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The anatomy of breakthrough- embrace the suck!

Years of experience from both my own game and working with elite players has taught me that there is an algorithm to breakthrough.


I’ve watched amateur golfers for years in search of a mysterious quick fix or breakthrough to their golf game. Let me give you an example; The players decides if they could just fix his or her slice with their driver they could finally break 80 and possibly be on their way to scratch golf, so they finally break down and contact a local inexpensive instructor who gives the player a quick fix (usually a stronger grip). The player gets immediate results and they are off to the races. But are they?

Not at all! They only fixed a symptom, therefore they really didn’t cure the source of the issue. The real issue was never dealt with, therefore when they do make a correct swing, they will throw that correct movement pattern out because it doesn’t respond correctly to an improper grip. Sadly, the player develops a whole new set of issues with their irons and unfortunately they bounce back and forth with confusion and even worse go back to the same instructor for a new fix, which the instructor happily provides.

See the madness?

Elite players embrace the suck. They are focused on perfection. They know there are no short cuts and understand there is a process when you go after the root cause. Why? Because they know it’s worth it!

Whether it’s working on swing mechanics, body movement or a specific shot type, there is a very consistent pattern a player has to understand they are going to go through if they are going to make an impactful improvement in their game and ultimately move to mastery.

One of the first conversations I have with amateur players is making sure they understand the process. Allow me to walk you through it, because I know it will help you as a player.

There are seven phases to mastery. When a player first contacts me, unbeknownst to them they have just entered phase 1.



Phase 1- “STARTing the process to mastery”

It’s interesting to me how many people who love the game of golf, play it regularly and talk all the time about improving their game never actually make the commitment to learning anything about the golf swing itself. I’m talking about the golfers (you know who you are) that are constantly tinkering with there swing, buying training aids and have basically had the same practice routine for years. These are the same golfers who think they can figure it all out by watching for the next great tip on YouTube or buying the next new training aid on the market. Sadly, these are the same golfers who bounce around from the 80 to 100 scoring range and will never get it. They are stuck there forever! Hopefully that’s not you? If you’re reading this, you are more than likely serious about your game. So here is the best advice I can throw at you….JUST MAKE THE DECISION TO START! There are seven phases to achieving mastery, just seven. Make the decision to start, to change how you approach your golf game, to quit doing the same thing over and over again. Even if you never complete all the phases, the journey is actually fun and your game will improve for it. Get to mastery and you will be playing the golf game of your dreams. It’s where birdies, eagles and aces are found. It is the only way to break par, so it’s absolutely worth it to make the decision to embrace the journey and to break away from your old patterns.

Phase 2- “The honeymoon period”

When you decide to make a swing change or a tweak, most of the time you have an instant success moment, it’s like a glimpse into the future, you have entered the Phase 2 zone. A player experiences immediate results/improvement in phase 2. The player is excited and believes they are going to walk away a new improved player. Unfortunately, the honeymoon period doesn’t last long though because they haven’t mastered anything. This is almost always short lived and is going to result in the player getting worse. That’s right, they have a beautiful moment, but unfortunately it doesn’t last long. When it disappears most just throw in the towel. Those are the the people who have either mislead themselves in the process or where mislead by the instructor. What ever it is, the honeymoon period is short lived and always results in frustration. On the flip side, if you understand the process, good things will come.

Phase 3- “The crash”

As stated above, inevitably the crash is coming. Expect it, embrace it and learn from it. This in fact is simply part of the process to mastery. This is not where you throw in the towel. When done correctly, it’s where you grind through all the bad habits and wipe them out of your memory. It’s where you learn the why and how, the good feeling that produces great shots and the bad feeling that has caused you issues for years. Without the crash, how will you ever know what is working and what is not?

Phase 4- “The fog”

This is the place where you will experience the most frustration and confusion. You must get get here before it gets better. This is where you have worked through all the lies you have told yourself about the golf swing. To be honest, I love it when a player gets here. This is the moment they figure out that there are no short cuts. This is the point they either quit or let go and allow themselves to be teachable. It’s here where we reach the next phase.

Phase 5- “The “aha” moment”

Phase 5 is reached when the player finally gets it. The process is simplified. Why? Because all the old thoughts are released. The player can finally listen and execute with no other thoughts. In a weird sort of way they have to go through the process of beating themselves into submission. When the data and ultimately the results don’t produce based on their old way of thinking, they end up letting go and that’s exactly when the “aha” moment takes place. This is when you enter phase 6.

Phase 6- “They figure it out”

This is the phase when everything starts to click and they figure out the feel, the impact, the swing length, the correct movement pattern. They begin to improve exponentially with shot location, distance control and trajectory. The player can produce the same shot 80-90% with total control as they reproduce the exact movement pattern that needs to take place. When you get to this point you finally move into the final phase.

Phase 7- “Mastery”

Mastery isn’t something you stumble upon. It’s never going to be found by hitting that one great shot. Think about it, everyone has that one shot every round that just feels amazing. Yet they can’t produce it on the next shot or for some, weeks go by before they pull it off again. That feeling they are chasing is like a crackhead chasing their first high. It’s what we all chase in some form or another as it pertains to golf. For the top 1% of players this happens almost routinely. Why? Because they went through the other phases, they put in to the work to get there, they have dug it out of the dirt. That is what getting to mastery is all about. It’s a process that takes time.

This is the Kansas City Golf Academy’s foundation as it pertains to both instruction and performance coaching. It’s nothing knew, it’s just tried and true. When we work with our clients, expectations are set, the program for that player is built around this foundation so our clients can evaluate where they are in the process. Expectations have to be set for both parties and when they are, goals/success is achieved.

Hope that helps!

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