Fred and Mark – The Journey to the ART that is golf
I first created the concept of Fred & Mark back in 2017.
I did it to demonstrate the two examples that make up the vast majority of golfers who go on their journey to acquire the skill to play better golf.
I named one example, Fred (the larger segment). The other, Mark (the much smaller segment).
Fred and Mark represent The Journey to the ART that is golf for every golfer.
The reason I wrote the story of Fred and Mark was because it was a tale of my own journey to get better at the game. From hitting my first wiffle balls and daisy’s around the university campus where I grew up on, to winning club and county championships to turning pro and qualifying for some mini tours in Europe, to running international golf camps to teaching an online golf lesson.
It’s the crap and the pain and the frustration and the never-ending quest that happened in “the messy middle,” that’s important.
I recently had a quote sent to me from a friend that summed everyone’s golf journey up very quickly –
“Adults learn through massive trauma.”
— David Buss (professor of psychology)
When I had started my golf journey, I was the Fred example. No question about it. I was flawed. I was an amateur.
Along the way, I learned that Fred wasn’t capable of ascending to the summit of the golf mountain. (everyone’s golf mountain is different by the way)
Whatever success represented to Fred; it would always elude him. Unless he embraced change. Shifted gears.
As Fred, when entrenched in the battle to improve, I discovered that I had a choice:
1. I could either remain behaving as the Fred example (a choice that would require that I stay fighting the “monsters” in endless crisis until I ran out of money or quit),
2. Or I could shift gears into a very different example; represented as Mark in this golfer’s journey.
The shift itself wasn’t instant. It wasn’t like flicking a light switch.
Sadly, no. Doesn’t work like that.
The only way to make the shift from Fred to Mark was to choose to go on the journey and enter the battle.
Slay the “monsters.”
The “secret” — the elixir I had discovered and wanted to share through my story — would help the Fred’s of the world to navigate through the battle and crisis and emerge on the other side as Mark.
But not everyone who attempted the journey would come out the other side transformed.
Many wannabe golfers, most even, are not fully enrolled in the journey, don’t care enough about the change required to transform, so they remain Fred and remain in the battle forever.
This is the (2020) updated story of Fred and Mark.
Having made it through the golfer’s journey, and won my own success and mental freedom, I feel, as “The Guide,” I have some important insights and “secrets” (“air-quotes” used on purpose) to share with those who care about enrolling in the journey, knowing that it’ll be a [email protected]#$%^ hard slog.
I hope you learn from this story.
Most importantly, I hope it reframes your view of what’s required to reach the other side; to shift gears from Fred to Mark
Once Upon A Time…
Despite loving golf from the age of 16…
I eventually grew to hate the game.
In fact, for three years I completely quit golf… and had no plans to ever return.
Golf just wasn’t fun for me anymore.
Well let’s rewind to the humble beginnings…
You see at the start, it was simple. I watched the folks on tv… and I just copied. The tempo and yes some elements of the swing. But most importantly I swing the club that gave me the most power and control with freedom.
It’s how my first handicap was 10. And i did not even own any woods. I was able to get my 3 iron out there 220 or more which was great back then.
So I swung. I played. I learned. I enjoyed. I got pissed off. I learned. I threw clubs. I learned. I got good. I became renowned as a great swinger and ball striker. That was my thing. And I was proud.
I won some events, as a youth, I only played a few junior events as I was late to the fold really but won Junior championships and did ok in County things… But I was on the outside.. I was new. I was not wealthy… i did not get the attention and treatment many other “golden kids did” (not sure we need this part)
I refused to suck up.
I was me.
But I practiced. I really loved it. I was the game.
This was my place. My zone.
I knew I did not have the perfect temperament or a family bank account to make it easy… But I was going to bloody try.
- Many folks said I was stupid. “Get in the real world Alex”
Many folks were right.
Many folks would tell me i’m one of the most talented sportsman and golfers they have ever seen.
Many folks would say with your ball striking you have the talent to make it.
So after some effort, some tournaments and husting working crappy jobs and trying to work on the golf game…I decided to turn pro in 2004 aged 22,
I scraped together money myself. Working and also some nice sponsorship.
And I played some events… But here is the thing.. It was about now the doubt, the fear, the doing it on my own really and the challenges that came with it, the stark reality that this was basically gambling… Especially when I finished 7th I think in one event and actually lost money for the week (it was decent event too)
Here’s where I started seriously over-analyzing the game..
