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Pleasure before business: Seven Canyons golf course in Sedona, Arizona provides secluded scenery

Scott BordowBy Scott Bordow,
Seven Canyons golf course in Sedona - hole 9
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Golfers at Seven Canyons in Sedona, Ariz. enjoy a 360-degree view of Sedona's red rock mountains. (Courtesy of Seven Canyons)

SEDONA, Ariz. -- Tom Weiskopf had a visceral reaction when he first saw the land on which the Seven Canyons golf course would sit.

"It took my breath away," he said.

You'll likely feel the same way after playing the par-70, 6,746-yard golf course about 17 miles north of Sedona. Seven Canyons rates as a spectacular golf getaway, so much so that Bradley S. Klein, architecture editor for Golfweek, called it the "IMAX of golf."

"This course is very special," said Joe Gaffney, general manager of Seven Canyons. "We like to think we're one of a kind."

Seven Canyons was built as a private golf club in 2003. But like many private venues across the country, the downturn in the economy hit it hard. And Seven Canyons recently opened its doors to public play.

The golf course still is struggling financially. In late May, Seven Canyons Development Partners filed for bankruptcy. A few members have publicly complained about owner Dave Cavan and the decision to open Seven Canyons to the public.

The indignities continued when a couple of wells failed, and the fairways turned brown in May 2010. But with the water flowing by mid-June when my group played the golf course, the fairways had nearly recovered to their previously pristine condition.

The bankruptcy filing –- and the water shortage -– will not cause future problems, Gaffney said.

"It's business as usual," he said. "Hopefully, over time we'll prove to everyone this is a viable business venture."

Of course, budget sheets and bottom lines probably don't concern visitors. They want a luxurious golf experience. And in that regard, Seven Canyons still delivers.

Simply put, the golf course -– and the scenery -– is gorgeous. More than 100,000 acres of the Coconino National Forest surround Seven Canyons. Golfers enjoy a 360-degree view of Sedona's red rock mountains, and it's common to see wildlife such as deer and javelina. Mountain lions may lurk, too.

But the seclusion separates Seven Canyons from its neighbor courses in Sedona – Oakcreek Country Club and Sedona Golf Resort.

Seven Canyons sits several miles off the main highway, so no traffic or city noise barge in on the experience. Cell phones can't get a signal, but that's okay. You want to turn off the world at Seven Canyons.

The golf course itself is a bear, featuring narrow fairways and large, undulating bentgrass greens. Private clubs generally cater to low-handicap golfers, and Weiskopf followed suit here. Not overly long, it penalizes golfers who aren't on target.

"It's not an easy course," Gaffney said.

The 175-yard, par-3 fourth hole personifies the beauty and the beast that is Seven Canyons, starting with the breathtaking view from the tee box at Rachel's Knoll. You'll then find an 80-foot drop to a green protected by seven bunkers. When the wind blows against you –- and that's almost every day -– club selection is near impossible.

"That hole is always a challenge," Gaffney said. "You can hit anywhere from a wedge to a 3-iron."

All four par 3s pose particular problems, none more difficult than No. 17, which plays 246 yards from the tips and includes a creek that crosses in front of the green in addition to deep bunkers on both sides of the putting surface.

A par there feels like an eagle.

"You can get into a lot of trouble out here," Gaffney said.

Seven Canyons is worth it. Let's just hope business doesn't get in the way of a great golf experience.

Seven Canyons golf course in Sedona: The verdict

Do yourself a favor: If you know you're going to be in northern Arizona for a day or two, book a tee time at Seven Canyons. The golf course is an absolute pleasure, even if it does swallow a few golf balls. And with the incredible scenery, Weiskopf did well at this venue.

Stay and play at Seven Canyons

Can't afford the $300,000 that provides use of a luxurious villa at Seven Canyons for 28 days a year? Don't despair. Sedona features several resorts and hotels. The golf course also offers stay-and-play packages with the Enchantment Resort, Sedona Rouge and the Sedona Summit Resort.

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Seven Canyons G.C. in Sedona - hole 7Seven Canyons golf course in Sedona - hole 5

Scott Bordow is the golf columnist for the Arizona Republic. Follow him on Twitter at @sbordow.

Any opinions expressed above are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of the management.

