Designed by Tom Fazio and opened in 1987, the Quarry course is not a typical Florida course because it has so many changes in elevation. It is an integral part of what is considered to be the number one golf community in the state. Together with the 18-hole Ranch course, 9-hole Highlands course, 30-bay driving range and 800 homes, this development is contained within 1,320 acres of land.
The Black Diamond Ranch Quarry course features prominently in every recent American golf course survey and it’s obvious straight from the off. Early in your round at the Quarry course you can’t help but marvel at the dogwoods, myrtles and magnolias that line the fairways, but you can’t help your mind racing on in anticipation of what lies ahead. From the 13th to the 17th, the Quarry course takes on its signature character – these holes are fashioned over and around canyon walls which offer excitement and spectacular views.
At the 13th hole, you stand on the elevated tee seventy-five feet above the quarry floor and catch your breath as you look over a huge abyss in front of the green 183 yards away – some have likened it to playing the 8th hole at Pebble Beach. Corey Pavin loves the 15th; in fact, he thinks it’s the most beautiful golf hole in Florida. The tee sits over seventy-five feet above the fairway and water is in play down the entire left side to a green that is tucked around the edge of the water – it's such a stunning hole that it is really hard to focus on the task at hand.
The last of these five fabulous holes is the par three 17th, which is 204 yards of rugged beauty that demands accuracy. There are lateral hazards on both sides of this hole, large bunkers on the right side of the green and quarry walls on the left – a great conclusion to the wonderful Quarry course at Black Diamond Ranch.
There's one specific characteristic that is the first among all others when top quality courses are present -- the land the course occupies. In my mind, the actual site is no less than 60% of my focus on any review I write. No question -- Mother Nature plays a big time role for so many golf courses -- and those blessed with such terrain clearly have a leg-up when bringing such courses to life.
Black Diamond is an atypical Sunshine State Course. The facility is located in the rolling "horse country" of Citrus County. That means the dullsville dreary monotony of flat-as-a pancake layouts overdosed with water hazards and engulfed with invasive housing -- which constitutes 80% of Florida golf -- is thankfully missing here.
The focus at Black Diamond has always been on the quarry holes and they clearly deliver the goods when playing them. The holes are squeezed all together and come at the end of the round which is a good thing because if they came earlier the build-up and subsequent letdown afterwards would have likely negated their full impact.
The long par-5 14th is a classic Cape-like hole and it's beautifully presented as it winds around the top of the quarry's rim. The long par-4 16th is one of the State's best holes -- a demanding long par-4 that wraps itself around the top of the quarry's rim and has a putting surface perched so near to the edge that the slightest pulled approach shot will be a quick casualty when the pin is placed in the deep left corner of the green. The long par-3 17th is also well done -- plunging down into the quarry with a difficult green to hit.
But, the Quarry Course provides much more than a five-hole Steven Spielberg odyssey moment.
The rolling nature of the land allowed architect Tom Fazio to create a layout that illustrates his clear talents. The layout provides plenty of diversity -- holes that move up and down and architectural inclusions that match up well. Credit Fazio for not going over-the-top with various design inclusions as he has often done with other courses he has worked. For Fazio -- less can be more but Tom sometimes has not realized that with other projects.
The Quarry is a great intersection in providing for membership play -- yet having enough elasticity with tee and pin placements to be a much sterner test. The wherewithal to blend such approaches is no easy task and Fazio has often shown an inclination to elevate the "eye candy" side above all else.
The key at the Quarry is that Fazio provided for an outward nine that is quite good -- a mixture of holes and movements. There's no question the quarry holes would be the dominant talking point for those playing the course but Fazio did not simply allow the entire focal point to rest upon just a few holes.
The center-placed fairway bunker at the 2nd is a good addition and the long par-4 3rd is a quality challenge -- both off the tee and on the approach. The long par-3 8th is a fierce hole with ever-present sand hugging the left side. At the concluding par-5 9th you finish the side with a dog-leg right hole that tempts the player in attempting the bold shot off the tee in order to get into position for a go at the green in two shots.
Florida golf does have its moments -- albeit one needs to look for them given the profusion of so much drab design. The Quarry is one of Tom Fazio's really top tier efforts. While others such as Shadow Creek in Nevada often get more attention - it is here in central Florida that Black Diamond's Quarry Course is worthy of serious top ten consideration in the State.
by M. James Ward
The front nine of the course is terrific, but nothing compared to the back nine. The holes are artfully designed and the course was in fabulous condition, featuring generous, sculpted fairways. Fazio may be the best golf course architect of his time. His courses are challenging for good players, yet fun for less skilled players. It’s a win-win combination. Unlike most similar developments, the homes here do not encroach on the golf course, and unlike most developers, Stan Olsen maintained the natural beauty of the course’s surroundings. Black Diamond also may be the first golf course built in an abandoned quarry. The five holes in the quarry have brought notoriety to Black Diamond Ranch. Tom Fazio later told me on the phone that during his first inspection of the property, Stan Olsen had not bothered to show him the quarry; it never occurred to him that it would be part of the golf course. When he finally saw it, Fazio knew the quarry would be an integral part of his plan. Suddenly, Fazio told me, other developers and golf course architects were looking for abandoned quarries.
I would love to play this place every day. In fact, I liked it so much I would rank Black Diamond in my Top 10. Larry Berle.