Black Diamond Ranch-Quarry Course

Black Diamond Ranch LogoIt would take celestial intervention to create a golf course with serious topography in Florida and that seems to be what occurred when the golf gods sent a meteor crashing into Florida’s Nature Coast a few eons ago to create the limestone quarry that would eventually dominate the back nine of this very atypical Florida course. Then there was the chutzpah of owner Stan Olsen looking Tom Fazio in the eye and saying can you make playable holes out of this troll sanctuary without us having to add a theme park along side to attract interest. Fazio was up to the task and what he created was probably the most memorable course in the state, something very special that will be retained as an indelible impression in your golf psyche long after you are done.

Looking back from the 15th green you can appreciate the depth of this depression

Looking back from the 15th green you can appreciate the depth of this topographical incursion

(Click on any picture to get an enhanced view of the image)

The wow factor on this course is off the charts. It is almost hard to put the camera down long enough to hit the shots required to play the first 12 holes Fazio has orchestrated before you reach his final crescendo in the quarry. From the opening tee shot until you turn the corner to the 13th tee, entering the gateway to troll heaven, the holes meander down and up the gentle tree lined foothills providing stunning views of naturally appointed landing areas and green complexes, slowly building a sense of excitement of what is to come. It begins on the first tee box staring down a majestic par four unfolding beneath your feet. Throughout the day drive position is critical to getting the proper angle into the crafty green complexes. The first Kodak moment of the day is on the second tee as you look down a pitched fairway split by a deep bunker in the center and a massive sand waste area defining the left. You can just make out the tiny green perched on the hill protected by a lone pot bunker. It won’t occur to you yet but the bunkering throughout this course around the green complexes is very selective. In contrast there are a number of the oversized Fazio waste areas cordoning the holes but the greenside bunkering is very tactical and can be avoided by carefully planning the line of approach.

The Redan-esque 8th hole gives you a feel of the tactical detail on the front nine

The Redan style Par 3 8th sets up for the right-to-left ball flight and roll out

After the stern start, the course takes a decided change in character with a devilishly clever short approach and putt par three at the fourth. From the elevated tee a berm masks the front of the green and makes this a bait and switch pitch since you cannot see the landing surface. Camera time again for the spectacular view off the tee on this next par five. All the three-shot holes at Black Diamond are about shot positioning as the serpentine fairways and the adjacent bunkering and hollows give you plenty of options negotiating a path to the green. What follows is a couple of Irish hide-and-seek par fours where the creative use of the topography will leave you uncomfortable blind tee shots and approaches that require confident visualization. One of my favorites of the day is the Redan par three 8th which characteristically calls for right-to-left ground control of your hybrid or long iron after landing on the front of the green to feed to the day’s pin. This side closes with a dogleg right par five, similar to the fifth, but the addition of water menacing the tee ball landing area makes the penalty for wayward right flight much more definitive. This is one of only two incidents of water in play all day, a rarity at Florida courses that often feel like Venice.

The use of large sand waste area on the 11th obviates the need for a water hazard

The large waste area on the 11th adds intoxicating visual and tactical interest

The inward half starts much like the opening nine with a sweeping downhill tee shot to a generous landing area. The green complex on this par four is very tricky in that it is a wavy low shelf that angles back to the left against your approach line. If you have a soft draw and the confidence to land it short and feed it on this may be the only way to get a ball to stay on this green. The eleventh is one of the coolest holes of the day. A massive ocean of waste sand in the nook of the dogleg suggests you play your tee shot into the wide berth of the left side of the landing area. In reality it is better to hug your tee shot as close to the waste area as you can since there is no angle at the narrow table top green from the left side of the fairway and a deep hollow with two embedded bunkers protects this approach line. One more gentle dogleg right remains. Standing on the 12th green Fazio has lulled you into a sense of nervous security anticipating what is just over the next hill.

