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On the road in Arizona: Sedona's golf vortex draws scenery lovers

David R. HollandBy David R. Holland,
Senior Writer

SEDONA, Ariz. - There was a time in our nation's history when Teddy Roosevelt rode horseback through the scenic wonders of America, claiming many for National Park status.

For some reason he left Sedona alone, although this red rock country is one of the world's most scenic natural wonders, surrounded by the Coconino National Forest. Sedona could could have ranked up there with Yosemite and Yellowstone had it been designated a National Park.

Geologists say Sedona's birth began 350 million years ago. Native Americans roamed here 1,000 years ago. Pioneers raised apples and peaches, Zane Grey was inspired to write about the Wild West and movie cowboys filmed shoot 'em ups on the red dirt in at least 76 movies that have been filmed in Sedona.

Zane Grey's "Call of the Canyon" was the first movie, in 1923. Then John Wayne arrived in 1945 for "Angel and the Badman".

Today, Sedona is home to a myriad of talented artists of every style. Writers thrive in the inspiring setting and the backdrop is used for music videos and commercials.

Golfers crave shot values, scenic landscapes and there is just no way you can play a round of golf at Sedona Golf Resort or Oakcreek Country Club without raising a camera and stopping to gaze at a towering ochre butte that appears in your sight line framing a lush green two-tiered putting surface.

You would think the area was finished building golf courses, but a spectacular new private course, Seven Canyons, has opened recently, designed by Tom Weiskopf.

"Land is so expensive," said Dale Samar, Director of Golf at the Sedona Golf Resort, "after all we are surrounded by national forest. I don't think there's room for more golf."

That's OK. There's plenty to keep you busy when you come to Sedona - hike, bike, take jeep rides, shop, view the local art work, ponder a panorama of stunning vistas or just sit along the banks of Oak Creek at L'Auberge de Sedona - the must place to stay.

Here's a closer look at Sedona Golf Resort and Oakcreek Country Club, the championship picks.

Oakcreek Country Club

The Village of Oakcreek came into existence for golf - a master-planned community was born in 1967 and Robert Trent Jones Sr. had the first nine holes open by September 15, 1968 when Miller Barber and Bob Rosburg, two PGA Tour stars, christened the course in a $8,000 match-play tournament won by Barber.

Robert Trent Jones Jr. came later to finish the 18-hole layout that now measures 6,824 at par 72. The club has a 10-year plan of improvements, now boasting brand-new cart paths and revamped bunkers.

Bell Rock and Cathedral Rock are nearby as you stroke shots to elevated greens, fairways lined with trees and fairway bunkers placed strategically at doglegs and greenside. Members call the stretch of holes starting at No. 2 "Red Rock Cove." You are just a wedge from the majestic buttes and mesas. You won't want to leave.

Oakcreek has a limited number of public tee times per day, but it is a must-play on 145 acres that includes three lakes and head pro Gary Pearce will tell you that holes 12, 14 and 18 are three of the best par 4s in the Arizona. Drive it long and straight on these tests that measure 450, 400 and 445 yards, and the finale might just be against the wind.

Sedona Golf Resort

Just as captivating as Sedona itself, this golf course is a must for anyone who craves scenery with an appetite for golf. When you climb up to the 10th tee and see Cathedral Rock in the background to this 210-yard par-3, you know Gary Panks had a fun time designing this award-winner.

It's only 6,646 yards at par of 71, but Sedona Golf Resort will test you to play smart golf as it winds through junipers, past water features, elevation changes and tempts you with risk-reward holes. Think about pulling out an iron instead of the driver on several par-4 holes.

Opened in 1988, a 17,000-square-foot clubhouse presents you with a view of what is to come after a short two-hour drive from Phoenix. The round, first-class in every way, starts at 4,050 feet and climbs to 4,350 at one point on the course. The ProLink GPS makes your day even more enjoyable.

This course finishes with a bang. Water comes into play on No. 13, then also on the par-4, 417-yard No. 16. No. 17 is 155 yards downhill to a green that is heavily bunkered with a lake on the right. The final hole is only 336 yards downhill, but there's trouble left and some deep bunkers. Just knock an iron down the middle and finish with a birdie.

And if you think it's a short course, just trying missing one shot on your way down the 623-yard fairway at No. 5, the No. 1 handicap hole.

Where to play

Oakcreek Country Club
690 Bell Rock Blvd.
Sedona, Ariz. 86351
(928) 284-1660 or (888) 703-9489

Sedona Golf Resort
35 Ridge Trail Drive
Sedona, Ariz. 86351
(928) 284-9355

Other golf options

Canyon Mesa Golf Course, Sedona, nine holes, (520) 284-0036
Poco Diablo Resort, Sedona, nine holes, (520) 282-7333
Beaver Creek Golf Resort, Lake Montezuma, (520) 567-4487
Verde Santa Fe Golf Course, Cornville, (520) 634-5454

Where to stay

Imagine a luxury "cabin" on the banks of Oak Creek. Ducks are quacking, locusts are singing and you are just a minute from Sedona's famous shopping district.

L'Auberge de Sedona was named "one of the best romantic getaways in the world" by Travel & Leisure Magazine and among "the best places to stay in the whole world" by Conde Nast Traveler Magazine.

There are luxury accommodations in 57 guestrooms and suites in three settings: the Creekside Cottages, the Lodge and the Creekside Lodge. Many rooms have fireplaces. Call and ask about their Play A Round Package.

301 L'Auberge Lane
Sedona, Ariz. 86339
(928) 282-1661
(800) 272-6777

Where to dine

The L'Auberge Restaurant is an award-winner featuring a five-course tasting menu created weekly. The Terrace on the Creek creates atmosphere along with gourmet dining for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Side trip to Flagstaff

Little America Hotel & Resort is a great place to base a trip to Sedona, especially if you are coming from other parts of the country. It is a spectacular 45-minute drive down Oak Creek Canyon from Flagstaff to Sedona.

Ask the concierge at Little America about the golf opportunities, which include Continental Golf Club, formerly known as Elden Hills (928-527-7997) in Flagstaff, and Elephant Rocks Golf Club, 30 miles west in the town of Williams. The private upscale communities for golf include Forest Highlands, Pine Canyon and Flagstaff Ranch.

World-class Little America includes a 500-acre private forest for hiking and biking and many other outdoors activities. Dine at the Western Gold Dining Room, Tiffany Tree Lounge, The Pines Cafe or come for Sunday Champagne Brunch.

Little America Hotel & Resort
2515 East Butler Avenue
Flagstaff, Ariz. 86004
(800) 865-1410 or (520) 779-7900

David R. Holland is an award-winning former sportswriter for The Dallas Morning News, football magazine publisher, and author of The Colorado Golf Bible. Before launching a career as a travel/golf writer, he achieved the rank of Lieutenant Colonel in the Air Force reserve, serving during the Vietnam and Desert Storm eras. Follow Dave on Twitter @David_R_Holland.

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