Featuring 45 holes of golf, Black Diamond Ranch is a private 1,200-acre, master-planned golf community in Lecanto, Florida. From the moment you arrive and see the quarry, you can’t help but wonder is this really Florida? It is – but I can assure you, this is not your typical Florida Golf course or for that matter not your typical golf course anywhere.
With lush rolling hills, majestic moss-draped oaks and Florida’s version of the Grand Canyon, you know that Black Diamond is something special.
The Black Diamond experience, and more specifically, the Quarry Course, will require your full attention. This is not a layout to be taken lightly, with eight par-4s over 400 yards, four distinct par-3s and a quartet of par-5s that will test your nerves. There is no question your heart will be racing as soon as you step up to the 1st Tee.
Black Diamond Ranch History
The origin of the name, Black Diamond, goes back to the 1940’s when the land was sold to a Florida Citrus man, John Taylor Jr. So intrigued by the property and incredible land formations, Taylor decided to name it after the highest grade of grapefruit, Black Diamond.
Forty years later, the co-founder of Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC) Stan Olsen and his wife Betty, fell in love with the Citrus County region and the Florida Gulf coast. When they discovered Black Diamond, with the remnants of limestone quarries and the natural sand dunes they had a vision to create a golf club community second to none.
The Olsen’s first task was to find an architect who could sculpt their vision into the Black Diamond topography.
With almost 30 tracks to his credit at the time, Tom Fazio was making a serious impact on the golf course design business and was chosen.
According to Fazio, “When Mr. Olsen first toured me through the property, he didn’t take me to the quarry area until the last, because he thought I would be so unimpressed with the land with this big scar in it that it would take away from the beauty of the land. After seeing that, I thought, wow, this has the potential, if we could ever make it work. The challenges that we faced were not knowing about the stability of the soils and what was really under the quarry.”
“I talked Mr. Olsen into leasing a couple of bulldozers for a month and start pushing things around in the quarry to see how hard it was and what the material looked like,” Fazio continued. “After things started shaping up, I persuaded Stan to go another month with the bulldozers. We were just winging it, doing by eye and by feel and we came up with a conceptual plan to put five holes in that quarry area. It was a fun process to go through that initial time frame.”
Olsen’s vision and Fazio’s workmanship created a masterpiece that has been one of highest rated golf courses in the country and has garnered significant praise by golf’s elite.
The course winds through majestic oaks, dogwoods, and magnolias with surprising elevation changes, upwards of 100 feet. From the opening hole you’ll be amazed how easily the course flows through peaks and valleys, with wonderful views of the region, certainly not your typical Florida golf course.
The Quarry gets so much critical attention it detracts from the other excellent Fazio designs here, the Ranch Course, is a homage to Fazio’s beloved Pine Valley. Open since 1997, the Ranch places a premium on strategy and distance control, using extensive sand traps, waste bunkers and two-tiered greens for defense. Like its older sibling, it has a dramatic finish — one Fazio himself called “the three best finishing holes I’ve ever designed.”
The final addition in 1999 was the Highlands, a unique nine-hole, parkland-style course set on an elevated ridge top with 25-mile views. As nine-hole layouts go, this is no pushover, with a slope of 143 from the back tees.
Black Diamond Ranch – Quarry Course Come Back Holes
It’s often said that the Quarry Course consists of 13 spectacular holes and the five best consecutive holes in the world. A truer statement has never been said. All the holes on the Quarry Course made me want to come back to play them again, there wasn’t a single hole that was just so-so. Fazio has a way to make a hole challenging for the better player while still enjoyable for the less experienced player.
Hole Number 1, Par 4
A welcome to Black Diamond Hole. One of eight par-4s that play over 400 yards from the tips. From an elevated tee, the right side of the fairway is the best play from the onset, to avoid a large grass bunker on the left and to give you the best angle of approach for a mid to short iron shot to a well-protected green. This hole is special because it’s the first of what you know will be , an incredible round.
