The thrill of discovering your brilliance

As a coach, one of my greatest joys is when people discover just how capable they are.

It’s often quite sudden; a eureka moment. In a flash, they see new possibilities for themselves. It’s often the start of a transformative experience.

And conversely, in that moment they also see that the beliefs and stories that they have been telling themselves—perhaps for their entire lives—may not be true.

At my Getting Unstuck Putting Clinic two weeks ago at RattleSnake Point GC in Milton, Ontario, one fellow was explaining that he struggles with the yips in putting, and he believes the problem is that “I’m not very athletic.”

I asked him if he’d be willing to play a game of catch with me. 

I tossed him a golf ball, and he threw it back to me with ease—perfectly into my outstretched right hand. During our game of catch, I moved closer, farther away and then ran a couple mini-patterns like a football player. The man threw the ball to me perfectly each time. It was as easy as, well, playing catch.

I told the fellow that he just proved that he had athletic ability, which is another way of saying he possessed traits that allowed him to move objects through space. I said that if he could play catch, he could putt a golf ball with equal ease.

He didn’t seem quite convinced, and mumbled something. Quite obviously, I had my work cut out to persuade him otherwise.

That’s one of the objectives of these golf clinics and my business workshops—to provide experiences in which people can discover just how capable they are, and that it is possible for individuals and organizations to change and transform.

During the putting clinics, I run the participants through a number of unique exercises. I learned most of them from Fred Shoemaker who operates the Extraordinary Golf Schools. Like everything that Fred does, these are not designed to teach or fix anything.

They are designed to create an experience for the participants to make discoveries about themselves. In other words, become more aware of themselves. 

One of my favourites is the Adding Exercise. I have the participants work in pairs. One person sets up about 12 feet from the hole, while the other person crouches behind the hole and places one hand just behind the cup. 

After setting up, the putter looks at the hole and maintains his gaze on the cup for the entire exercise. When the putter begins a putting stroke, he says ‘go,’ and putts the ball. 

When she hears ‘go’, the person behind the cup shows a sequence of three different numbers between one and five with her fingers. The putter adds the numbers in his head and then says the total out loud—all of this while putting. 

When I explained this exercise at RattleSnake Point, most of the participants laughed incredulously. Putting seems hard enough; this seemed impossible.

As they did the exercise, I could hear them starting to laugh, hoot and the occasional expletive. They were amazed. Even the fellow with whom I played catch looked lighter.

They didn’t make all of their putts, but everyone made a lot of putts while adding. One fellow exclaimed that he made 12 putts of about 12 feet in a row, which he had never done in his life. 

Afterwards, they said they surprised and astounded at the purity of contact, the accuracy and the near perfect weight of their putts. Their strokes also felt more relaxed and flowing. 

They all felt like they were putting without any sense of control. It was as if their bodies were acting independently. It was like they were witnessing the putter move and contact the ball. 

One fellow said that he believed the exercise was designed to distract the mind. Indeed, while the mind is occupied, it cannot interfere with body; the body can work freely without hindrance. 

They found it liberating that they could hit a golf ball without any kind of swing thought. I offered that rather than being in their heads, they were in their bodies. And this allowed them to be present to the experience of putting.

After running through a number of exercises, most of the participants said they couldn’t believe the difference between their usual experience and when they are doing the exercises. When they were not thinking, tinkering and judging, they experienced more freedom, had more fun, and they putted butter.

It’s fun for me as a coach to witness. It excites me that these people are seeing new possibilities for themselves, and they are seeing just how capable they actually are. They are not doomed to mediocrity and frustration. Their usual script no longer fits. 

Whether it’s in golf, business or other parts of their lives, I am jazzed when people see that they have ability, characteristics and talents that are uniquely theirs, and these have value. These are the sources of their power that lead them on a path of mastery.

What they desire, they already have within them. The secret to fulfillment is not outside them. 

At the end of the clinic, I asked my game-of-catch partner if it was possible that he could enjoy putting. He nodded that he was.

He was not cured miraculously by the clinic, but he had a made a start. I don’t know whether he will transform his putting. That is up to him. But his experience of himself makes if possible.

And isn’t that what we’re looking for? A sense of optimism based on experiences of ourselves as more capable than we ever thought we were. That’s exciting.

If you would like more information about coaching in putting, the Getting Unstuck Putting Clinic or my Walk Your Talk business workshops, drop me a line at or visit

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!