El Diablo Golf & Country Club, A Jim Fazio Masterpiece
From Page 26, Fall 2006 Florida Golf Magazine ©Copyright 2006 Florida Golf Magazine, All Rights Reserved
By Joe Stine
          For those who are looking for a truly unique golf course, El Diablo Golf & Country Club, just east of Citrus Springs, Florida offers golfers the rare opportunity to experience a challenging course of more than 7,000 yards, in a captivating setting, just a wedge shot away from the Withlacoochee State Forest.
          Surrounded by century old oaks and towering pines, El Diablo was built in 1998 and designed by world renowned architect and Renaissance man, Jim Fazio.

Hole #5 is a 529 yard Par 5. This hole has a dramatic downhill elevation change from tee to green.
          Definitely not your typical Florida golf course, the rolling hills of the existing topography allowed Fazio to design the El Diablo’s 7,040 yard championship course with a purely natural atmosphere.
          Secluded among the natural, unspoiled beauty, of the properties native hardwood forests, every hole at El Diablo is different and visually impressive as the course rises and falls fluidly and naturally with the undulations and intricacies of this rare and breathtaking landscape. Located in Citrus County, just a few miles from the Gulf of Mexico, near the west coast of Florida, El Diablo is just a short 20 minute drive, southwest from Ocala.
          At 7,040 yards from the back tees El Diablo provides a supreme challenge for the advanced player with devilish bunkering and fast, true greens. At 5,144 yards from the forward tees, Fazio designed El Diablo to bring out the best in your game. This course will present you with a memorable and thrilling round of golf.
           Bryan Bittiker, Director of Golf at El Diablo told us, “Our beautiful 7,040 yard Jim Fazio designed golf course is challenging yet fair. From the ‘Devil’s Hole’ around ‘Amen Corner’ and through to ‘Hallelujah’, you will have finished a memorable round, complete with dramatic elevation changes, fairways carved through hardwood forests, bunkers so steep and deep, you’ll think you’re across the pond, and greens as fast and undulating as any in Florida. We also have a full practice facility, here at El Diablo, and our well trained staff specializes in group outings.”
          Among the many awards and accolades touted on their web-site at www.eldiablogolf.com, El Diablo was Voted “Best new affordable public golf course in America” 1998 - Golf Digest, Places To Play. El Diablo also received an ESPN/Zagats award for “Americas top courses” 2003.
          El Diablo was also rated #2 Best Course out of the 300 courses of West-Central Florida, in Florida Golf Magazine’s 2005 Readers’ Choice Survey.

Named “El Diablo”, the 11th hole, a 392 yard Par 4, is the signature hole at the Jim Fazio designed, El Diablo Golf & Country Club.
          When we spoke to golf course architect, Jim Fazio, we asked him to tell us some of the details about the construction of El Diablo, and he said, “We built El Diablo in 1998. We had a budget of only $1,750,000 to build this golf course. I explained to the owners how we could do it by spreading out the liability, and not putting the risk on one person.
          So I had a couple of guys that I knew, contract the clearing and the earth-work. My company took care of building the greens and finish grading the golf course. The owner did the irrigation, the grass, the sodding and was responsible for any washouts during the grow-in. That's how we were able to build it inexpensively.
          They had the corridors already routed. When I saw it, during the design process, I knew I could do a better design job then that, so I rearranged the routing. We moved about a hundred thousand yards of dirt at El Diablo.
          A minority owner at the time, Dr. Steve Pyle was a pretty good golfer, and loved to play golf. His thing was, he wanted a hard golf course. He said, ‘I don't care how hard you make it, just make it hard.’ We didn’t have much water to work with because in the Ocala area you’re up so high. So I figured if I had enough width I could make it bold by showing a lot of bunkering in the design. So we started shaping and created as we went along.
          They had a fellow there who did irrigation work. He was a pretty good landscaper. They got a lot of rock incorporated into places like around the bunkers, and that really put the icing on the cake. They didn’t just set something down and put it on top of the ground. We supervised every place, where we were going to have all these different little features to make it look right, like perhaps they were naturally there and we had uncovered them.”

Hole #14 at El Diablo, is called "Amen Corner". This 373 yard Par 4, has a green tucked behind the trees on the left.
          Fazio smiled and said, “As it turned out I got a call one day from my brother Tom saying, ‘you won Golf Digest’s best course of the year for public golf courses.’ I said ‘What course?’ I was sort of stunned, you know. You don't think of those things when you’re building a course.
          He said, ‘the course you did up near Ocala.’ I said, ‘I knew it was good, but I didn't know it won course of the year’. Then I got a letter and a call from Ron Whitten of Golf Digest, telling me, the category El Diablo had won was ‘the best affordable golf course in Florida’. So from that, El Diablo got a lot of exposure. They were telling me, each year after that, that most of their play came from outside their area. Because people knew how good the golf course was, they would drive forty or fifty miles just to play it.” Fazio grinned again and said, “and that's to play a public golf course.”
          Though it’s open to the public, El Diablo is semiprivate and has some very happy members, but one of El Diablo’s most appealing features, may be its green-fees. During the Summer months, golfers can play this exceptional layout for between $30 and $40, depending on the day of the week and whether it’s before or after noon. For a golf course of this caliber, designed by the same architect that designed the course at Trump International Golf Club - that’s a steal.
From Page 26, Fall 2006 Florida Golf Magazine ©Copyright 2006 Florida Golf Magazine, All Rights Reserved