Cliffs Living: In The Swing

Fostering gains on the golf course– and beyond.

Sean Kennedy doesn’t merely teach golf. He teaches a mindset.

“The goal is not to shoot 75,” says Kennedy, Director of Golf Instruction at The Cliffs. “Your goal is to practice and get better every time, even if it’s just one-tenth of a percent.”

Some of Kennedy’s instruction is based on the Japanese idea of kaizen, an approach to continuous improvement that focuses on small, ongoing adjustments that lead to major positive change. The process can be transformative — on the golf course and far beyond.

Mary Mahoney, a member at The Cliffs at Walnut Cove, has worked with Kennedy in group classes as well as one-on-one. “He taught me to channel negativity into positive flow,” she says, noting this led to stronger mental focus as well as increased overall fitness. “Sean is a great resource for the entire community at The Cliffs to enjoy.”

Kennedy combines kaizen with a sciencebased approach rooted in neurology and motor learning; indeed, he’s spent thousands of hours studying biomechanics, anatomy, kinesiology, physics, and kinetics, along with various swing methods.

Beyond techniques and tips, Kennedy taught Mahoney to enjoy the game, and other parts of her life, more. “For example, he taught me how to increase my physical strength and abilities through specific exercise programs,” she says. “And he’s a good resource for music and books, too.”

Mahoney won the Club Championship at Walnut Cove in 2018, two years after she started working with Kennedy. She droppedher handicap index from 18 to 10 and became a more consistent — and much happier — golfer.

Kennedy got his start on the links as a child, and while he played many sports, he gravitated toward golf because “only one person is responsible for success or failure.” He excelled on the men’s golf team at the College of Charleston, and even gave professional golf a try.

“It was a bad decision,” he smiles, “but it was still fun.”

Kennedy soon discovered that his real talent — and passion — was teaching.

“People say they find their purpose, and I definitely found mine,” he says. Now a PGA Class A golf professional, Kennedy spends his days working at different locations throughout The Cliffs, working with golfers ranging from novice to champion.

The benefits for clients go far beyond handicaps because golf combines so many factors: psychological, social, physical, and technical. In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, Kennedy was gratified to see that the game provided an essential escape for members who were otherwise sheltering in place.

“The overriding proprietary information I have is that play is essential,” he says. “Golf is a mental health tool for a lot of people — you get out on the course and your brain is forming new pathways.”

sean kennedy golf instructor at the cliffs
Less business travel this spring meant more time on the golf course for Gay Balogh, who is working on her game with Sean Kennedy.

Members at The Cliffs have access to seven stunning golf courses — boasting the best work by acclaimed designers Jack Nicklaus, Tom Fazio, Gary Player, Tom Jackson, and Ben Wright — so they can enjoy diverse styles of play, all year long, as well as a healthy outlet for exercise, family activity, and fresh air. Kennedy works with some 500 players per year — providing nearly 1,100 hours of instruction overall — and while he prefers the handson coaching experience, he created online content so golfers could access his skillbased learning process.

Kennedy values his team — every club has its own professionals — and how each instructor focuses on sharing the love of the game of golf. “Everyone communicates concepts differently,” he says. “There’s a just-right instructor for every member.”

A key reason Kennedy finds his work so compelling is The Cliffs’ commitment to overall wellness. That means he can connect his clients to a variety of professionals who specialize in other aspects of health, from yoga to sports psychology to mindfulness.

“We have suppliers of all of those services at The Cliffs,” he says. “I can always find the right person for the job. This is a really cool place, and I’m blessed to be a part of it.”

Watch Sean Kennedy’s series of “purposeful practice” training videos on YouTube and find additional golf instruction information here.

This story was featured in Cliffs Living magazine. To read more stories like this one and learn more about The Cliffs, subscribe here.

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