Solid as a Rock
‘The best five consecutive holes of golf anywhere in the world’ are only 80 miles away. The other 13 holes on Black Diamond Ranch’s Quarry Course are pretty incredible, too.
Black Diamond Ranch
“I would rather play this course than Pebble Beach.” When my golfing buddy first uttered those words, I must admit that I didn’t take him seriously. We were standing on the elevated 17th tee box on Black Diamond Ranch’s Quarry Course when he said that, while our foursome took in the sight of a deep, two-tiered green flanked by a craggy outcropping of rock to the left and a severe greenside slope of grass bunkers on the right. It sat 191 yards away and 60 feet below our feet, with double bogey written all over it. The view was magnificent and terrifying at the same time.
More than a month after our game at Black Diamond Ranch, a golf community of 45 Tom Fazio-designed holes, Steve, my well-traveled golfing partner, assured me he was dead serious about his remark. The Quarry Course, I came to find out, made a similar impression on golf writer and author Dan Jenkins. He called the course’s signature holes—13 through 17—“the best five consecutive holes of golf anywhere in the world.”
No. 15 takes golfers into the bottom of the quarry.
In the world, mind you, and those holes are only 80 miles west of Orlando, in quiet Lecanto. The quarry’s terrain is surreal, a strange but beautiful landscape of bluffs, water, thick brush, chasms and narrow landing areas that tempt, no, force you to play risk-reward golf.
Black Diamond Ranch is a private club, but it has opened its doors a smidgen to outsiders with a stay-and-play package that is way cheaper than a round on Pebble Beach Golf Links in Northern California (more than $500, plus airfare and lodging. You do the math).
Besides the Quarry, guests get a round on the Ranch Course. But it’s the former that will persuade you to skip payment on the kids’ private school tuition so you can play it again. The Quarry is a rolling and bumpy serpentine parkland-style course for 13 holes, with the eponymous five signature holes taking you around and down into the rock pit. No. 15 was my favorite, a 350-yard par 4 that took us from hilltop tee box to a tight fairway in the limestone quarry’s bottom, with a long stretch of bunkers and a lake bordering the landing area’s left side. Also left of the fairway is the green, requiring an approach over water and sand. Rising behind the narrow green is a 100-foot-high wall of stone, a geological oddity in flat Florida.
Equally as breathtaking were the super-fast greens. The false front on No. 11 was so treacherous that a missed birdie putt from above the hole rolled 30 feet off the green. We had a devil of a time reading breaks and judging ball speed.
But even a four-putt didn’t bring me down. The only complaint the Quarry Course deserves is the grumbling that comes when you have to leave it.
STAY AND PLAY
Through Oct. 31, a foursome gets a night in a luxury home at Black Diamond Ranch and two rounds of golf (Quarry and Ranch) for $299 per person; $399 pp for a twosome. Call 352-453-5473 to arrange.