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Ranked with the best

Three Citrus County courses earn spots on Golf Digest's list of the best in the state.

© St. Petersburg Times
published April 11, 2003

Citrus County is home to three of the top 30 courses in Florida, according to the May issue of Golf Digest and its Best in State Rankings.

Black Diamond's Quarry course, ranked No. 95 in the nation by the magazine, was rated fifth in the state. Black Diamond's Ranch course was No. 28 in the state, one spot behind El Diablo Golf and Country Club in Citrus Springs. Rick Roberts, El Diablo general manager, said it was an honor for the public course.

"It's just a great course, a world class course," Roberts said. "It's a difficult course to play but still very fair."

El Diablo was No. 12 in the state in the 2001-02 rankings. It was Golf Digest's Best New Affordable Public Golf Course in December 1999 and has greens fees that start at $45.

Roberts said improvements are being made to the Tom Fazio-designed course, with more than 20,000 flowers planted if temperatures cooperate. New paved cart paths are planned. "That has been the No. 1 request of everyone that has played here," Roberts said.

John Cunningham, course superintendent at Black Diamond, said his two private courses that made the list provide different golf experiences.

"The Quarry is built up of an old limestone quarry and the Ranch is more of a rolling terrain," Cunningham said. Black Diamond pro Evan Belcher, who started in August, came from Pine Valley in New Jersey, the country's No. 1 course, according to Golf Digest. He said he has been fortunate to work and play at some wonderful courses and Black Diamond certainly ranks up there.

"Each course is different in its own way, and Black Diamond is certainly unique," Belcher said.

"Tom Fazio did a wonderful job with the piece of property," he said. Another Fazio course in Hernando County was cited, as World Woods Golf Club's Pine Barrens Course in Brooksville came in at No. 8 in the Florida rankings.

But World Woods fell out of the America's Greatest after being ranked for four years. In 1999-2000, it came in at No. 75, and in 2001-02, it was No. 97. Greens fees start at $30.

Stan Cooke, director of golf at World Woods, said it was disappointing.

"You can say World Woods has a huge goal for 2005 now," Cooke said.

"That's to go back on that list. We'd like to be a part of it, and I think every club does. We will do everything humanly possible to do that."

World Woods' initiatives include doing maintenance in-house and higher expectations from the staff.

"We want to get our customer service to a point and the club to a point where it will be recognized as one of the top 100 courses again," Cooke said.

-- Staff writer Brant James contributed to this report.

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