A couple weeks back, I headed out to Lecanto, Florida and had one of the best golf experiences of my life. I was afforded the opportunity to play two of the three courses out at Black Diamond Ranch, a private golf community built around an old limestone quarry.
Black Diamond Ranch was founded in 1987 by Stan Olsen, who after nearly 25 years at the helm, decided to retire. In March of this year, the club was acquired by Escalante Golf, a boutique owner and operator of luxury golf properties in California, Colorado, Florida, Ohio and Indiana.
Black Diamond Ranch features three Tom Fazio designed golf courses, The Quarry, The Ranch and The Highlands. The highly-acclaimed courses are set amongst limestone cliffs, lakes, live oak trees, dogwoods, myrtles and magnolias along Florida’s Nature Coast.
The Quarry Course
The Quarry Course opened in 1987 and is the signature course of Black Diamond Ranch. Measuring a beefy 7,159 yards, with a course rating of 75.0 and a 137 slope, surviving this Par 72 course requires every bit of your A and most of your B game.
Golf on The Quarry course takes you through dramatic elevation changes, classic bunkering, and fairways framed with thousands of beautiful live oaks, dogwoods, myrtles, and magnolias. It’s some of the best “Florida” golf you can find and that’s only the front nine.
The back nine features all that and more. Golf writer Dan Jenkins calls the 13th-17th holes “the best five consecutive holes of golf anywhere in the world.”
The 13th is a 183-yard Par-3 over an 80-foot chasm with a green that is protected by bunkers. The view from the back tees is truly breath taking. We weren’t playing from the tips, but on this hole we made an exception. We had to clamber up about 20 steps to get to the tee box and we were collectively struck dumb viewing the hole stretch out before us.
The 14th, in my opinion was the most daunting hole on the course. It’s a 529-yard Par-5 flanked by a 50-foot cliff on the left that runs the length of the hole. From the tee box to the green, the hole is a 1/2 moon and with your tee shot, you can try to cut the corner of the cliff to shorten the remainder of the hole. Me, I decided to take the scenic route and save some ammo.. Your approach shot is a semi-blind shot coming from well above the green, leave it short and you’ll be hitting out of a tough valley trying to put some stopping power on the ball so you don’t roll off the back small 30-foot green.
The 15th is a very cool hole with an elevated tee shot. The fairway looks much smaller than it actually is and it can get in your head as there’s water on the left and a Florida mountain on your right.. If you manage to land in the Fairway, it’s smooth sailing the rest of the hole.
The 16th hole is a 435-yard Par-4 that ate me for breakfast.. Your tee shot is to an elevated fairway and from where I was standing it looked like I was trying to hit to the summit of Mt. Everest. Even my TaylorMade R11 wasn’t up to the task and I lost a lot of good men that day.. Should you, by the grace of the golf gods, make it in the fairway from the tee box, you have to brave another shot over a chasm to have a chance at a good score… The green is long and slopes towards doom. We saw a yet to be identified snake sunning on the green as we approached, if he is a golf ball eating snake, he feasted well that day.
You finish out the quarry holes on the 218-yard Par-3 17th hole, that, compared to the others, seems like a walk in the park. Instead of hitting over the abyss of doom, it’s only about a 40-foot drop to the bottom and you’re hitting to the green from an elevated tee-box. Whatever weapon you choose, you must make it to the green else risk rolling into grass bunkers that protect it.
I don’t typically do a hole-by-hole type of course review, but in the case of Black Diamond Ranch’s The Quarry Course, I felt it was the only way I could relate the experience..
It is the epitome of “risk-reward.” Many of the holes offer you tantalizing opportunities that leave you begging for mercy when the shots go awry. The course will severely punish you for errant shots. We’re talking steep lipped fairway bunkers with overhanging branches type punishment. The Quarry course is absolutely beautiful in it’s design and maintenance, even the “non-quarry” holes!
The Quarry has received numerous accolades over the years, such as Golf Digest’s “Best in State,” “Game Changer,” and for 20 years running “America’s 100 Greatest Courses.” Other accolades include, Golfweek’s “Best U.S. Residential Courses” and “Best Modern Courses in the U.S” and GOLF’s “Top 100 Courses in the U.S.”
Black Diamond Ranch is a private golf community, but if you’re looking to play, and indeed you should be, they’re offering some stay and play packages so you can spend some time in golf utopia.
I had planned on including The Highlands in this course review, but we’re already at 900 words, so I’ll be writing a follow up post covering that one.
If you’re interested, I’ve posted up all of the pictures from The Quarry course on the our Facebook Fanpage.