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For golf addicts like ourselves, it never ceases to amaze me how the game can play so many different roles in your life. Depending on the stage you are in, it can be a muse or your greatest enemy. For Kevin Moore, golf has had many faces. From giving it all he had in the competitive arena, to putting the clubs away for a while, golf has been somewhat of a vehicle for self-discovery. Now with a renewed love of the game, Kevin has combined his passion for teaching and golf into a consulting business that helps players prepare for every aspect of their round. It’s called Squares2Circles and his journey to developing it is just as fascinating as the product itself.
Kevin, could you tell us a little about yourself?
I was born in Ohio, raised in New Philadelphia which is just south of the Akron/Cleveland area. After attending New Philadelphia High School I attended The University of Akron on a golf and academic scholarship. My initial major was Computer Engineering, but a love of Math drew me to a dual Bachelors and Masters degree in Applied Mathematics. After finishing at Akron, the sunny skies and lack of winter led me to Tempe where I focused my PhD studies on mathematics and psychology. After finishing with the desert, I obtained a faculty position at the University of Georgia. I’ve now been a part of their faculty since 2010, and tenured since 2015.
How/when were you introduced to the game of golf, and more specifically how did you get into playing competitively?
My Dad introduced me to the game of golf. He played leisurely in local leagues and I would tag along with him. Eventually, I picked up the clubs, and I was lucky enough that most of my family played the game. I spent a lot of time playing with Dad, Mom, my Aunt Cheryl, and my Uncle Steve. They all really enjoyed the game, too, so it was easy for me as a kid to get hooked. From there, Dad joined the local club and by another situation of fortune, I fell into a circle of peers that were both good players and driven. Several of us ended up as scholarship golfers in college, and it all began with us pushing each other all day every summer. A few of them remain some of my closest friends to date.
Initially, I was a bit naïve to the competitive scene. We had a county circuit that everyone played in and I was able to follow the lead of some of the other kids on statewide and national events. We were also lucky enough to have a new high school coach, Greg Leggett, join the program after my freshman year. He was an excellent player and coach, and he worked very closely with me to improve my game and open my eyes to the competitive scene. Funny enough, I didn’t even know what the USGA Jr. Amateur was when I qualified for it. In fact, I asked my high school coach if I should go, and his mouth hit the floor in response.
I knew you played golf at the University of Akron. Could you tell us how was that experience and why you hung it up afterward?
College golf started off decent. After that first Fall, our freshman class was ranked as one of the best in the nation based on that semester’s play. The following semester I began chasing a major swing change while also having my attention pulled in all the college directions—academic and otherwise. Needless to say, I was never able to have the swing change take hold and I lost a ton of confidence on the course. I can honestly say I didn’t have the mental game to make the swing change work under competition, and I eventually developed a case of the driver yips. Each round and practice session started to feel like clocking in and out of a job and I lost my love for the game. I lost sight of what makes the game so special. So while people thought the move to Arizona would have me on the course daily, I hung up my clubs except for visits from friends, family, and former teammates.
Although the college golf experience was not quite what I wanted on the performance side, I wouldn’t trade that time for anything. I learned a lot from it, including the mental skills necessary to be successful in the game and remain committed to the process. Most importantly, I forged so many of the most impactful and important relationships that remain in my life.
What is your current day job, and how do you balance your time between work and golf?
Currently, I am an Associate Professor at the University of Georgia Department of Mathematics and Science Education. I am lucky that UGA is one of the few institutions that house their own department in my particular research area, which gives me a lot of freedom and support in my research and teaching. Essentially, I am able to carve out my own research agenda while also designing instructional experiences for students that draw on my own personal expertise.
Balance…now that’s a funny term. I find balance is difficult, if not impossible, the thing to achieve in life because I see it as a process of give and take. I am fortunate that my job performance is judged on a yearly to multi-year scale. This allows me to be flexible week-to-week and month-to-month as to how I allocate my time. I can flex my schedule around busy UGA times and busy golf times so that I’m dedicating the proper time to each, and as soon as I slide too much one way I can adjust the other way. I also have the luxury of a lot of computer work. I can do that from home, on the road, and at any hour of the day.
Another way I balance things is by listening to my mind. If I become mentally fatigued with one or the other, I know that’s a sign to shift how I’m allocating my time. I’m a huge believer in establishing mental health and strength through having multiple passions and pursuits, and I try to keep attention to keeping my mind fresh in that way.
What made you want to get back into competitive golf?
People: my now fiancé and friends. I first got back into golf when a few of my professional friends guilted me into it when I received tenure. I had been using my work hours as an excuse for not playing and they told me I no longer had that excuse. They also helped me update my equipment. A country club membership later and I was back at the game.
