BLACK DIAMOND RANCH (QUARRY COURSE)
Course Architect: Tom Fazio (1987, 2001)
Year Opened: December, 1987
Location: Lecanto, Florida
Slope: 141. Rating: 74.4
Hole-by-Hole: 1 - Par 4 424 Yds 10 - Par 4 471 Yds
2 - Par 4 415 Yds 11 - Par 4 401 Yds
3 - Par 4 458 Yds 12 - Par 4 435 Yds
4 - Par 3 175 Yds 13 - Par 3 183 Yds
5 - Par 5 577 Yds 14 - Par 5 529 Yds
6 - Par 4 458 Yds 15 - Par 4 371 Yds
7 - Par 4 339 Yds 16 - Par 4 435 Yds
8 - Par 3 224 Yds 17 - Par 3 218 Yds
9 - Par 5 544 Yds 18 - Par 5 502 Yds
Par 36 3,614 Yds Par 36 3,545 Yds
Awards Won: Recognized as one of America's 100 greatest for 22 straight years,
Nominated for best new course by Golf Digest (1985),
Ranked #24 by Golf Digest, America's 100 Greatest (1991-92),
Ranked #58 by Golf Digest, America's 100 Greatest (1999-2000),
Rated #67 - Golf Digest, America's 100 Greatest courses (2007-08),
#1 course in Florida by Golfweek - Best Residential Course (2009),
Top 100 Courses in U.S. by Golf Magazine (2007-08),
Top 50 Best Modern Courses by Golfweek (2008),
Rated #3 course by Golf Digest - Best in State (Fla.), (2007-08),
Ranked #6 by Golf Digest - Best in State (Fla.), (2011-12),
Certified Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary.
Key Events Held: Florida Amateur (1991, 1996),
Florida Senior Amateur (1988, 2009),
Florida Open (2011),
U.S. Open Sectional Qualifier (2012).
HISTORY: Originally based in New England, Stan and Betty Olsen fell in love
with the Citrus County region on the Florida Gulf Coast and they decided to
Olsen, the co-founder of Digital Equipment Corporation, also known as DEC,
decided in the early 1980s that land development was his next adventure, so
along with his wife, they purchased 1,240 acres, northwest of Tampa. This
dormant piece of property included remnants of limestone quarries, natural
sand dunes and native vegetation.
We slightly digress to the '30s, when an Ohio landowner, John Newell, took
claim of 1,320 acres of an unspoiled natural setting on the Florida west
coast. Newell sold the parcel of land to fruit industrialist John Taylor Jr.
in the '40s. Being of citrus decent, so to speak, Taylor was intrigued by the
property and named it after the highest grade of grapefruit, Black Diamond.
Forty years later, Olsen stepped into the picture, with a vision to create a
golf club community second to none.
His first task was hiring an architect equal to the challenge, so Olsen
selected Tom Fazio.
At the time, Fazio was less than 10 years removed from working with his uncle
George on many designs in the 1970s, such as Butler National (still ranked in
the top 60 by Golf Digest), Pinehurst No. 6 and Jupiter Hills, but Tom's work
was getting noticed around the country.
One of his earliest solo works was the Links Course at Wild Dunes in
Charleston back in 1979, which was followed up by several layouts at PGA
National in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.
With almost 30 tracks to his credit at the time, Fazio was making a serious
impact on the golf course design business and in 1987 he finished Wade Hampton
Club and the Quarry Course at Black Diamond Ranch, two venues that were touted
as best new courses in the United States.
Since then, Fazio, with over 180 designs, has been recognized as the premier
golf course architect in the United States with 13 solo layouts ranked in the
top 100, more than any other architect.
"When Mr. Olsen first toured me through the property, he didn't take me to the
quarry area until the last, because he thought I would be so unimpressed with
the land with this big scar in it that it would take away from the beauty of
the land," said Fazio. "After seeing that, I thought, wow, this has the
potential, if we could ever make it work. The challenges that we faced were not
knowing about the stability of the soils and what was really under the quarry."
"I talked Mr. Olsen into leasing a couple of bulldozers for a month and start
pushing things around in the quarry to see how hard it was and what the
material looked like," Fazio continued. "After things started shaping up, I
persuaded Stan to go another month with the bulldozers. We were just winging
it, doing by eye and by feel and we came up with a conceptual plan to put five
holes in that quarry area. It was a fun process to go through that initial time
Olsen's vision and Fazio's artistry had become a reality, as Black Diamond has
been recognized as the No. 1 golf gated community in Florida. In addition to
the Quarry Course, Black Diamond features the Ranch Course, completed by Fazio
in 1997, and the nine-hole Highlands layout finished two years later.
