In 1984, demonstrating his enduring commitment to excellence, Stan Olsen selected Tom Fazio, the world’s pre-eminent golf course architect, to design and build two world-e natural beauty of the Black Diamond landscape. In his soft-spoken, but resolute manner, Olsen’s charge to Fazio was to “Build the best golf courses in the world, and I’ll figure out where the homes will go.” And so the development of Black Diamond began and the community’s gates were first opened in December 1987.
From the beginning, Olsen’s vision has continually taken Black Diamond golf to a higher level than the typical Florida-style courses where man-made lakes and sand are the only design features. As Olsen so wisely stated, “Golf has to be the most significant and outstanding attribute of the community.
Early on in the planning stages, Olsen’s foresight, Fazio’s artistry and a mountain of earthwork turned a potential development problem, in the form of two unsightly and abandoned limestone quarries, into the hallmark of Black Diamond’s first 18-hole course – the Quarry Course. These two canyon-like features were transformed into the setting for a stunning five-hole odyssey of the most spectacular and most photographed holes in the world of golf. To Black Diamond, this stretch of five remarkable holes has become what “Amen Corner” is to Augusta National.
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 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.
As a developer, Olsen realized that visually exciting, challenging holes and noteworthy honors are important to the success of a high-end golf community. Just as importantly, however, as a high-handicap golfer, he knew that the golf courses had to be playable and enjoyable for all the members. With five sets of tees at a variety of angles and yardages ranging from 7,159 to 4,785 on the Quarry Course and 7,004 to 5,003 on the Ranch Course, Fazio has accomplished this.
The Quarry Course opened to rave reviews in December 1987, and has garnered widespread praise and recognition. Golf Digest rated it among the Top 100 Courses in the U.S., and 3rd in the state behind only Seminole and the TPC at Sawgrass, while the Ranch Course has been ranked among the top 10 in Florida. Also, Golfweek magazine has ranked the Quarry Course among the top five Real Estate Courses in the U.S., and 25th among America’s Best Modern Courses (built since 1960), and Golf Magazine has ranked the Quarry Course 60th in the Top 100 Courses in the U.S. – ahead of such courses as Long Cove, the Ocean Course at Kiawah, Hazeltine National, Troon and Jupiter Hills. It has also been featured in Links Magazine as a Modern Classic course. (List awards one by one?)
The Quarry Course has 13 outstanding golf holes and 5 incredible ones. The Quarry holes, Nos. 13 through 17, play across and around the rims of two canyons up to 80 feet deep, and may well be the most spectacular holes of golf this side of Pebble Beach. As with the other 13 holes, particularly 9 and 18, the Quarry holes have both beauty and bite. Included in this five-hole odyssey are two dramatic drop-shot par-threes, two awesome par-fours and one great risk-reward par-five which yield eagles and birdies as well as double and triple bogeys. On a cool morning the 371 yard, par-four 15th hole is a slice of heaven with fog rising from the lake 60 feet below, lush verdant grass, bright white bunkers and long, dark shadows being cast dramatically across the fairway and green.
Rarely, if ever, will you find a golf course with as much diversity as the Quarry Course, including dramatic changes to elevation, expansive natural sandy areas, bright-white bunkers, occasional water features, gnarled live oaks, magnolias, palmettos and free flowing contours throughout. It’s a course that will thrill you, challenge you and astound you every time you play it.
The Ranch Course at Black Diamond 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. As Tommy Bolt puts it, “The Ranch Course is pure, undisturbed golf. It’s a super course that you want to play over and over again. It has a lot of character and strategy and blends in beautifully with its surroundings.”
Originally planned as a par-three course, the 9-hole Highlands Course is as worthy and engaging as the Quarry and Ranch Courses. It can be played in tandem with either nines of the Ranch Course, offering members two more 18-hole combinations. 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 with subtle contours and closely cut chipping areas that favor the old-fashioned bump and run shot.