I’ve played golf on the slopes of dormant volcanoes in Hawaii before, but never had I been offered the opportunity to play inside a crater … until Black Diamond Ranch. In Lecanto, Fla. Turns out it wasn’t as hot as I was expecting — so much cooler in so many ways — and the only thing toxic was my chipping.
The quarry, while sizable, is not actually seismic. But looking down from the rim at the mist rising off the lake below and watching it blend with the red and orange streaks of early morning sunlight, is a moving experience nonetheless.
Tom Fazio’s Quarry Course is uniquely elevated. By that I mean it’s the opposite of Streamsong — a resort where the courses impress by towering dune features and absolutely unnatural Florida topography. Instead, the Quarry’s wow factor is a giant hole in the ground — a blow-your-mind, five-hole stretch of stunning golf played in and around a giant hole in the ground. Wrap your head around that if you can.
You really have to see it for yourself, and it’s well worth the trip — 90 miles from both Walt Disney World and Tampa. If the course had 13 other holes as great as those five it would be No. 1 in the state, maybe even the country. And that’s not to say the other holes aren’t great designs for the land they’re on. It’s just that they can’t possibly compare to the “Quarry Five” — it just isn’t a fair fight. If only the miners had dug a bigger hole.
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There are some strong holes on the front nine — the steep downhill No. 5, split-fairway No. 7 and the Himalayan No. 9, but the real drama is on the back nine. If it’s your first time visiting, you may begin to wonder if you’re on the wrong course. You might feel like you’re running out of holes, that you were misinformed or manipulated by airbrushed pictures. So be patient. You weren’t. Climb that back tee box at No. 13 and take it all in. Even thought you’re 12 holes into the experience, your round has only just begun.
There are 27 more holes of Fazio golf at Black Diamond Ranch — his 18-hole Ranch Course and a nine-hole routing called The Highlands. Overall, the Ranch is the best course on the property. Fazio even claims its closing trio as “the best finishing holes I’ve ever designed.” But if you can only play one round, there’s no question which is more memorable.
Black Diamond Ranch is private. Boo! But they offer stay-play packages granting non-member access to the golf and clubhouse. Yay! One night, two rounds (one on each championship course) … three incredible experiences. Four if you include the post-round reflection. It’s pricey, but valuable.
I can honestly say I’ve never experienced anything like the “Quarry Five” — not in Florida, not in Hawaii or anywhere else — and “hole in the ground” no longer has such a negative connotation.
Where It’s At: 3125 W. Black Diamond Circle in Lecanto, Fla., about 80 miles north of Tampa International Airport and 90-ish miles northwest of the Orlando airport.
Ideal Stay & Play: 1 night. 36 holes of golf on Tom Fazio’s Ranch and Quarry courses.
What It’s About: Golf and lifestyle. Black Diamond Ranch is one of Florida’s top-ranked golf communities.
Family Focus: Residential in focus, but stay-play opportunities available almost exclusively to market the community, appealing to families looking to move and live somewhere safe, private and luxurious.
Local Food & Drinks: (High-End) Surprisingly almost nonexistent; (Social) Plantation on Crystal River; (Casual) The Freezer in Homosassa or Seafood Seller & Café in Crystal River; and (Hot Spot) Just a Cupcake Bakery & Cafe
Day GolfGetaway: There’s a great Holiday Inn Express in nearby Inverness if you’d like to add another night and more fantastic golf at World Woods (25 miles) on another pair of Tom Fazio courses: Pine Barrens and Rolling Oaks.
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Eric N. Hart is the GolfGetaways Course Ratings Editor for GolfNewsNet.com and freelance golf journalist writing for multiple regional and national publications — and specializes in exploring the world with his wife and children in tow. This story is part of his ongoing series exploring Family Fun Golf Resorts in Florida. Follow his adventures on Instagram @MobileGolfer.