A Well-Rounded Game

A Guide to Golfing at The Cliffs


Many are familiar with Jack Nicklaus’s quote on what it takes to succeed on the course. He once said, “You can win tournaments when you’re mechanical, but golf is a game of emotion and adjustment. If you’re not aware of what’s happening to your mind and your body when you’re playing, you’ll never be able to be the very best you can be.”

Luckily for members, The Cliffs has facilities and golf professionals in place to learn, improve, and master the game. To inspire, Cliffs Living has curated personal stories of players you may know, as well as tools and tips from the experts.



Tina Schmidt | Keowee Springs

“Oh, I don’t have a handicap,” Tina Schmidt admits with a hearty laugh. “It’s my own fault. I’m nowhere near 36, so I just don’t input my scores, but I’m getting there.” Schmidt recently began playing golf again after a 25-year hiatus. She played intermittently while working in the oil and gas industry—a job that had her living in Singapore, Moscow, and Texas.

“It’s different now,” she says. “I take it more seriously. We don’t always play a full 18. I really want to improve, but I have a tendency to overthink everything when I’m hitting.”

To re-immerse herself into the game, the 57-year-old takes both private and couples lessons with David Pilkington, Director of Golf at Keowee Springs. “I think the one-on-one time is significant from my perspective,” she says. “I tell him specifically what my issue is and what I want to work on before the lesson. He’ll watch me and start making adjustments. I find that so very helpful.”

She also enjoys action with the Sassy Sixers every Tuesday, when a pro follows the ladies for six holes, to reinforce what they’ve learned during that morning’s clinic. Beyond mechanics, to tackle the mental and physical aspects of the game, Schmidt meets with Wellness Director Taylor Duckett twice a week. “It holds me accountable,” she says. “It’s helped me with balance on my follow through. On the movement of your hips when you’re turning, the whole coordination of swinging has helped.”

Schmidt then puts all the pieces together as seamlessly as a drive, chip, and putt par. “When I need to make adjustments to my swing, the placement of my swing, or follow through, Taylor is helping with movement and strength to do it. David refines it based on how I’m actually hitting the ball. I definitely think this is a lifetime sport and I really, really want to get better and better.”



Cathy Himan | Walnut Cove

“My game has come back full force,” Cathy Himan says. “The game is so hard, and getting older, clearly, doesn’t help.”

After spending two decades raising children, the 54-year-old has traded her PTA hat for a golf visor. She’s gone from hitting a few times a year to almost every day. “My game has improved and it’s because of what we’ve found at The Cliffs,” she says. “We can’t believe our membership includes access to seven different clubs, and the staff and facilities at each are amazing.”

She prefers to hit with Director of Instruction Sean Kennedy—who Golf Digest recently named one of the best instructors in South Carolina. Himan’s goal is knocking her 16 handicap down to 10. “It will take a lot of practice,” she says. “I’m a long-hitter. My strength is my natural athleticism over the ball. When I don’t get my head into it, my swing comes naturally, and my ball contact is good. My weakness is my head. I get too mentally spun-out.”

In the summer, she and her husband play Walnut Cove every day after work. They call Mountain Park their winter course. “We can get there in 30 minutes,” she says. “We go there as much as we can. You can gain eight degrees and no wind. That’s huge for us in winter. Even if it’s raining in Asheville, it can be clear there.”

The former, competitive tennis player admits she doesn’t have to work hard to stay in shape, but she sees the effects of age coming on like a Rory McIlroy drive—hard and long. She and her husband recently started a strength program at the Wellness Center. She also plans to use the indoor hitting facility at Walnut Cove’s new Golf Learning Center. “I was just texting Sean about that,” she says. “I have high aspirations to lower my handicap and it’s going to take a lot of off-the-course practice.”

As it turns out, her empty nest is quite full, with a new-found passion for an old sport. “It takes a lot of work to keep your game fine-tuned. When I was younger, it didn’t seem to take that much. I could pick up a club once a week and be awesome. That’s not the case anymore. But I know my game is as good as it is, and getting better, because of the accessibility I have here. We just love it.”



Ben Whipple | Mountain Park

“My handicap recently is a 3.4,” Ben Whipple says. “I would say since I’ve come to The Cliffs, my game has gotten much better. I’m retired, so I can now spend more time on it. I spend a lot of time working on my putting, chipping, my long- and short-shots, and drives. The Cliffs has great facilities at all of the courses.”