The golf swing and it’s intricacies… which only made me get worse.
It was then that I thought I had to change it all to make it.
And I had to change soon.
Despite some decent efforts in events and understandable ups and downs and learning curve with nerves and level of golf…
However this is not all my frailties and growing pains.
In the midst of all this, I was being bamboozled by supposed “elite coaches” and their text book golf of “you must be here on this plane” or “look how tiger hinges his elbow and then places 80% of turn and weight onto his left knee and posts up… this is where you need be… you are 3 deg out from here.
And the worst one.. The worst one of all that I was made to remove from my golf swing (this almost makes me cry just typing this) the slightly bowed left wrist at the top of my swing.
*Not like Dustin Johnson, more like Rahm or Koepka I guess
It was wrong…
But it was not what Tiger or Ernie did.
So I had to change my swing apparently.
And it was not just about the wrist.
I was told to resist my lower body to create “x factor” (now my back is still f’d up)
And in general, was duped into thinking that perfect positions, immaculate precise sequence and that their was the only way to swing.
And if I did not like it, I’d try the next guru who had their “perfect swing system” and hey it must work because he has 4 guys on tour etc…
It became awful
I mean I could still play fairly well.. But I was nervous, confused, miserable and I hated playing in competitions. I just wanted to practice and practice because I thought I was not ready swing wise…
I was sick of being stuck in my head during every game, AND regressing.
Some Practice sessions ended with me wanting to break every club, and feeling like I actually got worse.
But then something changed and this is the important part of the story… it’s when that it put into motion a goal, a driver, that would later inform other decisions.
I had a picture of where I wanted to be with my golf game. I had decided that I needed to learn how to make the game fun again.
I didn’t know how (but this didn’t matter; the “how” would come later), remember the internet wasn’t around like it is today (1 million videos on how to fix a slice by one hundred thousand ‘professionals’)
So, I hatched a plan that I would try to find ‘experts’ that could simplify the game for me. Made sense at the time.
But how? Who? And what was the cost to me in both time and money?
I didn’t know, but as I was still traveling playing some pro events, I thought it would take 12 months (sounded reasonable). So, I created this loose plan to contact teaching pros in the areas where the events were held that year.
That was the extent of my idea.
I returned to playing professionally with the prospect of having a goal to work towards. Something I could focus on and sink my teeth into.
Then the inciting incident happened.
My dad died before his time.
It broke me.
Yes, dad’s do die. And mine had been ill several times in his life.
But I was exceptionally close to him. He was my inspiration, my compass, and my soul. Even now, 10 years later I type this, and it brings tears to my eyes.
We were bloody poor growing up and it was really just him and I.
But I was rich beyond measure with the wisdom and love and knowledge and drive my father gave me.
But it broke me. Deep to my core.
And I ran to Australia in 2008.
I was lost for several months. I studied, I surfed and I worked at Royal Pines Golf Resort on the Gold Coast.
But I had no motivation to do much let alone golf competitively.
But gradually with effort I started to see light. But really by now I stopped focusing on getting back into playing and focussed on self development, education and performance. And around 2011 I was ready to start sharing my knowledge and I was starting to get the passion for golf back.
So started what is now the Art of Simple Golf ( It was called Athletic Golf Training for 3 years) where with technology I have been able to meet top golfers, instructors from all over the world and this journey has brought the love of the game back into my life all while playing better than I ever have, injury free, even stress free.
It’s the simplicity of the idea (less = more) that was important, not the details (the tactics).
Between the years 2006 and year 2011, I had shifted from being a Fred to Mark, and it made all the difference.
It was the key.
Let’s take a closer look at who is and what I meant by Fred, at Mark, and what’s required to make the shift.
But before I do:
The Call to Adventure (Prerequisite – Step 1)
The first step is choosing the “call to adventure.”
It’s a choice.
Do it or don’t do it.
Not everyone is cut out to be a good golfer. (again, everyone’s definition of success is different)
The risk profile is not something most people want or choose to take on.
It’s too risky.
You might fail, and probably will.
Neither decision is right or wrong.
If your choice is to buy the newest golf equipment, or training gizmo, that’s fine. It’s right for you. The golfing world needs people like you.
But if a lifetime of over complication of the game isn’t your bag, then the only path you can take is the call to adventure.
It’s risky, but you accept this. (while the majority of your friends would rather buy the latest driver and smack dozens of golf balls on the range)
Embrace it. Lean into it.
