When contemplating some of the greatest holes in golf, we usually think about holes like #16 at Cypress Point, The Road Hole at St Andrews, the Postage Stamp at Troon, #12 at Augusta National, #17 at TPC Sawgrass and many others. No matter what order you put them in, the greatest holes in golf are considered great because they are visually stunning, offer superb shot values, present risk and reward, and have stood the test of time.
But which course has the best stretch of holes? One thinks immediately of Amen Corner at Augusta National, which is comprised of holes 11-13 on the back nine. What about holes 16-18 at TPC Sawgrass, where the Players Championship is often won or lost on Sunday? Colonial’s Horrible Horseshoe is one of the toughest three-hole stretches on the PGA Tour, along with Quail Hollow’s Green Mile and PGA National’s Bear Trap. All of those are great, but I recently played what I would argue is the best 5-hole stretch of golf in the United States at Black Diamond Ranch in Lecanto, FL.
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. Of course, I’m not the only one who likes the Quarry Course so much. Golf Digest has recognized it as one of America’s 100 Greatest Golf Courses for 19 consecutive years.
The 5 hole stretch of quarry holes from 13-17 is fantastic, 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. Tom Fazio is a master at creating visually stunning layouts that complement the natural beauty of the landscape. His designs reward good shots while punishing poor ones. For this reason, he was the perfect choice to design not only the Quarry Course, but all 45 holes in the 1,340 acre private community near Florida’s Nature Coast.
Black Diamond’s other golf courses include the 18 hole Ranch course, which measures 6985 yards from the longest tees. Along with the Quarry, the Ranch course recently hosted the 2011 Florida Open. I have to admit – Playing the Ranch course in the afternoon after a go around the Quarry in the morning was a bit of a letdown. This is misleading of course, because the Ranch course on its own is fantastic, and it would certainly be the crown jewel of many other communities or resorts. The Ranch course may be second fiddle to the Quarry in critics’ eyes, but it remains a favorite with the members. The Ranch course is framed by hammocks of live oaks and tawny colored sand, and is sometimes compared to Pine Valley. Course designer Tom Fazio once said that the Ranch’s final three holes “represent the three best finishing holes I’ve ever designed.”
The Ranch course can also be combined with the Highlands nine-hole course, offering a total of four separate eighteen-hole configurations. The Highlands course measures 3470 from the black tees and boasts views of up to 25 miles overlooking Citrus County.
Homeowners at Black Diamond Ranch also have unlimited access to the neat little four hole Diamond Dunes executive course, which is hidden in the Carnoustie Village neighborhood. It’s an added bonus for the members, who take advantage by bringing out family and friends for a fun time. The club also enjoys a complete practice area, which includes a large practice range, chipping green, two large putting greens and four other maintained greens for short game practice. The amenities are rounded out by a 28,000 square foot clubhouse, fully equipped fitness facility complete with professional personal trainers, green-clay tennis courts and a pool.
One of the big factors that often makes or breaks a private country club is the staff who interact directly with the members. At Black Diamond, members and guests are greeted with smiles and friendly faces, and everyone was very helpful and understanding. The outside staff is well organized and the area around the clubhouse is kept neat and tidy, and the pro shop is well stocked and professionally staffed.
Riding around the golf courses, one can hardly tell that Black Diamond is a vibrant residential golf community. Home sites are set back from the course with plenty of vegetation providing privacy, and the homes don’t come in play at all. Homeowners get golf course views without golf balls in their back yards. Black Diamond Real Estate offers custom-built homes ranging from the mid $300s to over $1 million, and membership at the club is quite exclusive.
With kayaking, snorkeling, scuba diving and world class fishing just minutes away in the Gulf of Mexico and Homosassa River, and with cities like Tampa, Orlando, Ocala and Gainesville a short drive away, it’s no wonder Black Diamond Ranch and its 45 holes of top-notch golf is among the top residential golf communities in America.
Black Diamond Ranch is located 30 minutes from Ocala in Lecanto, FL. The community is free from big city traffic, noise and congestion but still close to shopping, attractions and services. Located less than 15 minutes to the Gulf of Mexico, just over an hour from Tampa and Orlando, 30 minutes from Ocala and one hour from Gainesville, Black Diamond Ranch feels like it’s in the middle of nowhere but it really isn’t. It’s a perfect blend of quiet country living mixed with modern amenities and big city convenience.
For more information about Black Diamond Ranch membership or real estate opportunities, contact Black Diamond Realty at 800-328-8099. The membership director can be reached at 352-746-7400. Black Diamond Ranch also has stay & play packages available on a limited basis, which includes three days, two nights accommodations and two rounds of golf on the Quarry and Ranch courses.
The list of golf communities that can boast 45 perfectly maintained holes of breathtaking championship golf and all the other amenities I described above is a short one, and Black Diamond Ranch is right at the top of my list. Being an exclusive private community and managed by Escalante Golf, the members are assured that it will remain one of the best golf communities in the world for years to come.
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