Whipple likes to joke that, at the age of 70, he’s learned more about golf than most people will forget. His dad first placed clubs in his hands when he was 5. “I tell those I’m playing with I’ve got my elementary school swing, my high school swing, my college swing,” he says with a chuckle. “I’ve gone through so many swings over the years. They may all look the same, but your swing is always evolving and changing.”

As he’s gotten older, he admits it’s tougher and he’s losing distance. He likes to shoot ideas off the Director of Instruction Sean Kennedy. Whipple says, “I play with him often. He’s a great instructor with a lot of knowledge. We talk about the game. He’s a great sounding board.”

More than anything, Whipple doesn’t stick close to Mountain Park. Although it’s his favorite course, he tries to play all of The Cliffs’ links, to keep his game nimble. “I like to tell people The Cliffs is like the Disneyland of golf courses. We’ve got seven courses to choose from. They complement each other really well, with different architecture, different grasses, and different elevations. Glassy is up at 3,000. Asheville is pretty high. The lakes are about 800. A lot of other places have six or seven courses, but it’s the same architect, so they all resemble each other. That makes no sense at all.”

What makes sense, to Whipple and all of the players, is mastering their game at The Cliffs.



David Pilkington sticks his head inside The Porch to monitor progress. Now that the Hart Howerton-designed Clubhouse is open at Keowee Springs, crews are transforming the Porch into a high-tech Golf Learning Center. 

“We’ll have three hitting bays with indoor/outdoor access, so we can work with players year-round,” the Director of Golf says.

The structure formerly known as “The Porch” served as a club-fitting facility when it first opened, but for the past 13 years it’s housed a golf shop, wellness center, and food kiosk within its small footprint. Those amenities have all moved to the new clubhouse, allowing the space to return to its original purpose, but with modern, high-tech gear.

“I’m really excited,” says Pilkington. “To have the ability to work with players year-round is important. When it’s cold, nobody wants to hit balls. In winter, we can pull that inside and everyone will have access to the simulators. We even hope to have league nights with them.”

A specially curated team will also provide club fittings. “What will make us unique from everybody else, is that we can offer every single club manufacturer,” Pilkington says. “It’s going to be pretty spectacular. With the club-fitting service, simulators, and easy access to the driving range and short-game greens, this will become one-stop-shopping for any golfer wanting to get their hands on the best tools to improve their game.”

Keowee Springs follows on the heels of Walnut Cove’s Golf Learning Center, which opened in November. “It’s been very well received,” says Mike Steele, Director of Golf at Walnut Cove. “Members are enjoying the lesson experience, and how we can now elevate that with this hitting space and technology.” 

Cameras and software break down a swing from three different angles, while a high-tech mat records pressure points. “Players can see how they’re transferring weight across their swing. It can be a game-changer,” Steele says. “For those who are visual learners, it’s incredible. It doesn’t matter if you’re a complete beginner, or a single-digit handicap.” 

He also appreciates the ability to teach year-round in an enclosed space, to avoid hot and cold weather elements. Steele says, “It’s a golf pro’s dream. The technology is very simple, but it can make a huge, positive impact.”

Meanwhile, construction of Mountain Park’s Golf Learning Center began in early 2024.  “We hope to be up and operating by late spring, early summer,” says Director of Golf at Mountain Park, Matt Pavia. “We’re looking forward to creating programming to utilize the building for teaching and fitting. The goal is that this will make the Practice Facility more of a place to hang out, a destination to do fun things for our members. We also hope to create a strong club-fitting and repair presence for our region, utilizing our team’s extensive experience in this area.”  

Pavia will spend the spring putting a calendar of events together that will include opportunities at the Learning Center every day the course is open. “We want some events to be about more than instruction, so we hope to host events where players can have professionals check their equipment and look at clubs, as well as contests with members.”


Off The Course – Wellness Programming

Taylor Duckett checks her notes, preparing to meet with a new golfer. As Wellness Director at Keowee Springs, she conducts high-level member-fitness screenings to target areas to improve their games.

“I’m certified through the Titleist Performance Institute,” she says. “I run players through a series of movement patterns that look at and assess mobility, flexibility, and strength.” With results in hand, she designs individual training programs to bring improvements in needed areas. “The better your body moves on its own, the better you can manipulate a club,” she says. “Being able to get a full range of motion, a longer backswing is going to help you drive the ball further, and to not be sore after, or during, a round. Overall, it’s very important to be able to move well.”

