Ken Ezell is a partner with the Florida-based Clifton, Ezell, Clifton Golf Design Group. He is the principal architect and master land use planner for The Villages. He’s created Florida courses such as Forest Lake Golf Club of Ocoee, Remington Golf Club in Kissimmee; Grey Oaks Country Club’s Pine Course in Naples, and Rock Springs Ridge Golf Club in Apopka. He also designed Highland Creek Golf Club and Linville Falls in North Carolina.
Back in 1989, a couple of years after George and Lloyd Clifton and I formed Clifton, Ezell, Clifton Golf Design Group, we were heading home from a project in Ocala, Florida. Along the way, I suggested to Lloyd that he should just stop in and say hello to a past golf consulting client of mine.
Those that know Lloyd know he is quite reserved and shy. George and I almost had to kick him out of the truck. About twenty minutes later, out popped Lloyd with a pronounced bounce in his step. He hopped into the truck.
“Boys, they were thinking about hiring us to do a new course but had not gotten around to calling us,” said Lloyd. “We’ve got it.”
The rest is history: Orange Blossom Gardens, as it was then named, evolved into what is now The Villages, the world’s largest golf community!
The Villages will have twelve championship venues, ten of which are twenty-seven-hole configurations, plus thirty-five executive length nine-hole courses. These 621 holes of golf will host over 2.5 million rounds each year. The community also has over 30,000 individually personalized golf carts. And all this from a family ownership that doesn’t even play golf.
I have been blessed to work on the front end of this project since 1989, master planning this dynamic community plus overseeing and orchestrating the construction, grow-in, and maintenance in addition to golf design services.
What a cold call!