Black Diamond Ranch is situated in Florida’s “Nature Coast,” just an hour’s drive north of the Tampa area. Blessed with rolling sand hills of up to 150 feet, an abundance of oaks and a sunny, temperate climate. Tom Fazio is a master when it comes to designing unique and dramatic golf environments that are as challenging as they are beautiful. A true artist, he was blessed with a wonderful canvas at Black Diamond Ranch on which to paint a grand masterpiece. And that he has done, creating a magnificent complex of 45 holes of golf, including the 18-hole Quarry and Ranch Courses and a 9-hole layout named the Highlands Course that’s as worthy of accolades as the first two courses.
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. Beginning with the elevated tee shot on the 413-yard first hole, the front nine redefines golf in Florida — dramatic elevation changes, classic bunkering and fairways framed with beautiful live oaks and dogwoods.
The Quarry Course at Black Diamond Ranch is named for the 5 spectacular holes that were routed in and around 2 abandoned limestone quarries. Tom Fazio expertly designed the quarry holes to take advantage of the extreme topology of the area, with sheer drops and dramatic carries. The result was a stunning set of holes that will leave a golfer breathless and wanting more.
The 5 hole stretch of quarry holes from 13-17 is fantastic. 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.
But the other 13 holes on the 7062 yard Quarry Course are not to be overlooked. The course is a stern test of modern golf, but is very playable for all levels. While playing the course, it actually felt like the quarry holes snuck up on me. It’s a fantastic course for the first 12 holes and demands your full attention, but as you stand on the thirteenth tee looking at the 100 foot drop into the quarry it becomes evident why this course blows people away.
The Quarry’s not alone at Black Diamond Ranch .
While the Quarry Course is one of America’s favorites, the Ranch, with its lush fairways and rolling meadows, may well be the members’ favorite. The Ranch Course at Black Diamond Ranch is a little more natural and a little less manicured. The fairways are framed by hammocks of oaks and tawny colored sand, and dotted by native vegetation. It doesn’t so much occupy the land, as meld into it – a bit like Pine Valley, but more forgiving. In fact, the Ranch may very well be the members’ favorite. The Ranch’s 16th, 17th and 18th holes “represent the three best finishing holes I’ve ever designed,” according to Fazio.
The nine-hole Highlands Course, meanwhile, features stunning hilltop views of up to 25 miles. The Highlands Course is as worthy and engaging as the Quarry and Ranch Courses and can be played in 9-hole tandem with the front nine of either the Ranch or Quarry Course. The Highlands has its own distinctive character and charm. The fairways are relatively generous, but if you don’t position your tee shots well, you will likely be left with a challenging approach to greens built on the same grade as the fairways. Many of the putting surfaces are open in the front, favoring the old-fashioned bump and run shot.
Black Diamond Ranch spans 1,200 acres, including 750 home sites. Lot sizes here range from a quarter-acre to more than one acre, and the architecture and style of the homes is natural and muted to blend with the surrounding environment. Most homes range in size from 1,500 to more than 5,000 square feet.
The clubhouse at Black Diamond Ranch is similarly impressive, featuring an elegant dining room with seating for 200-plus members and their guests. A member’s lounge is also available, as is a conference room that can accommodate 12. The golf shop offers a full selection of merchandise, while the clubhouse also houses a 24-hour fitness center, heated outdoor pool and two har-tru, lighted tennis courts.
Black Diamond Ranch is a private club with a strong seasonal snowbird membership. But don’t let that discourage you from planning a trip there, because they do allow a limited amount of stay-and-play traffic. The accommodations comprise a handful of private homes inside the community, perfect for a visiting foursome. Best of all, you won’t have to endure a tour of real estate properties as a condition of your visit, though you may find yourself wanting one once you’ve spent a couple days on property.