The Dan Plan: 10,000 Hours to Become a World-Class Golfer?

In the north west corner of America there is currently an experiment running that may have a significant impact on the lives of every human being. It may prove that nothing, literally nothing, is beyond the powers of any individual. In all likelihood, you won’t have heard of this groundbreaking experiment, but The Dan Plan may offer hope for future generations to achieve all that they aspire too in life.


The inspiration for the plan comes from a theory pioneered by Dr. K. Anders Ericsson, Professor of Psychology at Florida State University who stated his belief that it takes “10,000 hours of deliberate practice to become an over-achiever in any specific field.”. The theory was further popularised in two best-selling books, Malcolm Gladwell’s “Outliers” and Geoff Colvin’s “Talent is Overrated”.


It was a theory that native of Portland, Oregon, Dan McLaughlin was keen to test.



McLaughlin was a 30-year-old commercial photographer with little to no experience of the game of golf, however after saving up for five years to put himself through graduate school, he soon realised that he did not want to follow this career path. Something about Dr. Ericsson’s theory struck a resonant chord within him and with money saved up, he had an idea.


His idea became known as “The Dan Plan” and in effect, it was a real time test of Dr. Ericsson’s theory. Dan would devote 4 to 6 hours each day practicing the game of golf. The rest of the time he would study other aspects of the game, swing theory, meditation, reading about the game, maintaining his fitness etc. He planned to do this, almost every day, for six years with the goal of eventually becoming a qualified member of the US PGA tour.


So in April 2010, Dan quit his job and travelled to a municipal course near his native Portland to begin his journey to the professional ranks. Much to the amusement of the club shop pro’s, Dan began to work on his putting with the only club he had.


Four months later, he felt his putting was in good enough shape to warrant moving onto a new club and on 29th August 2010, he picked up a pitching wedge for the first time and began to work with that club. Throughout the next 15 months, he added clubs to his repertoire before finally hitting the driver for the first time in November 2011, purchasing his first full set of clubs on December 22nd 2011.



So far, Dan’s handicap has come down from being the maximum for a golfer who has never picked up a club in earnest, to a lowest handicap of 5.4 in July 2013. As of August 2013, he estimates he has completed 4,400 hours of his journey and has just over half his allotted hours left to achieve his goal.


In addition to his own goals, Dan is also providing clear data about Dr. Ericsson’s theory and his blog has received support and sponsorship from many golfing organisations as well as accepting donations from people via PayPal.


Of course, it is tempting to think of the Dan Plan as just another crackpot idea and one that very few people could afford to follow. Yet it has validity because if Dan can go on to achieve his aims, it would add great credibility to the notion that any individual can learn any skill they want to a top level, provided they are willing to put in the effort and practice a great deal.



As it stands, Dan is now regularly shooting below 80 and has been documenting his improvements via video and blog posts on the site. His handicap continues to slide downwards but he is the first to admit that things have not always gone as smoothly as he would have hoped and there have been times when his progress has been slowed.


You can read about Dan’s latest exploits on and we’ll keep you posted with any major events if and when they happen.

So is this plan brilliant, or madness?


In our view, it is hard to say. We applaud Dan’s quest for improvement and his newly acquired love of the game, but there is a certain falseness to the situation. Not everyone can afford to devote 10,000 hours of their life, basically take six years off work, to learn a new skill with no guarantee of success at the end of it. In that sense, it is a false situation.


Yet, the results Dan finds could prove interesting well beyond the golfing contexts. If the theory is right, it means we all have the power to learn any skill we like, provided we put in the hours of practice, that is an exciting prospect and well worth investigating.


In the meantime, we hope Dan continues to develop his love for the game and that his progress continues and that one day, we may see him teeing off at a pro tournament alongside some of the biggest names in world golf.


Images Courtesy of  Amazon Books, The Dan Plan website


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