I was first turned on to the The Dan Plan by a friend of mine who is a member at the same club Dan has been using for his practice sessions. He did not provide me much detail so I looked him up on the web. He has a blog and a video diary which for the most part I have been keeping up to date on.
For those of you who don’t know Dan has given up his regular day job to test the theory that after 10,000 hours of deliberate practice one can achieve an elite level within that given activity. The 10,000 hour number came from Anders Ericsson and was then popularized by Malcolm Gladwell in his book Outliers. Dan had never picked up a club prior to this endeavor and has aspirations of becoming a touring pro after 10,000 hours of dedicated practice.
Most people, mostly golfers, respond to this news with this guy is out of his mind. They think that he has no idea what he is up against and simply blow him off. My initial response was somewhat similar. Although I read Talent is Overrated by Geoff Colvin and have somewhat bought into the idea that there is not a true definition of talent, still I am quite skeptical that someone can do this starting in their 30s. More on my opinion later.
Dan seems like a very pleasant guy, and I think he has taken much of the criticism thrown at him very well. He is currently just over 3,000 hours into his 10,000. He has done those 3,000 hours in a little over two years, so he is spacing it out over a good amount of time as not to burn himself out. After those 3,000 hours he is about an 8 handicap and has already broken 80. Some have argued even with these accomplishments he is still WAY behind where he should be at this point to make his goal of being a touring pro. Certainly no one would argue he has a long way to go.
The main area he takes criticism over is his ultimate goal of becoming a touring pro. He is attempting essentially to become golf royalty. As a person who does marketing for a living I fully understand why he had to make playing professional golf his goal. If he had advertised to the Golf Channel that he was going to take 5 years off of work, play golf for 10,000 hours and become a scratch golfer most likely they would have said “who cares?” He needed a hook, something to entice viewers, readers, and ultimately folks who could potentially be donors to help his cause. In my opinion he had no other option but to claim this.
I also feel he has gone about this all the wrong way. He started working on two-foot putts and worked his way away from the hole. From putting to chipping, chipping to pitching on his way to full swings. As suggested in this thread, we should focus our practice 65/25/10 with the 65 percent focused on the long game. Currently he is 65 percent on putting. I just think there is so much more gained by working on his long game then spending so much time working on putting. I respect the discipline he used to continue with the plan he had set forth for himself but I think he is going about it all the wrong way. To be fair though I am not a cognitive learning expert, so maybe he had studied this and he felt this was the best route to reach his 10,000 hour goal.
I also think that golf is a skill which is best learned while we are young. I think this goes for most sports. It is rare to find a soccer player who started playing in their late teens and went on to become a world class player. The skill is best learned young and then refined as you get older. Certainly golf has more stories where a person can start in their 20s and still become a professional but they are not the norm. The typical golfing superstar learned the game very young and strengthened that skill as they became older. For me, this is the single biggest reason I think Dan will not succeed as a touring professional. He just started too late.
At the end of this I suspect Dan will be a very good golfer. I predicted to my friend that he would be a +1 maybe even a +2 golfer. So a very refined golfer who could compete in local amateur events, state amateur events, and maybe even give a go at the US Mid-Am, but he will be a far cry from the PGA Tour. I only wish him the best, I must admit that I am a bit jealous of someone who gets to play everyday as his job.
Photo credits: © Angus Murray.