"One of the milestones in my career," Fazio said. "I honestly believe the
Quarry Course was one of our most special, interesting, fun and spectacular
golf courses ever created."
Black Diamond has been rated in the top 100 of most golf publications around
the country for 22 consecutive years and Golf Digest ranks the Quarry Course as
one of the top-10 venues in the State of Florida.
As time and life moves on, Olsen decided to start a new chapter in his life ...
Seeking new investors, Olsen found a company that possessed the same passion
that he had when he started the Black Diamond community, Escalante Golf.
"It was of utmost importance to me and my family that Black Diamond Ranch
continues to flourish in the spirit in which it was founded," Olsen said.
Known as a boutique-owner and operator of golf courses, such as Country Club
of the North (Ohio), The Raven at Three Peaks (Colorado) and The Crosby
National (California), Escalante acquired the Black Diamond Ranch in the spring
"We will operate Black Diamond Ranch with a deep understanding of its history
and principles to ensure that current and future members enjoy elite service,
pristine course conditions and strong espirit de corps," said David McDonald,
President of Escalante Golf.
Certainly not a company that sits idly by, Escalante has revealed plans to
upgrade this stunning property.
"Our goal is to build on Black Diamond's world-class reputation to ensure the
club's long-term sustainability and exclusivity," McDonald said. "The
comprehensive master plan demonstrates a continuing commitment to our existing
members, and is a point of pride and emphasis in attracting new members and
residents who share our vision and values."
In addition to redesigning the clubhouse, plans are in the works to renovate
the bunkers and lengthen the course. The multi-million dollar plan will
reconstruct all 208 traps on all three courses, as the club celebrates its
The Quarry Course has hosted several local and state events over the years,
but, in 2012, the USGA awarded the course a U.S. Open sectional qualifier.
During this event, only two players out of 57 broke 70 during the two rounds
of qualifying, as Scott Langley carded a 66 and amateur Daniel Berger fired a
68. Langley went on to play in his second U.S. Open and tied for 29th. In all,
only seven players finished under par, as the course played to just under
HOLE-BY-HOLE REVIEW: The opening hole on the Quarry Course is one of eight
par-4s over 400 yards in length. From an elevated tee, the first plays
slightly shorter than its yardage indicates. The right side of the fairway is
the best play from the onset, as the landing area falls off into rough and
mounding on the left. A medium iron at most should remain to a fairly open
putting surface with sand and a grass bunker left. The green is the longest on
the front side at 34 paces.
No. 2 is a straightforward par-4 except for the fact that a deep fairway
bunker splits the landing area. The left side of this fairway is the best
play, as this will leave a shorter approach to the slightly elevated and
offset green to the left. Following a successful tee ball, a medium to short
iron should suffice. However, make sure you have enough stick to reach the
smallish putting surface, as a deep bunker and grass hollows front the
At 458 yards, the third is by all means, the hardest hole on the course.
Despite an elevated tee, this hole requires plenty of pop from the tee, not to
mention a long iron or fairway-metal for your approach. Sand down the right
side of the generous landing area needs to be avoided for any shot at par. The
green, which is elevated from the fairway, is just 27 paces in depth, but
quite wide. Stay below the hole, as the green runs fast from back to front.
The shortest hole on the course is the par-3 fourth. Just 175 yards in length,
the real test is club selection, as it plays downhill from the tee. A front
pin will be quite difficult to judge, as a ridge short of the green will keep
a deep swale from view. Not the most difficult of holes, but still a test.
In contrast, the fifth is the longest on the Quarry at 577 yards from the
tips. A sweeping, downhill dogleg right, No. 5 has it all. Your tee ball must
favor the left, as the angled fairway will move most shots to the right. Try
not to cut the corner - you can't - as sand and trees await. Your second shot
must play down the left, not an easy task with a fairway-metal from a
downhill, sidehill lie. Mounding, sand and a rolling tight landing area await.
For your approach, it's uphill to a small, but fairly wide green, fronted on
the right by a deep bunker. Other than that, piece of cake ... hah.