Hole Number 9, Par 4
Although not the longest at Black Diamond, the ninth certainly plays every bit of its 544 yards, as it bends to the right with an elevation change of 60 feet from tee to green. In addition, a lake covers the right side of the dogleg, so don’t even think about it. Play down the left side off the tee, otherwise you’ll get wet. Your second shot plays straight uphill to a split fairway. The left side is the best spot, but is quite narrow, while the right side, despite being the smart play, sits well below the putting surface, leaving a semi-blind approach. The green is as slick as it gets, running from back to front. By the way, avoid the two pot bunkers on the left side of the narrow green.
The 5-hole stretch on the back-nine, known as the five best consecutive holes in the world, winds you through and around the quarry. It starts with Number 13, a par 3 over a pit, then skirts along the rim of a bigger quarry, then descends 85 feet of steep limestone cliffs to the 15th green, positioned astride a bottomless lake, then you emerge for more shots along the edge, then shoot down into the smaller pit to the 17th green before finishing on a conventional 18th. This stretch will make or break you, either way, you won’t forget these holes.
Hole Number 13, Par 3
The first quarry hole will give your heart a kick-start…from the elevated tee box you are looking at 183 yards (from the tips) of all carry. Choosing the right club is key. The 80-foot chasm facing you and the white sand surrounding the green make this hole as beautiful as it is difficult. What a way to start a group of holes. Wow!
Hole Number 14, Par 5
The par-5 14th wraps around the quarry from right to left. It’s not the length of the hole (529 yards from the tips) that will get you, it’s judging the distance you need to, first, carry the corner of the dogleg, second, pick the correct club and line for your layup, and, finally, figure out the downhill approach to the green that hugs the cliffs. Start out with a sweeping draw off the tee. This will position you for a sensible layup just over the two bunkers on the right side of the fairway. In addition, this will leave a straight shot to the green, just under 100 yards away. A simple, downhill pitch is left to negotiate the tiny putting surface that slopes to the left.
Hole Number 15, Par 4
The most photographed hole on the course, the 15th is as good as it gets. A very deceptive par 4 measuring 371 yards. Two decisions face the player off the elevated tee: go short with your tee shot and leave a longer approach or bombs away and attack. The first option to the fattest part of the fairway some 60 yards wide, will leave a 5- to-6-iron to reach, while the aggressive play is driver, leaving a short iron in. There are problems with both, as your long iron will need to cover the beautiful lake that fronts the green, while the big boys will need to squeeze their tee shot into a tiny landing area that is guarded by slope and rough right and sand and water left. The putting surface is fairly large, with several difficult pin placements, like back-left.
Hole Number 16, Par 4
No. 16 is by far the most difficult of the quarry holes, reaching 435 yards in length. There are two key ingredients here – a successful tee shot and an even better approach. With the quarry running along the entire left side, driver down the right-center is the play. However, any shot just a shade further right and a nasty pot bunker will give you fits. As the hole bends to the left, the fairway to the green gets tighter and tighter with just a sliver of landing area short of the surface. The green is quite long and narrow, so your approach must be spot on. Again, left, and short is jail, but right is no bargain, either. The bottom line, hook here and you’re done.
Hole Number 17, Par 3
The final quarry hole is big, bold, and full of challenges. From an elevated tee, this par-3 is another all carry – any shot short will likely end up in one of the grass bunkers protecting the right side of the green. It may be downhill but with the wind in your face, you might think driver. The green is so massive and full of slope that it’s not uncommon for three and four putts.
Pictures and words just don’t do justice for sharing the beauty and the experience of playing at Black Diamond Ranch. Black Diamond Ranch needs to be experienced to fully comprehend what Fazio was able to carve out of the earth. The list of golf communities that can boast 45 perfectly maintained holes of breathtaking championship golf and all the other amenities found at Black Diamond is a short one, and Black Diamond Ranch is at the top of the list. Being an exclusive private community and managed by Escalante Golf, the members are assured that it will remain one of the best golf communities in the world for years to come.
Although Black Diamond Ranch is a private facility, golfers and small groups can enjoy the “Black Diamond Experience” with one of the Stay and Play golf packages available with onsite private home accommodations. For more information about the Stay and Play experience, please visit https://stay.blackdiamondranch.com
Information about Black Diamond membership and real estate opportunities can be found at Black Diamond Realty https://www.blackdiamondranch.com/real-estate