Citrus County History and Lore
On June 2, 1887, Florida Governor E.A. Perry signed a bill that established Citrus County. During that time its residents relied on turpentine from trees, lemons and limes, fish and fertilizer to make a living. They’ve also rubbed elbows with The King, The Kid and the Prez. The first County Courthouse was built in the state capital of Inverness in 1892.
Weather played an integral part of the county’s history, including the Big Freeze of 1894-95, which destroyed virtually all of the citrus groves. But the county’s economy rebounded, thanks in part to the 1889 discovery of phosphate deposits, which are used in making fertilizer, and the county’s population swelled to 10,000.
In 1961, the final scenes of Elvis Presley’s “Follow That Dream” were filmed in the old county courthouse. Other parts of the movie were filmed in Crystal River, Ocala and Tampa. In addition, President Grover Cleveland found idyllic refuge hunting and fishing on the Homosassa River, and one of baseball’s all-time greats, Ted Williams (a Black Diamond member) was also captivated by Citrus County’s outdoor pursuits and spent his retirement years here. Thomas Edison also was a winter resident of the county, and the nation’s first Coca-Cola vending machine was installed in the Citrus County Courthouse in 1940.
The History of Black Diamond
The story of Black Diamond, one of the premier private golf club communities in the U.S., begins with the vision of its developer, Stan Olsen. In the early 1980s, Olsen discovered the natural beauty of Citrus County on central Florida’s Gulf Coast. A man of adventure and traditional values, he was attracted to this relatively unknown region of Florida by its dramatic rolling terrain, unspoiled beaches and crystal clear springs and rivers that flow into the Gulf of Mexico. Olsen was also pleased to learn that nearly half of Citrus County is set aside in state or federal land preserves, ensuring that its wonderful habitat will remain intact, thereby protecting its plentiful wildlife, which includes West Indian manatees, black bears, panthers, bobcats, cougars, alligators, tortoises, otters, deer, bald eagles and countless rare birds.
Blessed with rolling sand hills of up to 150 feet, an abundance of oaks and tropical vegetation, and a sunny, temperate climate, Citrus County is an ideal area for year-round golf and a wide array of other fun-filled activities. Unlike the rest of Florida, Citrus County’s Gulf Coast isn’t lined with condominiums and resorts. Whether it’s with family or friends, there are countless fishing opportunities, including world-class sport-fishing around the mouths of the many river inlets and the Gulf of Mexico. Many species of wildlife are also plentiful on Florida’s Nature Coast. Kayaking and canoeing are popular pastimes on the area’s seven spring-fed rivers. Snorkeling and scuba-diving with friendly manatees in the Crystal and Homosassa Rivers are also great fun.
“In addition,” notes Olsen, “there’s a vitality in the people who live here – hard-working, but fun-loving people who have come from many different places. It’s a rich but dynamic culture that is truly American in nature – like something you would see in a Norman Rockwell painting. People are sensitive to the environment. There aren’t any high-rise condominiums – just quality villages and towns, and historic Native American sites. The spirit of old Florida and Southern hospitality are alive and well here.”
Olsen was fascinated by the history, unique culture and abundant natural treasures of Florida’s Nature Coast, but it was the expansive sand hills that turned his attention to the development of the 1,320-acre property near the quaint little town of Lecanto that is now Black Diamond. The ranch was first settled by John Newell, an Ohio landowner, in the early 1930's, and in the 1940's the property was purchased by John Taylor, Jr., a citrus packing magnate from Largo, Florida. Impressed by the natural attributes of the land, Taylor named it Black Diamond Ranch after a premium grapefruit of the same name. Enter Stan Olsen in 1984, who after a thorough search of Citrus County, bought the property – and the rest is history.
Black Diamond Golf
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-class, 18-hole courses that would compliment and enhance the 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 continually took 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 multiple sets of tees at a variety of angles and yardages ranging from 7,025 to 4,683 on the Quarry Course and 6,956 to 4,983 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 since then. Golf Digest rated it among the Top 100 Courses in the U.S., and 3rd in the state behind only Seminole and 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.
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 yields eagles and birdies, as well as double and triple bogeys. On a cool morning, the 368 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 put 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.” In fact, the Ranch may very well be the members’ favorite. The Ranch's 16th, 17th and 18th holes “represent the three best finishing holes I've ever designed,” according to Fazio.
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 the front nine of either the Ranch or Quarry 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.
BLACK DIAMOND LIVING
Black Diamond is ideally located less than 15 miles from the Gulf of Mexico. It’s just over an hour and a half from Tampa and Orlando, 30 minutes from the horse-breeding town of Ocala and one hour from Gainesville, home of the University of Florida – Black Diamond has much to offer. In addition, Black Diamond’s hometown of Lecanto and surrounding cities of Inverness and Crystal River allow members and their friends and family to slip back to a time when life was kinder and less hurried, and traditional values were embraced whole-heartedly.
With more than 500 members and residents, Black Diamond is a relaxing but vibrant community, wonderfully insulated from the hectic pace of today’s world. At the same time, the members are a diverse group of people who create a refreshing and invigorating atmosphere with people who have a passion for life and a sense of belonging. They savor a life filled with laughter, adventure, memorable times and life experiences with other members and friends. And, of course, they share a passion for the game of golf with its friendly competition and camaraderie. Take it from Tommy Bolt who said, “I’ve been around a lot of golf courses and people and there’s not a better place in the world for golf or friends.” Although golf is king, Black Diamond offers members many other enjoyable amenities and activities. They can stay in shape at the well-equipped fitness center, play a game of tennis or take a dip and relax at the swimming pool. In addition, there’s always a variety of interesting social activities and wonderful cuisine at the community’s spacious Clubhouse.
The foresight of developer Stan Olsen has had a positive and innovative impact on the Black Diamond community by enhancing the relationship of the golf courses and the homes. Because of his passion for nature, Olsen always had a vision of developing a community where many would not only work in harmony with nature, but would enhance the beauty of the existing landscape. By increasing the setbacks of the homes from the golf courses, he increased the natural beauty and integrity of both. The residential settings have a roomy park-like feeling with long, scenic views and the exteriors of the homes are finished with earth tones and textures to create a blending effect.
Within Black Diamond are a variety of splendid home sites that are generous in size and offer beautiful views of the golf courses and the colorful countryside. Distinctive homes that will fit your lifestyle and satisfy the most discriminating tastes are custom built according to the property owner’s needs. Escalante-Black Diamond Realty recently began construction on their latest model home, the Breckenridge. The Breckenridge is available for new construction on select home sites with golf course views starting around $479,000. Resale homes are also available from the mid-$100’s to over $1 million.
Whether you’re looking for a home or a home away from home, Black Diamond is the natural choice.