Below is a guest blog post from my Performance Expert, Stuart Hamilton, who helps me with goals and strategy.
In a previous post, Dan had mentioned that we were examining what it might take for his game to make another leap forward. The incremental gains that Dan has made are impressive, but the pace is slower than it needs to be for Dan to be on a trajectory towards being at the level of a touring professional by 10,000 hours. I asked Dan if anyone had come forward with a concrete offer or plan to aid in his journey, but Dan said no offer had been received. I asked him if I might post this blog because I think it is important that the Dan Fans understand our predicament, and are encouraged to respond.
Dan has mentioned that one of his issues is that he can fix his swing with his coach Bruce, only for it to degrade five or six practice days away from the lesson. When Dan sees Bruce often, the swing slide can be arrested before it starts, and good habits are reinforced. Dan’s recent visit to Bruce in Palm Springs made Dan feel that his game had made the most progress in recent memory, probably because of the increased frequency for Bruce to “have eyes” on Dan.
Several months ago I heard Nick Faldo being interviewed on the Golf Channel by David Feherty. I’m particularly interested in Faldo since I met and spoke with him in 2008, prior to learning about The Dan Plan. In the interview with Feherty, Faldo was sketching out his early years in golf and mentioned that he had never touched a golf club until, just short of 14 years old, he was inspired by watching Jack Nicklaus in the 1971 Masters. Six years later he was the youngest player to appear in the Ryder Cup. I purchased Faldo’s autobiography since such amazing progress needed investigation. I read that after Faldo took up golf, little more than a year later he had a 5 handicap and was practicing every moment he was out of school. At 16 he left his high school and practiced full time. At 18, four years from never playing golf, Faldo won the English Amateur Champion.
Let’s analyze Faldo’s path – if we assume that during the 2 years Faldo was in high school, he was practicing 1000 hours a year, and once he left school, he explains that (British weather cooperating) he would practice for about 9 hours a day, 6-7 days a week. During that time he was an occasional carpet fitter, so we have to subtract a few hours for the days he was lugging carpets around, but it seems likely he might have practiced 2500 hours a year between 16 and 18 years old. After 4 and a half years, Faldo turned professional at 19 with maybe 8000 hours of logged practice and play. In his first year on the European tour, he finished 8th on the European Order of Merit, probably around the 10,000 hour mark.
So Dan’s 10,000 goal can be achieved, since Faldo has already done it, although Faldo had some advantages. The first was Faldo’s dedication to honing his skills – such deliberate practice was uncommon, even among professionals, so perhaps he had easier competition than a young player would face today. The second, and perhaps most important advantage was that he was under the daily care of the Club Professional at the club where he practiced. Of Ian Connelly, Faldo said, “I could not have had better care because it is my continuing belief that few, if any, teaching professionals in the world can compare with Ian Connelly in the art of nurturing young talent. He became my biggest fan and my sternest critic.” Faldo had “a professional” guiding him. In contrast, Dan is being guided by an amateur golfer with 3 years experience – himself. This is one of the biggest weaknesses of the program – Dan should not be advising Dan.
Dan’s coach, Bruce, does help with his swing and gives tips during their lessons, and I try to help with goals and strategy, but Dan needs more. He has to add someone to his team to be prescriptive in every aspect of his program, from what Dan should be practicing, swing analysis, how to practice, how long to practice, what he should be expected to achieve. Ideally this person would have already achieved success at the highest level, or been the coach of players that have had significant success, and not be shy on giving advice! The best scenario would be that Dan and this person should be co-located (Dan would be the one to re-locate!), so that they can have daily interactions to study development of swing, skills, course management, and game strategy. Perhaps Dan could be an assistant pro or, as somebody commented on the blog, join a University golf program. If there is a golf facility, University, or Golf Pro out there who is interested, please contact Dan. The solution is out there and I encourage qualified individuals to step up and volunteer to help this important experiment. What Dan is endeavoring to achieve is truly amazing, and the fact that he has been doing it with minimal substantive help, is both remarkable and unusual.
And if Nick Faldo is reading and feels inclined to help, Nick, we hope to hear from you soon!