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
Date: March 19, 2018