Once I started playing three things happened. First, a friend sent me the book “Dream Golf”. It’s the story of Mike Keiser and Bandon Dunes. To be frank, the book sent me down the golf course architecture rabbit hole and it reignited my love for the soul of golf and the grounds we play on. Second, I fell into a great group of guys at the country club I joined. We had a standing game 4-5 days a week and we did a really good job of dragging each other out there and playing a spirited, competitive game. They are also just an amazing group of guys that are a pleasure to play with. They made me want to tee it up every day and play with something on the line. Third, I met my fiancé, Claire. She’s pushed me in ways that have helped me develop confidence and drive in all that I do. She’s so incredibly supportive and loves that I play the game, so that makes it a lot easier for me to want to be out there playing and competing.
Tell us about Squares 2 Circles and how this came to be?
S2C’s beginnings start with my own game. With my love for the game reignited, I went headfirst down more than just the golf course architecture rabbit hole. I dove into the strokes gained information Mark Broadie was producing in his academic papers. I dove into the psychology of sports and performance books, especially the work of the Vision 54 crew and Dr. Joseph Parent. I looked at each genre as an opportunity to learn something and improve my own game. Thanks to the architecture bug, I also started choosing my USGA qualifiers at architecturally compelling sites external to the state of Georgia. The downfall of this was I couldn’t always make the practice round dates and that meant trying to do course prep from a distance. So essentially I’d break down an entire golf course based on my dispersion profile and strokes gained information before being on-site, and I had some success in doing that.
As I started sharing what I was doing for my own game, some of the friends that got me back to playing suggested I reach out to UGA and my alma mater, Akron, to see if there was any way I could help them out. At the same time a friend turned me on to what Scott Fawcett has been doing with DECADE Golf, and I was fortunate enough to attend a seminar with Scott. Between that and working with the UGA coaches, I was inspired to pull together my skill set in the form of S2C so that I can help players and teams reach their goals by thinking critically about their game in terms of preparation, execution, and reaction.
To you, what is the most important aspect of on-course strategy?
Wow, there are so many things ranging from the mental side of the game to specific in-the-moment decisions. We could talk about remaining confident, committing to a line, understanding how to play to your lowest expected score, how to carry yourself, the tee shot decisions, relying on a pre-shot routine, etc. But if I had to identify one single strategy tip, it would have a plan of attack going into your round. A lot of the work I do with players and teams is developing a game plan for a course so that the practice round is an experiment. This allows players to enter the tournament round confident with their plan for a course. One of the worst things for a player to do is ride their emotions during a round in a way that influences their decision making. That can lead to indecisiveness, overly aggressive lines, or overly conservative lines. With a plan in place, a player can enter the round knowing that if they stick to their process, they put themselves in the best position to win. From there, golf will be golf. Some days you’ll execute and other days you won’t. Some days you’ll find yourself on the lucky side of your dispersion and other days you’ll find yourself on the bad side of that dispersion. I always tell players that they are worse than they think on their best days and better than they think on their worst days, and that’s why having a process in place is so important. It lets you get the most out of scoring on all type of days.
Have you found that starting this has helped your own golf game and if so, how?
Outside of the time taken away from my own game, without a doubt yes. The more I am around top-level amateur, collegiate, and professional players, the more I can learn from them and learn about my own game. Any great coach or teacher learns from his players and students, and the more I get to see how other players view and approach the game, the more I learn about the different factors that contribute to success. I have also found the game improvement community to be an incredibly supportive group, so I continue to learn from others in ways that not only shape how I work with players and teams but also how I work on my own game. I mentioned Scott earlier and he’s been a great go-to person for information, conversation, and knowledge.
Circling back on the time issue, starting this has helped my own golf game in terms of identifying the best ways to target improvement in practice. I believe a coach or teacher should be living examples of what he or she preaches, and I have worked hard to take what I learn about preparing physically and mentally for a tournament and incorporating it into my own routines. This has been especially important because I have limited time to focus on my own game. Every moment of practice and play is precious, and I’ve learned and crafted ways to get as much as I can out of something as small as a 5-minute practice session. In fact, last year I shot a 66 at the USGA Mid-Amateur qualifier with only a 10-minute warm-up session. I was able to get my body and mind in a proper performance state without hitting a single range ball.
What is your vision with Squares 2 Circles over the next five years?
I’m currently letting the growth and direction of S2C be organic. I consider myself a teacher, so I will provide personalized and focused support to individual teams and players. I also consider myself a learner, so I will have a system in place that allows me to learn from my clients and what works for them. As I move forward, I’m being selective in adding clients that are looking for a detailed and comprehensive experience at improving their game, as I believe that is the best way to help a player or team establish a process, track and respond to tangible results, and build the confidence necessary to succeed at the highest level. The minute I feel that adding another client would influence my ability to help my current clients achieve their goals, I’ll stop growing. I’m also a firm believer in collaboration, so I will be keeping my eyes and ears open for other people to learn from and work with.
Last question. What is your favorite golf hole on the planet and why?
Any hole that I’m playing with my Dad, Mom, or Claire. I’m a part of NewClub Golf Society, and we have a principle that golf is all about the experience you share with other people. There’s no one else I would rather experience it with.
If you’re forcing my hand on a specific hole, King-Collins’ Sweetens Cove Golf Club #1 because it immediately sets the tone for one of the most interesting and compelling days of golf you can experience.