What is The Dan Plan?


It’s a project in transformation. An experiment in potential and possibilities. Through 10,000 hours of “deliberate practice,” Dan, who currently has minimal golf experience, plans on becoming a professional golfer. But the plan isn’t really about golf: through this process, Dan hopes to prove to himself and others that it’s never too late to start a new pursuit in life.  For a detailed description of the project, please read this blog post: http://thedanplan.com/blog/?p=1090


Dan is an average man by most standards. When The Dan Plan began, he was a 30-year-old commercial photographer with no previous experience as a competitive athlete, nor was he in particularly good physical condition. Dan is slightly under average height and weight, had never played a full 18 holes of golf, and had only been to a driving range a handful of times. He was not even sure if he was a left-or right-handed golfer. Dan currently resides in Portland, Oregon.


Through his journey Dan hopes to inspire others to start exploring the possibilities life affords them. Though his isn’t an easy endeavor and is quite possibly impossible, if it inspires even one person to quit their day job and find happiness in their own plan, then the Dan Plan is a success.


On April 5th, 2010, Dan quit his day job as a commercial photographer and began The Dan Plan. Having never played 18 holes of golf in his life, Dan started the 10,000 hour journey with just a putter.  After five months of putting, he received his second club, a pitching wedge. Just before the first anniversary of The Dan Plan dan took his first full-swing lesson.  After 18 months he swung a driver for the first time.  On December 28, 2011 he played his first full round with a full set of clubs.  Since then it has been off to the races.

Logging in 30-plus hours a week he will hit the 10,000 hour milestone by December 2016. During this time, Dan plans to develop his skills through deliberate practice, eventually winning amateur events and obtaining his PGA Tour card through a successful appearance in the PGA Tour’s Qualifying School, or “Q-School”.


Talent has little to do with success. According to research conducted by Dr. K. Anders Ericsson, Professor of Psychology at Florida State University, “Elite performers engage in ‘deliberate practice’–an effortful activity designed to improve target performance.” Dr. Ericsson’s studies, made popular through Malcolm Gladwell’s book Outliers and Geoff Colvin’s Talent is Overrated, have found that in order to excel in a field, roughly 10,000 hours of “stretching yourself beyond what you can currently do” is required. “I think you’re the right astronaut for this mission,” Dr. Ericsson said about The Dan Plan.


Every step of Dan’s journey from novice to professional golfer will be documented. He will rely on a support network created through social media sites (Facebook, Twitter) and his website at thedanplan.com. Supporters can watch video footage, check out photos, offer advice and view The Dan Plan stopwatch as it counts down his 10,000 hours of training.

The Team:
Dan McLaughlin, Golfer in Training | Bruce Furman, PGA, Golf Instruction | Shawn Dailey, Strength Trainer | Seth Alley, Chiropractor | Stuart Hamilton, Goal Guru

  • Michael


    My co-worker just brought The Dan Plan to my knowledge this week and I must say Its is very interesting. I’ve always wanted to see something like this properly documented. I am very interested to see where you do end up when you do hit your 10,000+ hours in 2016. Personally I do not think you will achieve your goal by 2016 simply because where you currently are is so far away from were you will need to be. That being said it is very refreshing to see your dedication, planning, and good attitude. It seems to be inspiring many people which is always an excellent thing.

    One thing that seems to be lacking from your focused approach is tournament play. I read your post from last year about having three tourney’s under your belt (hopefully there have been more since then) and do hope that this year will include a much more robust out tournament schedule. The chaps at Q-school will have played many many tournaments in there careers in addition to practicing an insane amount of hours. Performance under the pressure is something you cannot simulate in practice, you only gain it in competition.

    I’d say if you +handicap golfer by the end of the this year and are able to compete (and win/top-ten) in top level amateur events (big time state AMs, USGA events, etc.) next year then you will be ready to compete at Q-school. Either way I wish you the best and do hope you compete more tournaments because there are plenty of people who are “good”golfers, until they play under pressure.

  • http://intrepidgolfer.me/ Zoli

    I just found your blog. Hope you achieve your goals in this endeavor. I love the game of golf and admire your dedication. I’ll be following you the rest of the way. Best of luck!

  • annatroupe

    I wholeheartedly support the spirit of this endeavor, but I wish you (and others) were inspired to quit your job and devote 10,000 hours to deliberate practice of solving real world problems rather than mastering a sport. That’s MY dream so I’m in grad school to pursue it and I assume I could easily have a different dream and be motivated in some other way that I would be equally justified to pursue. But I also know it’s possible to look around and logically conclude that there is way more important stuff to focus on than golf if someone is lucky enough to be able to quit their job and pursue a plan in this way. Will you move on to something more consequential and necessary after this golf mastery is achieved? Do you feel satisfied that inspiring others with this focused effort at golf is a worthwhile enough outcome? Did you factor optimal effect into your choice or simply answer an internal feeling that golf was the thing you could care about the most for several years? These are sincere questions I have for anyone who chooses to master something.

  • bogeyman

    Hi Dan! I’m 89 now but was a low handicap golfer back in the 50′s with a handicap of +2 for a short while and was invited to play in Crosby’s ‘clambake’ at Pebble Beach in ’57 & ’58. I have scored 5 holes in one. I’m a native Portlander, grew up on the Colwood course on Columbia Blvd and caddied at the Waverly Country Club. Received my first lesson at age 12 from Joe Bushnell the pro at Colwood in ’37 & 38′. So much for me!

