Growing up the son of a greenskeeper, George Clifton has been around the game of golf his whole life.
As the son of a greenskeeper, George Clifton has been around the game of golf his whole life. Along with enjoying the game, he’s a part of CEC Golf Design, which has developed a plethora of different courses — including Forest Lake Country Club.
When did you first get into golf?
My dad was a golf course superintendent — back then they called them greenskeepers — and designed and reopened our golf course. He got into golf when I was just a little baby, so naturally he put a golf club in my and my two brothers’ hands early on — I think they were leftover hickory shaft clubs and we would bat around the golf course while dad was working.
You’ve been in golf for a while now, so what keeps you going?
It’s really a game you play within yourself and you’re playing the course — not so much like tennis where you’re batting it against somebody or football where you’re hitting somebody. To me it reflects a lot of character and the way you handle things in life. You could hit it down the middle of the fairway and be doing everything right and end up in a divot — how you handle that makes a big difference in your outcome.
Do you have a favorite course that you like to play?
Not in particular. My favorite thing about golf is who I’m playing with — I just enjoy the fellowship. We could play what you might call a dog track, and to me it doesn’t matter because we’re
all playing the same thing.
When did you get serious into designing golf courses?
West Orange Country Club back in the mid-’60s, they asked dad if he would (design it), so he kind of started us out. I was taking drafting in school, and dad wasn’t really good and smooth with his lines, so he asked me to help him. I didn’t even know what I was doing — I was just kind of tracing what he did — and that kind of sparked an interest in me. I think the first really contour plan that I did was The Villages’ first golf course.
What’s been some of the best words of advice you’ve been given when it comes to golfing or designing golf courses?
I think the (best) advice I’ve ever gotten was from my father — he preached patience in me and my partner, because a lot of times things will straighten themselves out if you give them a little bit of time. He really didn’t care too much for the knee-jerk reaction to anything.
When you’re not doing golf-related things, what do you like doing in your free time?
Fishing is up there — my wife and I enjoy fishing together, and we go on trips to bass fish. Saturday (July 20) I’ll be out on the ocean snapper fishing. We’re pretty active in our church, and we like to stay close to that.
What’s your perfect meal?
I’m kind of a surf and turf guy, it’s (my) favorite — I like steak and lobster. I think that would be my last meal if I was on death row.