‘Every course is special, but I guess you could say the Quarry Course was one of the milestones in my career.’ Tom Fazio
Black Diamond Ranch is a remarkable 1,300-acre central Florida development located a few miles inland of the Gulf Coast and just 90 minutes north of Tampa. The brainchild of computer pioneer Stan Olsen, who discovered the disused site while on a sailing trip, the club made headlines with the 1988 opening of its Tom Fazio designed Quarry Course, built partly around abandoned limestone quarries. Fazio later added another 27 holes, but it is unquestionably these original Quarry holes that remain the club’s main attraction.
Despite the presence of hundreds of home sites, golf has been the primary focus here from the outset and Fazio was given his pick of the best available land for the first course. Determined to build something memorable and unique to this part of America, the land chosen included softly rolling pastureland as well as the elevated quarry areas, which were integrated into a dramatic five-hole stretch through the back nine. Routed across, along and then down into the two large quarries, these holes are incredibly exciting, yet what makes this course so impressive is the quality of golf away from these rocky hazards.
Full of ideal elevation changes, the lower land is uncommonly attractive for Florida and dotted with majestic trees and a mix of native vegetation. The design throughout this section of the course is also surprisingly subtle, holes incorporating sprawling sand traps, well-shaped green complexes and strategically positioned live oaks. Better holes include the split fairway 2nd and the classic par five 5th, which sweeps right and slowly rises into a small green set across the fairway and falling cruelly at the back. The 7th is another good driving hole and features a nice pitch into an elevated green, while the last half of the uphill par five 9th is notable for a shallow target best approached from a small right area protected by large cross bunkers.
The back nine begins with excellent approach shots into the 10th and 11th, though the preceding holes are all soon forgotten for the sheer exhilaration of standing on the 13th tee and staring out over the corner of an enormous pit which must be carried in order to reach a distant green site. The next three holes occupy an even larger, and more abrupt quarry. The par five 14th horseshoes along its rim, narrowing as it falls and approaches a green benched into the cliff. Skirting along the opposite clifftop, the 16th is a spectacularly difficult hole that is unfortunately a tad narrow, but sandwiched between is a wonderful short par four that drops dramatically into the quarry and runs alongside a crystal clear lake. The final quarry hole is the 17th, a long par three plunging back across the initial crater toward a nasty green set at the base of a rock wall.
The Quarry is clearly one of Tom Fazio’s best design efforts and probably his most exciting course to play. Although the glorious quarry holes will dominate your memory of Black Diamond Ranch, it is the quality of the overall design and the balance between severe and sensible golf that makes this a landmark track in Florida and such a special treat for those lucky enough to play here.
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