The Dan Plan: Exclusive Q&A
Posted at February 1, 2014
'The Dan Plan' is a remarkable project where one man, Dan McLaughlin, is aiming to dedicate 10,000 hours of his time to practicing the art of golf. The 33 year old American has given up his career in a bid to become a professional golfer and his story has captured the imagination of many golfers across the world. He has received a tremendous amount of media coverage over last three and a half years with news features from CNN, ABC and CBS; earlier this month, we also got the chance to catch up with Dan himself to get the low-down on his extraordinary project.
Hi Dan, thanks for joining us! So, to take us back to the very beginning, what gave you the inspiration to embark on your 10,000 hours of golf practice?
I wanted to change directions in my life as my photography career was paying well but had lost its luster/interest. After contemplating (and enrolling) in grad school I realised that was not the path for me and began looking around at alternative career models. Around my 30th birthday I played a 9-hole par 3 with my brother in Omaha, NE and shot about 2.5x par. It was one of the first times that I had walked on a golf course and after the round I couldn't help but wonder how good someone could get at that game (or anything, really) with zero experience and being 30 years old. The thought lingered and 9 months later I quit my job and started practicing golf full time.
What has been the toughest part so far in your journey to overcome?
The toughest part is probably trying to explain what I do to strangers. The journey itself has it's highs and lows, but is constantly rewarding. There has been far more positive encouragement than criticism and the swing is a work in progress, but figuring out that elevator pitch has been elusive.
Which part of your game do you think is the strongest and which area needs more practice?
Short game is by far the strongest and long irons-woods need the most work. I began by putting alone for 5 months then chipping and putting for an additional 6 months. 18 months in I hit the driver for the first time. The farther away from the hole I am the less experience/practice I have so that is where I need to focus, while maintaining the short game.
You spent five months practicing with just a putter, and then onto a wedge, do you still stand by that method of learning? And would you recommend it to juniors learning the game?
In retrospect I wish I had hit some pitch shots and learned the fundamentals of the swing early on. The first year of just putting and chipping was okay, but resulted in blocked practice where I was not optimizing my learning potential. For a child learning the game I would say to make it fun and let them explore all of the clubs. If they enjoy the game and want to improve then start enlisting a coach for some swing advice.
What areas of the game are you currently working on and what is a typical day in the life of Dan?
I am currently working on everything. Might sound like a cliché, but there is never a time where I don't have to, at the very least, refresh my mind on how to hit any and every type of shot. That said, I am spending a bit more time on the full swing as I have been trying to make some large plane changes over the past couple of months.
Has there been much recognition from any top level pros? Have you had any words of wisdom by anyone on the PGA Tour or played with anyone in the professional game?
I have met with a handful of different PGA Tour and Champion Tour players over the years and have found them all very good guys. I haven't played a round with any of them, but have teed it with mini-tour guys, Web.com guys, European and Canadian Tour. For the most part, they don't offer advice like your typical 12 handicapper. Most of these guys just say stick to it and hard work is the key to making it happen.
You mention on your website that The Dan Plan is a project, so if you finally become a golf professional, will that then be 'project complete' and then you will move onto your next project? Are you familiar with Curling or Bowls, which we're particularly good at in Scotland...
Haha, I am familiar with both of those. Honestly I don't think much about "next" or "after" this is over. I just take it day by day and log the hours as they tick by. I have my goals and try to stick to those in order to make this possible.
Funding is one thing that has come up on your website and we noticed you hail from the city of Portland, Oregon – which is also home to the Nike HQ. Are you still looking for support and if so, how do you go about approaching individuals or companies?
I am definitely looking for support. Unfortunately golf is not exactly the cheapest pursuit in the world and in financial retrospect I should have maybe chosen Free-diving or running or something essentially gear-free. But, I love this sport and couldn't imagine doing anything else so I believe I picked correctly. An eventual sponsor would help open doors to performance experts and allow for a more diverse training season. But, I have done pretty well on my own for the past 3.5 years and will continue pushing forward any way that I can.
You're clearly very self-determined and dedicated to your project, do you have any advice for anyone who loves the idea of a major career change?
Follow your gut.
Has your appreciation for golf style increased since you began almost 4 years ago and if so, which golfer do you think has/had the greatest style out on the course?
That's a tough one. I have definitely learned more about golf fashion and think there is still a lot of room for improvement in that area. I'm not a fan of polyester shirts that so many golfers wear, but understand their value in hot climates. For the most part I can't think of anyone that currently really stands out fashion wise. Payne Stewart always had an interesting outfit.
Ok before we go we've got to ask if you have any plans to visit the home of golf, Scotland? We would love to get you over to sample some links golf, speaking of which have you played on a links course?
I have played a few links courses in Oregon, Bandon Dunes in particular has some great tracks. I would LOVE to come visit Scotland and play any and every one of the famous courses where golf originated. Hopefully before this is finished I will have that opportunity.