SEDONA, Ariz. – When daylight hits the red rocks just right, Boynton Canyon come to life.
The canyon walls glow and shimmer, especially at sunrise and sunset. Their jagged edges and ridges look like wrinkles on an old man’s face. Their rockscapes and cliffs have a quality of being – similar to the ocean and the stars at night - that requires staring at them for extended periods of time.
These moments of grandeur and wonderment replay on a daily loop for guests at Enchantment Resort, a luxurious vacation getaway two hours from Phoenix in the cooler elevations of northern Arizona. It doesn’t matter where you are – playing golf at nearby Seven Canyons, lounging on the patio of the View 180 restaurant, hiking the rugged trails or even lying on a treatment table inside the Mii amo spa – the red rocks of Sedona and the beauty of the Coconino National Forest provide the eye candy. That the resort and Seven Canyons, a private club accessible only to resort guests, sit buried so deep in the desert only enhances their intimacy to the towering formations. The touristy main drag through Sedona, a small town of 10,000 people, feels light years away.
"You are literally in the middle of nowhere (out here)," says Dave Bisbee, the Golf Operations and Membership Director at Seven Canyons. “It’s great for hiking or whatever you want to do."
You might not believe in the energy of Sedona’s mystical “vortex,” but Enchantment does its best to help guests relax and recharge. Once a private ranch, this 70-acre retreat sparkles after a $25 million renovation completed in 2012. All 218 guest rooms, set in pueblo-style buildings, were refreshed and redecorated. The main clubhouse, which serves as the gathering point of the resort, was recast.
A new system allows guests to check-in outdoors quickly and conveniently right from their cars. The nearby main pool doubled in size and was raised up 10 feet to enhance the views of the surrounding landscape.
A new dining scene was placed in the capable hands of Chef David Schmidt. Che–Ah–Chi, the resort’s new signature restaurant, fittingly named for what the Apaches called Boynton Canyon, serves a menu of American cuisine with southwestern twists that lives up to the scenery. Ordering a Prickly Pear margarita and sinking into the comfy loungers on the veranda of the View 180 is a great way to unwind before dinner. The focal point of the new Wine Bar is the 20-foot-long communal table where Schmidt serves his fantastic “Chef’s Table” creations. Check with the concierge for the latest theme and day. The refreshed Tii Gavo restaurant still offers traditional southwestern favorites in a more casual setting for families.
The Mii amo spa, a destination unto itself with 16 separate casitas and suites, needed very little tweaking. When you’re not hiking or biking the nearby trails, this is the place to set up camp at the resort. All guests age 16 and older are entitled to use the facilities including the steam, sauna and whirlpool in the locker rooms, indoor pool with fireplace, outdoor lap pool and hot tub, as well as participate in any classes in the fitness room, art lessons, cooking demonstrations, programs by visiting experts and other activities.
Treatments are worth the extra splurge, especially for parents who send the children off to ‘Camp Coyote.’ When my therapist removed the towel covering my eyes after a rejuvenating Swedish massage, I found myself looking directly out a skylight window at another rocky peak.
Golf at Seven Canyons
The Seven Canyons experience begins at a “practice park” encircled by red rocks in every direction. It’s home to 25 hitting stations, chipping and putting greens, a performance center and a separate room for group functions.
“We figured calling it a 'driving range' just wasn’t appropriate,” Bisbee says.
It’s the first taste of the visual overload and plush amenities that characterizes the entire 200-acre golf and real estate development. The original developer of Seven Canyons went bankrupt during the recession, forcing the Tom Weiskopf-designed course to open to the public. Eventually, conditioning slipped below its high standards.
A new partnership with Enchantment formed last year has Seven Canyons roaring toward a comeback. Bisbee says the golf club has attracted 80 members and 226 of the 230 of the villa’s fractional owners/members have returned. Construction on a new clubhouse on a hillside has broken ground.
Playing Seven Canyons, a demanding par-70 that plays 6,746 yards, feels a little bit like video game golf. The natural scenery can be so distracting that the game takes a back seat.
The desert pinches narrow fairways, creating a claustrophobic feeling off the tees. Nice elevation changes add character to the downhill tee shot at the par-3 fourth hole and the uphill approach to the 14th green. Water defends the short par-4 sixth hole and the stout par-3 seventh hole near the current clubhouse. Arroyos dissect fairways on the course’s harder handicap challenges: The par-5s at no. 3 and no. 15 and the par-4s at no. 9 and no. 13. Only a handful of places interact with some sort of civilization, a home or road.
“It is not a real estate intensive development,” Bisbee says. “You feel real solitude out there.”