Playing uphill from the tee, No. 6 is an ever-so slight dogleg to the left,
but the key ingredient is the tee shot. Sand down the right is quite reachable
and is very difficult to get out of to reach the green. If you fail to reach
the crest of the hill, your approach can be a blind shot to another wide
putting surface which is fronted by a grass hollow. There's plenty of slope on
this green, so be careful.
The fairway on the seventh is one of the tightest on the course. Although the
holes is just 342 yards in length, it requires precision, both off the tee and
from the fairway. A large slope splits the landing area to the left, so favor
the right side to stay on an even plane with the green. The putting surface is
slightly elevated and guarded by several deep bunkers. This green is fairly
long and runs hard from back to front, but any play below the hole can result
One of the most difficult holes on the course, the eighth should be nicknamed
"Beauty and the Beast." The longest par-3 on the Quarry, No. 8 is 224 yards
from the back markers, with sand covering the entire left side of the hole.
With relatively no bailout areas, this hole necessitates pop and precision, no
matter what tee you choose. In addition, the putting surface is large and
Although not the longest at Black Diamond, the ninth certainly plays every bit
of its 544 yards, as it bends to the right with an elevation change of a
robust 60 feet from the tee. In addition, a lake covers the right side of the
dogleg, so don't even think about it. Play down the left side off the tee,
otherwise you'll get wet. Your second shot plays straight uphill to a split
fairway. The left side is the best spot, but is quite narrow, while the right
side, despite being the smart play, sits well below the putting surface,
leaving a semi-blind approach. The green is as slick as it gets, running from
back to front. By the way, avoid the two pot bunkers on the left side of the
The second of four consecutive, left-to-right holes, the 10th is a lengthy
par-4 reaching 471 yards. Playing downhill from the tee, you'll need to favor
the left side of the fairway to avoid the tree-lined landing area. A long iron
or fairway-metal will be used for your approach to a very long and well-
bunkered green. The putting surface is very undulating and falls off sharply
on the left toward sand and a grass hollow.
No. 11 is just over 400 yards in length, as it sweeps to the right around a
Sahara-like waste area. The fairway is narrow and rolling, but a well-placed
tee shot can leave a short iron to another long and slender green. The putting
surface is slightly elevated and slopes from back to front and right to left.
Be careful to avoid the two traps on the left side of the green, as they will
make for a difficult up and down.
Another one of the lengthy par-4s at Black Diamond, the 12th puts a premium on
accuracy off the elevated tee, as a 50-yard trap on the right tightens the
landing area. A left side tee shot will open the dogleg right for your mid-
iron approach. The putting surface is guarded by sand right and deep, so miss
right if you must. This hole cannot be taken lightly as you get ready for the
The first quarry hole is the dynamic, par-3 13th. Stretching 183 yards from
the black markers, this gem is all carry from the elevated tee box. Choosing
the right stick is the key component here, as the elements will surely affect
the outcome of your shot. The putting surface is by far the longest on the
course at 54 paces with a quartet of sand surrounding the green. What a way to
start a group of holes. Wow! Some advice: the walk up to the back tee is a
little bit of a hike, so bring an extra ball and two or three clubs ... just
Next up is the boomerang, par-5 14th that wraps around the quarry from right
to left. It's not the length of the hole (529 yards from the tips) that will
get you, it's judging the distance you need to, first, carry the corner of the
dogleg, second, pick the correct club and line for your layup, and, finally,
figure out the downhill approach to the green that hugs the cliffs. Start out
with a sweeping draw off the tee. This will position you for a sensible layup
just over the two bunkers on the right side of the fairway. In addition, this
will leave a straight shot to the green, just under 100 yards away. A simple,
downhill pitch is left to negotiate the tiny putting surface that slopes to the
left. Don't be greedy.
The most photographed hole on the course, the 15th is as good as it gets at
Black Diamond. Two decisions face the player off the elevated tee: go short
with your tee shot and leave a longer approach or bombs away and attack. The
first option to the fattest part of the fairway some 60 yards wide, will leave
a 5- to-6-iron, while the aggressive play is driver, leaving a short iron in.
There are problems with both, as your long iron will need to cover the
beautiful lake that fronts the green, while the big boys will need to squeeze
their tee shot into a tiny landing area that is guarded by slope and rough
right and sand and water left. The putting surface is fairly large, with
several difficult pin placements, like back-left. Talk about a sucker pin, but
how many people can say they made birdie on 15?