If this is you, time to meet our first example, Fred.
Fred is likely to represent you right now; if not entirely, certainly a close enough match to make you very uncomfortable as you read this.
Now listen, Fred’s come in every demographic you can think of, so I am not going to list them.
What is interesting is when you look at everything that makes up a Fred (interests, beliefs, who they trust, who they look up to, what are they hungry for), that is what interests me, and where a lot of commonalities amongst Fred’s exist.
When I was growing up and playing, we did not have the dynamics we have today, where you literally can type in YouTube “Golf Swing Tips” (which is being searched on average of 9000 times/per month), and every Tom, Dick and Harry can give you a swing tip. I am not saying their tip is not good or bad. I am just saying that the sheer volume of golf instruction information (tips, gadgets) that will “change your game” is insane and only going to get worse AND more importantly it attracts Fred’s like a moth to a flame.
In the last 10 years, I was the recipient of every “shiny-object” golf tip/gadget under the sun. I would receive tips every day, without fail. (I have even created a significant number of them myself, shame on me! LoL)
I should have known better (but the shiny object has an intoxicating allure).
I (when acting like Fred) believed in people more than I should have in the golf instruction online wasteland of the Wild West.
And as Fred’s do, they tend to take their hard-earned money and they go on a buying spree. Freds actually gets sucked in like a heroin addict seeking the next fix.
Fred is helpless. (I was too, and I should know better)
Fred would flip-flop from golf tip to golf tip, with little regard for opportunity cost. Fred is an “opportunity seeker.”
There was a lot wrong with operating this way. I personally had become stuck in the “loop of death” with my golf game for a few years.
The eureka moment was when I realized that I had become a “jack of everything” in my golf game but” master of nothing” that mattered.
Long off the tee, yup, I have read those articles.. How to get more spin on the ball tips, yeah, had done that too. Short game tricks in the way the golf gurus were teaching, yup yup, did that. I can keep going on… yup, did it all.
Some things I did worked. Most even. But it was never as advertised.
The results I earned as I cycled from “thing” to “thing” was only ever mediocre at best.
Never any “home runs.”
And that’s when it hit me.
Let’s move to the example I named, Mark.
Meet Mark (example #2)
Mark operates entirely differently from Fred.
Mark manages his attraction to shiny objects. He’s not addicted. He can control what he invests in (time and money) and what he chooses to ignore.
His attention is selective and focused.
He values his time.
The dynamic is completely different.
Mark is driven by the need to matter.
To have a simple golf game and process he’s proud of, and it works no matter where he plays.
Mark builds a golf game.
The game and process that allows Mark to play injury free, score better (and when he doesn’t, he understands why) and have fun while doing it.
And this was the realization that hit me when I opened my eyes and saw things for what they were.
It was my very own Neo/Morpheus moment:
“This is your last chance. After this, there is no turning back. You take the blue pill—the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill—you stay in Wonderland, and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes. Remember, all I’m offering is the truth, nothing more.”
— Morpheus (The Matrix)
I was so focused on the EVENT of the perfect shot and swing —that I had missed the “truth” of the golf. The purpose. The real truth.
Finally realizing that a perfect shot and a “perfect” swing was not attainable in the normal sense. The way everyone tells us it is.
The goal is the process and the journey.
It’s finding your way of swinging and playing plus the culmination of years and years of the golfing journey. And at times, frustrating, difficult [email protected]#$%^ grinding-it-out practice and learning that will give the results.
Not just score wise. Not just strike and swing wise… But enjoyment wise too.
When we take a huge step back and zoom out, this is obvious.
But it’s easily forgotten when in the weeds of the daily battle. Fred can’t see this obvious truth. Mark can.
Mark builds a reservoir of superior assets for the long term golf game.
One such asset is trust, which takes time and commitment to earn. Fred doesn’t see the value of going slow, so he seeks shortcuts and hacks.
When looking at the golf instruction world through this lens, it allowed me to see everything very differently. Like I was watching a different movie.
Mark is successful because he focuses on the PROCESS; the journey (which doesn’t end; an EVENT does).
The process of showing up each day and doing the hard work.
Not checking email for the next golf tip but prioritizing on what’s really important.
The disciplined pursuit of less, not more.
Mark knows that the Holy Grail of golf is to build a repeatable golf swing, delivering the golf ball to a target with ease.
