LECANTO, Florida – On a recent visit to Citrus County, Florida I had the opportunity to experience Black Diamond Ranch, the No. 1 golf community in the area. This gated enclave in the rolling hills just 15 miles from the Gulf of Mexico is home to some of the most spectacular golf in the country, not just Florida. The 45 holes of golf was designed by the imaginative Tom Fazio, one of the true geniuses in golf course architecture.
I’ve had the opportunity to interview Tom Fazio on numerous occasions as well as at his office in Hendersonville, North Carolina. His visionary mind creates both flawless and memorable layouts where some might not see what he envisions. At one particular course in Florida, I remember him explaining to me that he worked the course backward. In other words, he picked the location of the greens and then decided how the fairway and other elements of his design would enhance the golf experience and did that on all 18 holes. I had trouble figuring that out, but, the most important thing, he didn’t. His artistry is unmatched.
At Black Diamond Ranch there was a land feature the original owner, Stan Olson, wanted to show off to the world, and Fazio made a big canyon-like hole in the ground come to life in The Quarry, which has been chosen as one of America’s Greatest Courses’ by Golf Digest for 20 years. He punctuated a nice rolling terrain of thirteen fun holes with five dynamic gems, starting at the par 3 thirteenth, a 184-yard shot to a tiny green hugging the 80-foot cliffs on the right and a ravine to clear on the tee shot. This quintet of holes will give you as much trepidation as you have ever felt. Before teeing off at the short par 5 fourteenth, it would be wise to locate where the green is. Once in the right side of the fairway, where most golfers play safe to avoid the left side which careens dramatically, you can not see the green. From there I recommend a layup to about 100 yards so you can stop your third shot on the green, or ‘arrivederci baby.’
Teeing off from an elevated green at 16, a par 4, to a fairway at the bottom of the quarry, I really enjoyed this hole with the limestone walls as the backdrop to the green hugging a sparkling turquoise pond along the left. Two good shots and you can be walking away with a birdie. You climb out of the quarry to what I consider one of the toughest holes, the 429-yard par 4,16th with trouble looming all the way down the left as the fairway narrows as you get closer to the green overlooking the big hole in the ground. Your last challenge is another par 3 at 218 yards hitting into a ravine with a two-tiered narrow green with cliffs left and a sprinkle of deep grass bunkers right. Good luck!
Black Diamond Ranch is 7,655 yards of award-winning purely manicured Fazio golf. After you have challenged the Quarry, you can enjoy what I consider one of his best layouts and my favorite, The Ranch’s 18 magnificent holes at just under 7,000 yards. The good thing about the courses, there are 5 sets of tees to make them all playable for any level of player. The Ranch is pure undisturbed golf at its best that you will be wanting to play again and again that blends perfectly with the abundant rolling hills of “The Manatee Capital of the World.” The fairways are framed by hammocks of majestic oaks, tawny-colored sand waste areas and dotted with vegetation.
The Highlands nine-hole course is as good as its big brothers and can be played in tandem with a nine of either the Quarry or Ranch. On a previous visit a few years ago, I had the opportunity to play the 3,453-yard layout and found it as challenging and enjoyable as the other two.
The practice facilities at Black Diamond are second to none. The large driving range is open seven days a week and features three teeing grounds, a practice putting green, a chipping and a secluded short game area with an extra range tee. Diamond Dunes, a four-hole executive course, provides the perfect setting for additional short game practice. Brian Painter, PGA Director of Golf and his staff of PGA Certified Professionals are available for lessons.
The stunning Black Diamond Clubhouse sits atop a hill with great vistas and is the perfect place for a respite after golf or tennis, and a gourmet dinner with family or fellow members by the excellent culinary team. The favorite libation spot is the wraparound porch that overlooks the Quarry’s ninth and eighteenth greens. The expansive interior is available for private parties, social club functions and special events.
Although Black Diamond Ranch is a private sanctuary, golfers and small groups can enjoy the “Black Diamond Experience” with one of the stay and play packages available with onsite private home accommodations. Contact Cherri Hall at 352-453-5454 or CHall@BlackDiamondRanch.com.
There are a variety of memberships available at Black Diamond Ranch which are by invitation only and limited to 750 golf memberships. You can apply for a Full Golf; a Young Executive for those 45 years old or younger: Business to Business for entities outside 30 miles; National, for those individuals living outside 30 miles, now with only a $5k initiation for full golf privileges; Sport, which allows access to all social activities and fitness center: and Social which allows access to the pool, tennis, restaurant and Diamond Dunes. I recommend you visit BlackDiamond Ranch.com or call 352-746-3440 for a personal visit or more information.
Black Diamond Ranch’s club facilities are owned and operated by Escalante Golf, a boutique club management company headquartered in Ft. Worth, Texas. Their management team of professionals is passionate about the operation of their golf and club properties. The clear difference between Escalante and others is their passion, enthusiasm and fiscal discipline they bring to their portfolio of clubs. Some of their other well-known properties include Kingsmill Resort in Virginia, The River Club in Georgia and Tarpon Cove Yacht & Racquet Club in Naples.