Eureka! I’ve found the secret. It’s a Process!


For many golfers, the game is as slippery as an eel. At one moment, you feel like you’ve grasped it, but in an instant it slips away.

I’ve been on the range about a ka-jillion times it seems looking for some way to hit the ball solid when suddenly something clicks in. The ball rockets off the clubface and locks on my target like a missile. And it feels fantastic.

Immediately, I rake over another ball. Bam! Another beauty. And another, and another.

‘Holy crap,’ I think. ‘I’ve got it. I’ve freaking got it. I figured it out. I’m going to kill it tomorrow!’

Like the mad scientist in the castle laboratory at midnight while lightning crashes all around, I am experiencing golf’s version of the Eureka moment.

With sugar plumbs and expectations of a career round dancing in my head, I eagerly take my Eureka swing thought/feeling/move to the course and, as sure as a headache follows a binge, the magic goes poof. The golden key does not unlock the door to nirvana anymore.

The I-have-the-magic, oh no, I don’t-have-it letdown happens to golfers all the time. You might find magic in a Disney movie, but not too much around golf courses.

Golf and life are hard. That is, changing most anything about ourselves, whether it’s golf, eating, dealing with kids, spending money, getting rid of a bad habit, is darned difficult.

Most everyone, not just golfers, has moments when suddenly… “This is it!’ It could be an insight, a new piece of information, or a realization we’ve finally found what we’ve been looking for. You might call it an epiphany, or the moment the lightbulb went on.

It’s like we’ve been shown the route to the buried treasure of our dreams. For one person, it could be the secret to losing weight, or dealing with a grumpy teenager, or become sober. Or curing that slice.

So we set off filled with hope and energy, enjoy some success and revel in our small victories.

Alas, the secret map eventually crumbles like ancient parchment. Over time we’re eating butterscotch ripple out of the carton again at midnight, yelling at the kid’s bedroom door, or watching a banana ball curve into the trees.

Falling off the wagon or losing the magic move doesn’t mean that the epiphany was wrong or an illusion. It’s just that changing engrained behaviors and patterns that we’ve built up over a lifetime takes an extraordinary amount of work.

Without turning this into a science lesson, the ego part of the brain tries to keep us safe, so it steers back us to our old ways, even though we want to abandon them. So your new downswing move might work for a few holes, but when you press or perhaps you’re pissed off about a three-putt… boing! That old inside-out, over-the-top move is back like a skunk under your deck.

You might ask: If change is so difficult, how do people successfully change?

It’s actually simple, but it takes commitment and patience. The key is integrating the change into your life on a regular, if not ideally, daily basis. By practising or working on the change on a regular basis, you are retraining your brain with new motions or behaviours until they become habits. But it is a process of change that takes time.

The other key piece is support, like a coach, who will keep you focused and accountable and ensure you are on the right track. I’ll address the beneficial role that a coach can play in an upcoming blog.

If you stick to the process, gradually, you will start to see incremental changes. Stick with it long enough and eventually, you will see the major change you are seeking. It might take six months, a year or longer, but eventually you’ll have it.

I call the road to improvement The Eureka Process. Changing any part of our life may start with one joyful step, but the road to genuine change is a long and ultimately rewarding journey.

When I finally figured this out, it was like: “Eureka—it’s a—process.”

Photo: Okko Pyykko

About Tim O'Connor

Tim O'Connor is a golf coach, an award-winning writer, and speaker. Tim takes a holistic approach, coaching golfers in the physical and mental aspects of golf. He co-hosts the Swing Thoughts podcast with Howard Glassman, and is the author of The Feeling of Greatness: The Moe Norman Story. He plays bass in CID—a Guelph punk band!


  1. Great insight, Tim. We tend to think of mastering golf as a matter of figuring out the mechanics of the swing and making adjustments to techniques. But golf, like life, is fundamentally a relationship with ourselves, our deep inner selves. When we focus on techniques and ignore the feelings and emotions that are going on inside us as we play (“I feel afraid of this hole. I’m angry for missing my birdie putt. My competition is too good for me. I can’t win this tournament, etc.”), we lose our conscious sense of how emotions affect our bodily tensions, and all the technique goes out the window. In my opinion, the “eureka” moment is not replicable because it’s experienced in a particular setting, emotional situation, and circumstance. All of life is a moment to moment flow of thought, feelings, exposure, and adjustments to ever changing exterior circumstances (wind, lie, golf hole layout, etc.).
    In my mind, practicing the ‘present moment’ is the key to mastering life’s physical and emotional challenges – including the game of golf.