Goal Guru Stuart Hamilton breaks down The Dan Plan’s goals

Recently, I asked my “goal guy” to write up a piece about what we have been working on together.  He’s a great guy and a pleasure to work with and has helped me clarify so much in The Dan Plan as far as where I need to be both now and in the future.  Without clear goals it is so very easy to get lost.  We decided that he should be a regular contributor to help explain the goal side of The Dan Plan.  Here is Stuart’s first guest blog:

I started reading Dan’s blog after a friend forwarded me the link. My friend knew I had worked with another professional golfer and would be interested in Dan’s story. Dan was still early on his journey (perhaps short of 2000 hours) but I immediately was impressed by the idea and hoped for its success. But as a performance consultant, I knew that hoping would not be enough and that I should check with Dan to see if he had someone helping him map his strategy, and goals and actions to deliver on the strategy. I vacillated for a while but about 3000 hours into Dan’s journey, I wrote him a note:

“Dan – I’m a performance manager in Corporate and I’ve been following you for a year or so. I’m a believer in the 10,000 hour idea so I hope you prove it. I’ve been debating whether I should contact you but have decided to at least send you this email. I’ve been wondering about your goals and planning. I know you have some because you mention them, so I hope you have broad goals written down for the next 7000 hours, all of which are tied to metrics. You have a final goal of playing on a PGA event, so all the goals would be mapped on that trajectory, but what does that mean for where you have to be at 8000 and 9000? (and 7500, 8500 and 9500!)”

I went on to say the specific type of help I might deliver, and happily, Dan was enthusiastic about discussing these issues, so we talked a few times and mapped out some broad goals and metrics for the future of the plan. We now talk regularly as we examine progress and determine the transformational actions needed for Dan to be ultimately successful.

The approach is based on getting as much data as can be gathered and then analyzing for weaknesses in key areas, whether that be mental, physical, financial, or golf skills. For instance, in the area of skills, Dan worked to improve his metric collection on such statistics as GIR (Greens in regulation), Driving distance, Driving accuracy, Putts per round, Putts per GIR, etc. For each skill we looked at what benchmark was set by an average PGA player, and made that the objective, and set a trajectory towards that metric. The premise is that if Dan met these benchmarks, he would eventually become a player with the skills of a regular PGA professional.

One example might be GIR, the single greatest (statistical) predictor of the final score on a round. In 2012 Justin Rose had the highest GIR percentage on tour at 70.34. The PGA professional 75th on the ranking had a GIR of 66. This should be the target for Dan at about the 7000 hour mark. His goal for 4000 hours was 55%, and he has already reached it. The key to all this monitoring is that as long as Dan is tracking in line with the progress set out in advance, nothing needs to be done except keep on doing what he’s doing. There only needs to be an intervention when the stat is missed and then a clear strategy has to be formulated on how to reach the goal. While we know that this alone will not make Dan a regular player on the PGA Tour, it is just one area that we look at. On other entries in the blog, we can share more on the program.

Dan is an avid participant in the examination of all aspects of his game – he needs to be! I suspect that many of the professional golfers on tour have nowhere near as sophisticated a program as Dan has, and that will be why he will likely succeed. I’ve heard professional golfers confess to being perplexed to why their game has declined. I’m guessing if they entered into such a program, the cause of their woes would become fairly clear, and the resolution not far behind.

I’ll finish with the ultimate performance metric that was mapped for Dan for the next 7000 hours.

Hours Stroke Average
3000 82
4000 77
5000 74
6000 72
7000 70.5
8000 69
9000 68
10000 67

Dan’s progress is such that you have to benchmark on the most immediate metrics, since the man he was 3 months before bears no resemblance to the quality of the player in the present.  This means that the sampling size is smaller than would be ideal, but over the last 10 rounds, Dan currently is in line with the above goals. His average score, even in the worst of seasonal conditions, is 77, and he is still 300 hours away from the 4000 hour gate.

A program like Dan’s has never been attempted before so the goals are an educated guess, and while they may need modified slightly, we think will probably prove to be broadly in line with the ultimate goal of The Dan Plan. Steven Levitt, the “Freakonomics” economist that is monitoring Dan’s progress said at 2500 hours: “He is an 11 handicap, which means he is about 15-16 strokes per round away from being good enough for the PGA tour. That means he has to shave off about one stroke for every 500 hours of practice from here on out.  I suspect he can keep that rate of improvement for the next few thousand hours, but it will be a tough haul after that.”

We agree, so have a steeper rate of progress during the early years, and the stroke improvement tapering to one stoke less in every 1000 hours at the end of the Plan.

I’d be interested to hear some comments on the approach and the goals so please post your feedback in the comments section. Dan has asked me to regularly share with the community on efforts in this area so we will publish additional information in future blog posts.

Cheers,  Stuart.

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