’ golf vacation (with an overnight detour to New Orleans and Mardi Gras, for an eyeful of near-naked revelers and a suspicious accumulation of plastic beads to bring back home).

Now we’re supposed to call that kind of lovely bonding a Mancation, as though the thought of men hitting the road for marathons of poker and sports was a new, bright and unusual idea. We’ve had Mancations at least since Confucius organized his first game of Mahjong a couple of thousand years ago. Northwoods hunting in packs and Vegas-style gambling qualify, don’t they?

The momentum for all this is just beginning to build at www.mancations.com, a place to plot ventures that prohibit wives, mistresses and girlfriends. “Done in order to get in touch with their male-primal roots,” the website clarifies.

“Women can do the spa thing, the retreats,” Michael Sprifke of Mancations.com told the Associated Press. “Guys are missing the boat on that. Now they want to start taking short trips themselves.”

He takes an age-old concept to new heights, making the website a place to build advertising for guy getaways. Choices include fishing in Alaska, cattle penning at a Colorado dude ranch and a triathlon camp in Maryland.

Aim higher, and the Monaco in Sonoma package includes manly spa treatments or golfing, lodging at The Fairmont and three days of car race training at the Jim Russell Racing School. The fun begins at $4,495, excluding transportation to California.

That sure makes the Madison guys’ adventure seem tame, simple and frugal. They’ll save a few bucks on airfare by leaving home on a Wednesday instead of Thursday. They can be casual about deciding when and where to watch spring training games, because they don’t much care which teams they watch on the diamond.

Spring training seats tend to be plentiful and close to the field. Just having access to a patch of lawn is adequate for many of us. A dozen Major League Baseball teams – including the Milwaukee Brewers – make Arizona their spring home. For more: www.cactusleague.com. The Brewers’ spring base is Maryvale Baseball Park, 800-933-7890.

The guys need to rent a car that is big enough to transport their luggage and golf clubs. The sprawling nature of the Phoenix area, and the lack of public transportation, means they can’t juggle car rental dates unless they want to stay poolside someplace for a day or two.

(When planning a trip to Orlando recently, I was amazed to see car rental rates drop in price by two-thirds when the rental didn’t include a Saturday. We saved at least $300 by spending our first night in Florida near the airport, then picking up a car on Sunday.)

For lodging, I’ve made three suggestions, keeping in mind the desire to keep costs reasonable relatively low, and the guys’ refusal to share beds.

* A three-bedroom and four-bed house on the 14th tee of a golf course, 10 minutes from two casinos and 30 minutes south of Phoenix. Cost: $800 per week, or $125 per night, plus a $125 cleaning fee. That comes from www.vrbo.com, where vacation property owners list hundreds of rentals. One disadvantage is the lack of daily maid service.

* Two rooms at The Hotel Scottsdale, which is the springtime home of the Oakland As. Use a AAA discount, and it’s $134 per night for two beds, continental breakfast, an outdoor pool and free area shuttle. It’s a good, central location. For more: www.thehotelscottsdale.com, 866-394-3911.

* A one-bedroom suite with two beds, a sofa sleeper and a rollaway bed at Hospitality Suites, for under $200 per night. The rate includes outdoor pools, breakfast and a daily cocktail hour. For more: www.hospitalitysuites.com, 800-445-5115.

Not pursued were golf vacation packages, for which rates depend upon type of lodging and courses. The guys didn’t want to be committed to playing a lot of golf at one location.

Meal recommendations include:

* Don & Charlie’s, a laid-back steakhouse in Scottsdale that feels like a Wisconsin supper club. The sports memorabilia – particularly the extensive autographed baseball collection – is prime, and the Arizona Republic calls this the “best restaurant for male bonding.” For more: www.donandcharlies.com, 480-990-0900.

* Mabel Murphy’s, a downtown Scottsdale tavern and deli that is run by Wisconsin natives Bev and Steve Weckstein. It will be a great place to watch the Badgers advance through the NCAA basketball tourney. Yes, there is a connection between this Mabel’s and the longstanding Mabel’s in Oshkosh. For more: www.mabelmurphys.com, 480-941-8225.