The first view across the quarry from the 13th tee box

The first view across the quarry from the 13th tee box is very intimidating

As you climb up the stairs from the cart park and step onto the 13th tee an exhilarating rush followed by a sense of vertigo overwhelms you. Standing on the edge of the canyon peering across an 80-foot chasm the sirens are beckoning you to play across to a safe green haven sprawled on the other side. It becomes very clear that the next five holes will be as much a test of emotional control as golf aptitude. There is no choice but to strap on the seat belt, take the loose change out of your pockets, sing the calming lyrics of the Joni Mitchell song, and focus on the grassy patches called landing areas as the next five holes traverse the deep crevices of the limestone quarry.

The top of the cork screw from the teeing ground on the par 5 14th

The tee shot must skirt the canyon rim on the par 5 14th as the hole corkscrews to the left

Since the rotation around, into, and out of the quarry is counter clockwise it would seem to favor right-to-left ball flight. You can then aim over land and turn the ball back into the approach areas, but overcooking any shot means more fodder for the trolls below so give yourself a wee bit more on the right as you plot your shot lines.

The approach on the 14th requires nerve and control to avoid the evil decree

The approach on the 14th requires nerve and control to avoid the evil decree

The tee shot on the 13th is probably the easiest play you will have to make over these next five holes. The carry should not be more than 150 yards and if you can find the center spine of the hour glass shaped green there is 54 yards of depth to work with. The par five that follows begins a corkscrew path across the top rim of the quarry and drops considerably on the approach shot to a green complex hanging on the edge. Long or left is no good.

Heading down canyon off the 15th tee toward Black Diamond Lake

A confident swing required heading down canyon off the 15th tee-there is little room for error

From the 15th tee you get the full drama of this celestial depression peering down a tapered fairway wending it’s way to the canyon floor where the green seems to shimmer next to crystal blue Black Diamond Lake. There is no room for error on either side of his hole from tee to green. It may occur to you after putting out that the last two holes simulate the reverse flush vortex of toilets from Down Under.

Talk about intimidating, how about this tee shot back up to the 16th fairway

Talk about intimidating, how about this tee shot back up to the 16th fairway

That was the easy part because the last two of the quarry holes are really difficult. Hauled back up to a tee box about two stories below the canyon rim and your task is to bite off as much as you can chew with a drive that must carry across the emptiness and clear the edge of the quarry wall on the other side. From there it is a long tightrope walk approach to a 53-yard sliver of a green dangling over the abyss.

Across a tight rope to the 16th green dangling on the edge

The approach shot on 16 must negotiate a tight rope to a long and narrow target

The last par three is excruciatingly difficult as you carry a fairway metal from a perch tee box across the troll terrarium to an anvil shaped green wedged into a squash court with stone walls about 50 feet below. Any tee shot off line faces an ignominious fate and your scorecard will suffer accordingly. Once you emerge from the canyon to the 18th tee you feel like you exited the decompression chamber. The final challenge of the day is a wrap around par five that requires your full attention. Once your drive is in play carefully consider where the second shot has to land among an array of grass moguls and sandy depressions. Be aggressive, you want a short club in hand for the approach into a tiny green with serious undulations. Putting out for a par will render a deep sigh of relief considering the exhilarating joy ride you have been through the last hour or so. The Quarry Course is not an easy one to get on since it is part of a private 45-hole golf facility, the centerpiece of an expensive housing development. If it takes some arm twisting to get access to the place it is well worth it to get a chance to play one of Tom Fazio’s most original creations described in detail in the hole-by-hole descriptive below. Special thanks to Marcie Winston for her stunning photographic contributions to this posting. Lecanto, Florida Architect: Tom Fazio (1988) Tees            Par    Yardage    Rating    Slope Black           72       7159       75.0       137 Dark Gray    72       6496       72.1       131 Green          72       6050       69.7       125 (Click to see complete Black Diamond Ranch-Quarry Course hole-by-hole descriptions)

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