No. 16 is by far the most difficult of the quarry holes, reaching 435 yards in
length. Well, at least it was for me. There are two key ingredients here, a
successfully tee shot and an even better approach. With the quarry running
along the entire left side, driver down the right-center is the play. However,
any shot just a shade further right and a nasty pot bunker will give you fits.
As the hole bends to the left, the fairway to the green gets tighter and
tighter with just a sliver of landing area short of the surface. The green is
quite long and narrow, so your approach must be spot on. Again, left and short
is jail, but right is no bargain, either. The bottom line, hook here and you're
The final quarry hole is big, bold and full of challenges. From an elevated
tee, this par-3, with its incredibly long putting surface, can be stretched to
almost 250 yards from the back buttons. Yes, it's downhill, but with the wind
usually in your face, this baby might need a driver off the tee. All carry from
tee to green, any shot short will end up in a grass hollow of significant
proportions or worse, a carom of a slope into the thick brush or rocks. The
green is so massive and full of slope that it's not uncommon for three and four
At 502 yards, the closing hole on the Quarry Course is the shortest par-5 on
the layout, but certainly not the easiest. If you're looking for an easy
birdie ... as they say in the North, "Fugetaboutit." The tee shot on the
dogleg left is not the issue, as the fairway, although tight with sand on
either side, is still manageable. It's the second shot that gives players
fits. Playing uphill from the fairway, your shot must be spliced between trees
on either side, sand that splits the landing area in two and a 120-yard bunker
down the left. Squeeze your approach between this alley and then, and only
then, can you breath a sigh of relief. Your final pitch can be aggressive
toward the flag, as this green, although smallish in stature, can be had.
FINAL WORD: "We strongly believe that Black Diamond Ranch should be one of the
most exclusive and prestigious clubs in the country with world-class
facilities and commensurate service levels," said McDonald in a letter to the
Black Diamond residents. "The plans we are creating will generate renewed
enthusiasm to be a part of Black Diamond."
McDonald sure didn't mince words when addressing the concerns of the members.
His goal is to bring Black Diamond Ranch where it belongs, with the elite
clubs in the United States.
With the planned enhancements, the Quarry Course and Black Diamond will once
again be worthy of top-100 status, from top to bottom.
Beginning with the layout, the course winds through majestic oaks, dogwoods
and magnolias with surprising elevation changes, upwards of 100 feet. From the
opening hole you'll be amazed how easily the course flows through peaks and
valleys, with wonderful views of the region, certainly not your typical
Florida golf course.
But the "Piece de resistance" is surely the five quarry holes, starting with
the par-3 13th. Legendary golf writer Dan Jenkins called this stretch of holes
"the best five consecutive holes of golf anywhere in the world." He's not
In addition, the challenge of the Quarry Course is quite intense, especially
from the back tees. But with five sets of markers to choose from and multiple
teeing areas, it's a course suited for all skill levels.
Course conditioning had been a bone of contention in recent years, but director
of golf maintenance Jay Mullen has the revitalization right on track. Even in
mid-summer, the Quarry Course was in mint condition after a recent visit.
The Black Diamond experience, and more specifically, the Quarry Course, will
require your full attention. This is not a layout to be taken lightly, with
eight par-4s over 400 yards, four distinct par-3s and a quartet of par-5s that
will test your nerve. There is no question your heart will be racing from the
The Quarry Course experience that Fazio created is certainly one of his most
memorable and rewarding designs.
"We are very proud to be a part of the Black Diamond family and we know that
this golf course will be something that will be a legacy in the game of golf,"
Some times, the test of a good golf course is what type of renovation or
redesign work is done on the course after it opens. In 25 seasons, so little
has been done to the Quarry Course at Black Diamond that it continues to
maintain its stature.
"There hasn't been anything major done to the course," added Fazio. "There's
always been a little bit of adjustment and improvements due to technology and
draining, but Black Diamond has pretty well stood the test of time in every
way. It's a pretty unique and special place."
In years past, the chances of playing this amazing layout were virtually non-
existent. However, Black Diamond has created a stay and play package for just
$399, which includes two rounds of golf and one night of accommodations. Not
bad when you consider that you're playing one of the best courses in the
So grab your foursome and make the call to Black Diamond Ranch and prepare to
be amazed. I was.