George Clifton, a second-generation golf course architect, designed Florida courses with CEC Golf Design Group such as The Legends Course in Clermont, Stoneybrook Golf Club in East Orlando, Prestwick Golf Club in Ormond Beach, and the Grey Oaks Palms Course in Naples. CEC is also responsible for countless golf holes at The Villages in Ocala.
I had been selling fertilizer chemicals to golf courses when my buddy Kenny Ezell and I decided we were going to make a career change to golf course architecture. My father, Lloyd Clifton, was already working in the profession, so we assumed, with his help, we’d be able to make a smooth transition.
We quit our jobs when we found ourselves in the talks to create four possible golf course projects. We gave the best presentations rookies could give, albeit somewhat low-key.
Three of the jobs never happened.
Then Ken Ezell and my father were driving back from Ocala through Lady Lake when Ken said to Dad, “Why don’t we pull in and see how the guys at the Villages are doing?”
My dad and I had designed a course in The Villages development a few years earlier. The timing was very good – it just so happened they were actually planning on building another course and asked if we would do it for them.
That was almost twenty years ago, and we’re now up to 294 holes of championship golf and 279 holes of executive. At the end of the day we’ll have 621 holes of golf in one development, the largest golf development in the world.
We’ve made a career’s work at The Villages, where thousands of active, retired residents drive through the neighborhoods on golf carts and play golf daily.