A Really Big Dill

The Cliffs Hosts the No. 1 Pickleball Player in the World

It was only a matter of time. Members are accustomed to top-ranked, professional golfers swinging their way across courses at The Cliffs. Pickleball can now claim the same, with Collin Johns’ three-day visit that included clinics, cocktails, and exhibition play at The Cliffs at Keowee Springs.



Johns and his brother Ben are the top-ranked doubles players in the world. “To get the #1 player for one day is amazing,” says Lake Region Racquet Sports Director Ralph Dunbar. “But to get a world-class player like him for three? That ability has set the bar for what the teaching standard is for how to play pickleball here at The Cliffs.” 

Johns had served literally and figuratively on the pro-tennis circuit, before stepping back to coach, and then eventually picking up a pickleball paddle. “It really appeals to a lot of different people, a lot of different ages,” the Austin, Texas resident says. “You see courts going in basically everywhere at this point, especially country clubs. It’s not just something that’s nice to have, it’s a necessity.”  The pro took to some of The Cliffs’ 19 courts to slice, dice, and ace alongside local players, in September of last year.

“I’ve been watching Collin Johns for the past year on TV,” says Keowee Falls member and pickleball player Mary Anderson. “To get to meet him and have that caliber of athlete come to The Cliffs was really a coup. My tongue was hanging out!” Anderson has been playing pickleball for three years. During clinics, Johns taught her how to settle in up at the net. “I move around way too much,” she admits with a laugh. “He plays the game right. It was a wonderful clinic. He did skills that will help all improve and took time with each of us. It was fun and a really good experience. It was a lifetime memory.”

Dunbar’s decades of experience within the racquet industry generated contacts to bring the pro to the area, along with US Pickleball Camp’s Chris Harradine. Participation topped out at 16 players per level, to keep the coach-to-player ratio tight. “They were both great,” says Katie Klein, who lives at The Landing at Keowee Springs.  And that’s high praise, given that Klein grew up in Seattle, Washington, one hour from the birthplace of pickleball: Bainbridge Island. “I joke all of the time, if I’d taken up the sport as a kid, I’d be really, really good,” she says. “It’s been amazing to watch pickleball grow. It’s a great way to meet people. You’re outside. At the new Lake Club at The Landing, we have beautiful courts with a view of the lake. It’s how I’ve made most of my friends here.”

Johns was equally impressed with the place and players. “Members here have given me a great experience,” he says. “That’s not the case everywhere. And certainly, a beautiful location helps. I thank the members and staff for having me, and I’m happy to have been here.”

Dunbar is now looking to the future and dreaming up ways to keep the sport as hot as a falafel in the kitchen, for The Cliffs’ hundreds of players. “This event is one of the things I wanted to do when I came on board almost three years ago, because The Cliffs is such a unique concept. It offers more than any other private community out there.”  

With the growth of leagues within the communities at The Cliffs, as well as outside match play, and specialty events, increasing participation is an easy dunk for the win. “It’s come on so strongly in the last handful of years. I’ve never seen anything like this in my career,” Dunbar says. “The sport is continuing to grow at The Cliffs and as long as it does, we’ll continue to build this program.”


This story was featured in Cliffs Living magazine. To see more stories like this one and learn more about The Cliffs, subscribe here.

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