Reader Comments / Reviews Leave a comment
  • golf course

    kyle campbell wrote on: May 2, 2012

    This is the Most Beautiful course I have ever played. The scenery was great, the course is in great shape. played it on 15 Mar 2012


  • Seven Canyons

    Owen Scheppman wrote on: Nov 17, 2011

    Hello you $50 a day greens fee players,
    I am one of those unlucky fellows who did purchase a full golf membership at Seven Canyons in August of 2005. I paid top dollar price with the understanding and a personal handshake from Mr. David Cavan, that there would be no membership dues until the clubhouse was completed. Then a couple years later he decided to change the rules and charge $500 then $700 a month membership dues. I protested the fee but paid and when the dues went to $700 and still no clubhouse I knew it was over. I was told I couldn't play there anymore and since then I haven't been back! I was screwed by Mr. David Cavan and entire the Seven Canyons management team and I am not a happy person. I gladly paid $170,000.00 to be a member and only played the course 15 times. I think Mr. Cavan is a serious crook and I hope he enjoys his old age and the pleasure of going to his grave knowing how many people hate is guts.
    Owen Scheppman member #268


  • the course is in great shape

    brad olson wrote on: Jun 6, 2011

    I played the course yesterday. It is in amazing shape. All Green, no Brown. Probably the best $50 bucks I've ever spent. It is worth the 1 hr and 45 minute drive, especially if you combine it with a mountain bike ride before the round. I had to beg them to let me walk the course and it is an easy walk. For the guys that paid 175k to join, I'm sorry but thanks.


  • Played Seven Canyons

    George B wrote on: Aug 2, 2010

    This was the most scenic course that we have ever played on. Fairways were 99.9% green. Very few bare spots existed. The bunkers were in great shape as well as the greens. The irrigation ponds had water in them and there did not seem to be a problem with the irrigation system. I do not know conditions several months ago, but now (8-05-2010) they are very good. The staff was extremely helpful. We can only hope to play there again. Hopefully they survive the financial woes that are affecting many golf courses.


  • Seven Canyons Experience

    Troy Whittaker wrote on: Jun 24, 2010

    To the first commentors point. Those pictures were more like the course I played three years ago. I was invited to play in an event there and it was one of the most amazing experiences of my life. There was not a blade of grass out of place, the course had a mystique about it that made me wish I could join. The entire staff was over the top great, and full of energy.
    My recent trip as a paying customer left me in a state of disbelief. The grass was near death, and nothing was polished. I am somewhat of an avid golfer, and in my opinion it is obvious they haven't spent any money on that golf course for a long time. This goes far beyond recent water issues.
    It was also obvious that no money had been spent anywhere else for that matter. I didn't recognize any of the same faces, and even the staff who took care of us looked like they were on a death march. I guess how could you blame them after watching such a beautiful place die a slow death?
    My recent experience left me feeling like I had been professionally mugged. I can't imagine how the regular paying members feel. What a shame!


  • Seven Canyons

    Kathy Edmund wrote on: Jun 23, 2010

    Couple problems with your article:
    1. The photo is several years old. The Course is no longer green, it is BROWN. They claim it is due to the fact that the wells recently went down, but the fact is that they have not been doing anything to maintain the course for at least a year.
    2. The course is not legally allowed to be a public course.
    3. Staffing has been cut dramatically and those who remain have taken extreme paycuts and lost their medical benefits. Yet the owner claims to "value" the employees.
    4. The developer filed bankruptcy in response to the lender's instituting a FORECLOSURE ACTION against them for failure to pay more than $60Million in debt. In addition, there is more than $2Million in overdue payables. Bankruptcy was the only option to prevent losing the property all together.
    It will take a LOT of work and financial support to make Seven Canyons what it was 2 years ago.
    You should visit the property and do a little more research before writing an article based on the owner and manager's attempts to do damage control.


      • RE: Seven Canyons

        Jim Holt wrote on: Jul 8, 2010

        This is very good information. I too played there as a guest of a member about three years ago and the course was beautiful. After I heard they were opening up tee times to the general public I was so excited and couldn't wait to take my son there. But after reading the replies to Mr. Bordow's article I think I'll pass on making the two hour drive to play on what now is nothing more than expensive dirt. Yes, it's a shame about the course and more of a shame that a reporter can't be honest.


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