Golf Director: It’s all about managing expectations – and Kingswood’s golf director fits the bill … as well as the club27th Jun 2022
The BUZZard caught up with KGE Director of Golf, Clifford Howes, on a very wet Friday morning. Fortunately, this meant he had time to chat whereas, in less water-logged climes, he’d probably be out there on the course making new members feel at home.
‘Cliffie’, as he is known to all and sundry, has been serving as golf director for the past two years – a role that entails close collaboration with Kingswood staff and members, and being on hand whenever events are being hosted by the club.
‘During golf days hosted at KGE, I try to make sure that everything runs smoothly – this includes the monitoring of golf carts, managing personnel, and endeavouring to meet the expectations of our members,’ he explains.
He also emphasises the importance of facilitating new members, familiarising them with all facets of the club, and making them feel as welcome as humanly possible. ‘Problem solving is the name of the game,’ he summarises.
Road to Kingswood
What kind of background is required to fulfil the duties of golf director? Cliffie says being a qualified PGA professional has equipped him with much of the knowledge and experience that make him feel very comfortable in his golf director’s skin.
‘I have been a professional golfer since 2001, and played on the Sunshine Tour for several years, on and off until 2014. Being qualified by PGA South Africa, I’ve worked in different pro shops, and I’ve been a golf coach for about eight years.’
Cliffie adds that, while working in flagship stores in Johannesburg, ‘I was the guy who taught everyone to do club fitting at the time!’ This included a stint as master fitter at The Golfers Club in Fourways.
Know your fit
Kingswood Pro Shop has been benefiting from Cliffie’s clubfitting expertise since before he signed up for his current position. A Facebook post of five years ago splurges his professional services, mentioning custom Cobra and Srixon clubs in the same breathless blurb.
For the ignorant on this front, www.mygolfspy.com explains it thus: ‘As manufacturers have integrated space-age materials and technologies into their designs and spent vast amounts of capital during the research and development process for each product, the price points of golf equipment have soared.
‘But despite this advancing technology, the average golfer hasn’t improved much. So how can players utilise this explosion of technology over the last 20 years to their benefit? The answer is found in two words: club fitting.
‘In short, club fitting is the process of determining which golf club allows a player to consistently strike a ball closest to the centre of the face, with a clubface that squares to the target line and sole of the club flush to the ground, optimising a player’s performance, feel and consistency.’ The ‘Club Fitting 101’ lesson concludes by pointing out that this process considers all design characteristics of a club, such as length, lie, loft, weight, swing weight, shaft material, shaft flex, and more … quite a mouthful to master!
A life of clubbing it
Cliffie started playing golf when he was about 15 years old, in his home town of Kimberley in the Northern Cape.
‘I moved to Joburg when I was 20 years old to pursue a professional golfing career, and worked in pro shops to sustain that mission. So I’ve literally been in golf throughout my adult life, be it through coaching, working in golfing retail, or playing pro golf out on the tour’s many participating courses.’
Being KGE Director of Golf is a full-time occupation, but Cliffie says he does get time to pursue other interests, most of these revolving around exercise and the great outdoors.
‘It’s my fifth year of being a George local, having left Kimberley to live and promote my career in Joburg for 15 years. I like to work out or go for a run in the fresh Garden Route air – there are just so many nice things to do here!’ A country twang creeps into his tone when admitting: ‘I haven’t played the guitar in ages …’
Cliffie forgot to tie the knot because of his travels. (Actually, that’s not what he said, but it sounds quite epic …)
‘In my 20s, I did too much travelling for me to give marriage a thought,’ he says, adding that he’s been with girlfriend Althi de Villiers for nearly five years, and enjoys sharing his love for golf with Althi’s 15-year-old son.
And then, as a complete afterthought, he mentions that his golfing pedigree includes gaining Springbok colours … twice!
So, has this native of the town best known for its very big hole ever hit a hole in one?
‘I have scored two holes in one, in Bloemfontein and Kempton Park respectively,’ he smiles. Let’s hope number three awaits somewhere on the Kingswood course, and soon.