Fred who sees the golf swing as a commodity and worse still, sees golf instruction as a commodity.
As for me and my game?…
Well since I had made these shifts from thinking and behaving as Fred to Mark, everything changed.
By the end of 2012, I was injury free, and playing the best golf of my life. A big difference from a year earlier where I was hustling my ass off to break 75, felt like I was at the chiropractor and massage therapist every other day, and each golf round and practice session seemed to be harder mentally than the day before.
Fred sees golf instruction opportunities as events — where results are, at best, a flash in the pan.
Fred is a jack of all trades, master of none. He chases tactics and loopholes and hacks, never going deep. He tries this and that, gets bored, then moves onto the next shiny object thingamajig.
Each “shiny-object” is the big answer to his game — the reset button — for a new golf life.
But, of course, that’s just an illusion set up by the gurus, and Fred falls for the lie every time.
The gurus know Fred’s modus operandi better than he does.
They’re pros; he’s an amateur.
They’re always one step ahead.
They write copy and shoot videos specifically for Fred. Language that acts as a Fred’s “Venus flytrap.”
The outcome is always inevitable and predictable.
Mark is different.
Mark knows that building a golf swing (and game) takes time and is a process and not an event.
Mark understands that to build a golf swing for the long-term, he needs to show up every day and do the hard work.
The work may get easier, but the deep work never stops.
Fred seeks the home runs.
Mark knows that the road ahead is not easy. It’s not for most people. It requires pigheaded discipline and determination.
Fred sees the golf instruction world as opportunities to be exploited.
Mark is focused on getting the right information from trusted authorities (that means people he may never have heard of before) that help with his process.
Fred sometimes gets lucky and plays a great round or hits that perfect drive.
But because it was built on a foundation of luck (right place at the right time; it happens), it’s not repeatable, and eventually that “golf swing tip” crashes and burns.
Mark knows that luck isn’t a repeatable golf swing model, so he chooses to take the time to lay deep foundations early on, then builds his little castle.
Over time his moat becomes deeper and wider; a result of earned trust and attention and work that’s impossible to ignore. Work that some people can’t imagine being without.
Fred seeks quick fixes. He’ll take whatever he can get in the shortest amount of time.
Fred is influenced by his ego.
Mark knows that ego is the enemy. Mark doesn’t value a longer drive or lower scores for bragging rights and basking in the “spoils of war.”
Fred trawls the inter-webs seeking more and more information. He thinks buying more golf clubs and instruction products is the solution, because at some point, he’ll learn the “big secret.”
If more information and the latest and greatest golf clubs were the answer, we’d all be scratch golfers.
Mark knows that execution trumps theory.
He rarely buys new golf instruction products, but also values his time. So, when he has a specific need to quickly “level up” his knowledge gap, he invests in the best training on the market.
Fred chooses not to think for himself. He offloads that responsibility on others. So, he seeks copy-and-paste instruction, step-by-step systems, and clear instructions to follow (so long as they’re videos which he can binge on without much intention).
Mark chooses an unscripted path.
He chooses to not giving a f*ck about how the status quo, who cram up the noisy middle of the bell curve, behave.
Mark knows an exact map, a perfect fit for him, doesn’t exist.
Instead, he has a strategic flexibility, makes little bets along the way, and focuses on creating his best golf swing.
I cannot for the life of me remember who said this to me in the last 24 months, but ‘great golf games are made as a result of “choice & attitude.”
The good news is that you get to choose to operate and think and behave as Fred or Mark.
It’s just a decision. And it’s all on you.
As Steven Pressfield says in The War of Art, “You have a choice. Do it or don’t do it.”
There is no easy way though.
It doesn’t exist. If you think there is, you’re wrong.
There’s only a hard way, fraught with stress and obstacles.
Lean into it, because it’s the only way to breach the membrane shielding Fred and Mark (sorry one more Matrix reference).
If you’re a Fred and want to transform to a Mark, we can help with that (good link to sales page) Or if you’re already a Mark, but wanna [email protected]#-up, we can help with that, too.
Maybe you just need a nudge in the right direction. We’re great at nudging.
If we can’t help, we’ll tell you, and point you in the best direction. We don’t have all the answers. And what we have definitely here isn’t for everyone, or even for many.
What we have here is for the weird few, those who choose to enroll in the journey and do the hard work.
SOME RESOURCES FOR STAYING A FRED… GO HERE