    What is real important is to understand the game so you focus your practice on the important things that count.

    1. Half of the total score are putts (18) and is the second most important stroke in your game. You should be spending no less that 1/2 of your time practicing your putting game.

    Your description of your putting practice is common but all wrong. Take a stick about 24 inches long, place it about 12″ behind the hole and practice putting at least 5 balls from long distances. You want all five balls to go past the hole but not hit the stick. Begin working on a level green then progress to more difficult greens. A good putter birdies 5 to 6 holes per round with an average number of putts of about 30. Keep track of the number during you practice rounds.

    “A Golfer drives for show but putts for dough!”

    2. The most important stroke in the game is your shot to the green! These comprise 25% of the game (18 Strokes) Therefore you should be spending no less than 25% of you time practicing this shot. This shot will determine whether you have an easy first putt or maybe having to three putt. The practice should include a lot of shots from sand traps at various distances and from the rough.

    3. Most golf courses have 4 Par 3 holes. As a result the driver is only used 14 times and comprises only 20% of your game so you should be spending only about 20% of your practice time with the driver. I see people out on the practice tee hitting bucket after bucket of balls and only using the driver working on swing development. They remain high handicappers because the never learn to hit the ball out of a trap or out of the rough into a 1 put position on the green The significant part of the driver stroke is that you can always keep the ball in the short grass,
    It should be a very natural swing and It helps a lot if you learn to hit a controlled draw or fade.

    4. The remaining 5% of your practice time should be working with your medium to long irons and learning to hit them correctly, the ball first. It’s really difficult to learn to hit irons from the pads at driving ranges. These should really be practiced on a range that doesn’t have pads.

    5. Re your handicap. In order to have a handicap comparable to that of a pro it must be based on scores from the black or long tees on a course of 7000 yards or so. I use to play in a lot of pro am tournaments in Calif. and I’ve seen a lot of low handicappers with low handicaps ( 2 or 3) on their home course unable to break 90 on a course set up for the pros.

    Have fun! That’s what it should be all about!.

  • Brendan Morley

    This is great advice! Thank you for taking the time to post.

  • Austin Martin

    I so want to drop out of society and golf all day while being funded by anonymous donors.

  • Mark

    I think you’re really on to something. I played a fair bit last summer – managed a 94 one of the few times I played 18. Nothing much over the winter and then back out with my son (he’s 9) and some regular lessons for a few weeks.
    I played an 18 hole par-3 track last Sunday with my son – not really looking at the scores too much. Carded an 11 over 65 – best of all, for the back 9 a 2 over 29. Even managed a couple of intended draws…

    Now 10,000 hours – just maybe!

    Best of luck, Mark.

  • Kevin M

    Best of luck, you crazy Mick! I’ve been working on my game past few years, but not nearly as hard. I know my weakness will be on the greens whereas that is where you started. One suggestion re. your stats. It might highlight your progress better to do yearly or seasonal stat profiles so that you can show your progression in the key stats. I’m sure there are a lot of old rounds in that program’s database that may no longer apply to your current skill level. – Kev in Albany.

  • Dave

    Truly an inspiration. I am a 33 yr old grad student and lacrosse coach and I’ve been searching for that “thing” that gets me up every day and gets me going. I am very glad to know it’s possible. Keep up the good work and I am very impressed with your progress! Unreal man!

  • PCM

    Hi Dan,
    I have recently read Mark Broadie’s book “Every Shot Counts” that uses the “Strokes gained” approach. I highly recommend that you read that book (if you haven’t already). It analyzes stats of golfers on the PGA Tour as well as those of amateurs using a revolutionary method that makes better sense than by using traditional methods (GIR, FIR, putts…). Broadie analyzes in great detail what separates golfers of different levels, and the findings will surprise you. It will, without a doubt, create a better picture of how you should partition your time practicing different areas of the game. Many tour pros are now using this approach to improve their games. It would improve yours too. Good luck and I wish you all the best! :D

  • AustBust

    You are such an inspiration. I’m an 8 hcp and been following you for the last year and a half. Love what you’re doing, love your spirit. We tried to put a round together here at Morongo golf club, just west of Palm Springs, last winter but it didn’t work out. Please reach out next time you’re down here.

    Make me one promise, NEVER GIVE UP!

  • Chris Bergman

    Rooting for you Dan. I love the simplicity of the idea and have always had the inner feeling that one really CAN do something they put their mind to. It just seems like the older one gets and the more that “life” intervenes, the possibility of achieving their dream becomes farther and farther away. Thank you for stepping up to the plate and lending inspiration to some of us. Interesting, though, as my goal is to work towards becoming a professional photographer!

  • Guest

    Rooting for you Dan. I love the simplicity of the idea and have always
    had the inner feeling that one really CAN do something they put their
    mind to. It just seems like the older one gets and the more that “life”
    intervenes, the possibility of achieving their dream becomes farther
    and farther away. Thank you for stepping up to the plate and lending
    inspiration to some of us. Interesting, though, as my goal is to work
    towards becoming a professional photographer!