In years of reviewing golf courses and resorts, I've noticed an odd trend, almost a mild phenomenon. At many of the multi-course facilities with famous courses around the country and Florida in particular, the lesser-known course is often the favorite of members.
TPC Sawgrass for instance. Many members will tell you privately they like the Valley course over the much more famous Stadium, where The Players is held every year.
The Black Diamond Ranch in Lecanto is another example. Black Diamond is home to the nationally-recognized Quarry, which has been the critics' favorite in major golf magazines for years. Many people don't even know about the Ranch course, not to mention the nine-hole Highlands.
Yet, many of the members prefer the Ranch. I played both in the past week, and I have to say I disagree, though I can understand their reasoning. The Ranch is a course you will never get bored with, no matter how many times you play it. Obviously, that's important to a member. Also, it's easier to get around on than the Quarry, with its dramatic drop-offs and steep climbs.
It has that same, almost freakish elevation the Quarry does, though of course not nearly as dramatic as the Quarry's back nine.
The Ranch has rolling, undulating fairways that twist and turn, climb and dip and always seem to show you something interesting, including double-doglegs, like the par-5 ninth hole. Blind landing areas off the tee give you something to think about and architect Tom Fazio built some "speed chutes" into the elevation, which can give you up to an extra 20-30 yards if you can take advantage.
Fazio, like any good architect, likes his risk/reward scenarios and the Ranch has its share. It also has elevated tees and greens and you almost always seem to have a good view.
The greens are fun, there is a good variety of holes and then there is that distinctive Fazio bunkering, along with superb conditioning and service. What's not to like? In any case, the public as well as the members get 45 superb holes of golf to choose from at Black Diamond, no matter their favorites.
For more information, call 800-328-8099.
Coming up: The Quarry review.
Teaser: There is simply no other golf course like it in Florida. Nor even close to it.