Tina Schmidt has been working with Duckett for a year. “She and her husband have had an amazing journey,” she says. “They’ve worked really hard. We just did a follow-up TPI screening and she went from a 23 to a +4.” The screening works like a golf handicap, Duckett says, with a +7 being the best outcome and a 36 being the lowest. “In cases like Tina’s, the number goes in a positive direction when players are very proficient,” she says. “Tina’s made huge improvements in all of her areas of concern, with her shoulder flexibility, hip flexibility and rotational limitations. They are hooked on this process.”

Duckett also coaches players to create consistency outside the Wellness Center. “I like to build a pre-round warm-up routine to use on the range, before practice or play,” she says. “It’s the baseline to start, no matter what course you’re playing.” Most importantly, she teaches athletes how to listen to their bodies. “After you hit balls, how does your body feel? Do you feel tight? Pressure in your lower back? Are you sore?” she asks. “All of these are indications your body is telling you; you need some kind of stretching and mobility and strength training.” And she has a proven system to deal with just that.

Mountain Park Wellness Director Padraic Williams has witnessed the benefits of such training, by merging on- and off-course activities. “We’ve held a Golf Performance class in our Wellness Center for about three years,” he says. “Everyone who takes it says it helps with their game.”  Mountain Park brings in a certified TPI instructor once a week to work with male and female players on mobility and strength. “By loosening up the spine and hips, and increasing general strength, your golf swing becomes more consistent,” Padraic instructs. “Even if you have great flexibility, you can always get stronger, to hit further.”



Elevate Your Game with Exclusive Tips from The Cliffs Golf Professionals


The Cliffs Valley 

Head Golf Pro  |  Camden Jones

“Ben Wright wanted to create a user-friendly golf course that felt like ‘A Walk in the Park.’ Valley encompasses this vision through many features. The fairways are wide, greens are receptive and there are not many forced carries on approach shots. The first hole, in particular, has a wide fairway. Ben wanted someone to be able to jump right out of the car and head straight to the first tee and not be intimidated! I love the variety of the par 5’s. We have two par 5s that are reachable in two, while two others will take three good shots, if you have hopes of making a birdie. The back 9 is tree-lined and a little tighter than the front 9. The Valley course is very fair—If you hit a good shot, you are rewarded for that good shot!”

The Cliffs at Keowee Vineyards 

Director of Golf  |  Brad Fowler

“Fairways are gently sloped, creating shots that rarely are a perfectly level lie. Players will get accustomed to shots requiring a slight setup change to account for sidehill, downhill, and uphill lies. A good example of this are holes 4 and 9. Both these par 5’s play downhill with shots from the landing area typically having a slightly downhill lie. The most special thing about Keowee Vineyards is the layout, with holes on both the front and back nine playing along Lake Keowee with fantastic views. Some lake golf courses may have one or two contact points, at Keowee Vineyards, we have nine. It’s a true lake experience.”

The Cliffs at Keowee Falls 

Head Golf Pro  |  Julian Bland

“The Keowee Falls course is known as the toughest test of golf of our seven properties. The modern Jack Nicklaus Signature Design places emphasis on distance control, particularly on shots onto the green. It mixes gentle elevation changes into a sea of well-laced bunkers and water features that are sure to get the golfer’s attention. Angles are everything here, with benefits playing from certain sides of each fairway. The better player will be able to use the ridge and contours of the green structures to help get his, or her, ball closer to the hole when playing from the proper approach. Great scores on this course require a strong short game, with a creative mind to use the contours on the greens to the player’s advantage.”

The Cliffs at Glassy  

Head Golf Pro  |  Kris Kleinsasser

“As course architect Tom Jackson says, ‘The Cliffs at Glassy will challenge your game and delight the eye.’ Sitting at 3000′ elevation atop Glassy Mountain, it is the only mountaintop golf course, offering players picturesque views up to 75 miles throughout their round. Focus, precision, and club selection are key attributes at Glassy as maximum distance is not always the play. Glassy has what all golfers need to continue to improve and enjoy this wonderful game that we call golf—all while providing a pretty spectacular learning environment at that. As is said here on the mountain, ‘come for the views, stay for the people.’”

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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