2005: Seven Canyons a stunning test

Sedona, Ariz.

Up here in Red Rock country, golf presents a whole new aura.

For years, the central Arizona plateau around Sedona, 100 miles north of Phoenix, was a sweaty outpost for ranchers and miners.

Today, Sedona is an odd juxtaposition of energy and lifestyles, with hangouts ranging from cafes, gem shops, alpaca sweater stores, mining museums, motorcycle garages and private airplane landing fields. All Sedona lacked was decent golf. Well, it had two courses, but they were mundane and depended exclusively upon their surrounds for what little interest they provided.

With the opening of Seven Canyons in 2003, Sedona has a course that’s solid tee to green and up to the standards of the area’s natural beauty. There are few places in the world that can offer the stunning imagery of the Mogollon Rim. At Seven Canyons, it’s like playing classic golf in the basin of the Grand Canyon.

The 200-acre course and real estate development is ensconced in its own dramatic stage, circled by 100,000 acres of protected refuge – Coconino National Forest and Red Rock Secret Mountain Wilderness. Exposed rock is everywhere, much of it topped by ponderosa and chaparral pines. Those looking for a desert landscape will have to head south.

The course sits at a base elevation of 4,600 feet above sea level and manages to incorporate 300 feet of elevation change. Routing the site was not easy, especially since the need to accommodate homesites limited the playing corridors. Credit for the routing actually goes to Tucson-based course designer Ken Kavanaugh. When new property owners decided to capitalize on a more upscale residential market, they brought in Tom Weiskopf, who for the last 20 years has been putting his stamp on a series of stunning real estate properties throughout Arizona and across the American West.

Weiskopf is secure enough in his identity and his understanding of golf that he doesn’t need to overwhelm with superfluous fluff. He has been keen to include the occasional short par 4, and at Seven Canyons the approach serves him well to deal with the limited space with which he had to work.

At 6,746 yards from the back tees, this par-70 layout (71.3 rating/136 slope) is short by modern standards, especially given the elevation. Long players will hit a lot of layups off the tees and find themselves working the ball into the greens, occasionally around a lone pine left to confound a shot.

Everywhere at Seven Canyons, the native landforms create a platform for golf like nothing else in the game.

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