Monday, July 2, 2012

The Inlier

In Outliers, author Malcolm Gladwell contends that the most important common factor among great achievers is the 10,000 hour rule. Deliberate practice, conducted over long periods with professional feedback is more important than inborn talent.

Great news for all of us inliers—average folks with average talents—right?

Not so fast.

Dan McLaughlin, a 32 year old former photographer, decided to test the theory using golf as the experiment.

To make a very long story short, Dan quit his job and committed to putting in 10,000 hours of deliberate practice with professional coaching and feedback. His goal: To qualify for the PGA Tour in six years.

Dan is 3,000 hours into his quest and has his handicap down to 6. Pretty cool.

But who has the resources to walk away from job and family responsibilities for six years and spend six hours a day six days a week pounding golf balls? Not I.

So being a man of modest desires, I offer a modest proposal. Over the next four months I will put in 100 hours of deliberate practice, with a small amount of professional coaching and feedback—I can’t afford a full-time professional coach—and break 80 from the white tees on a reasonably challenging course.

First, a little history. I began playing golf in my mid-forties and fell in love with the game immediately. My first efforts were pretty dismal, although not untypical.

I shot 114 on my first attempt at a real golf course, Turnberry Isle in Avventura, Florida.

However, I broke 100 only a few weeks later and was consistently shooting in the high 80s and low 90s within three months.

I’m reasonably fit and fairly athletic so I was able to model my swing after the professional golfers that most resembled me in height, weight and build.

After a moderate amount of practice my swing became the envy of all my playing partners and I routinely outdrove friends 10-to-15 years my junior. My scores, however, still hovered around 90.

In a do-it-yourself attempt to improve, I started tinkering and compensating. By 2007 my swing had degenerated into an ugly, un-athletic atrocity. Worse, I started hitting fat shots, skinny shots, shanks and even, on occasion, total whiffs. I came very close to giving up the game.

It was painful.

Then, during the 2009 U.S. Open at Bethpage I stepped into the American Express exhibit where GolfTec had set up a swing analyzer. I got strapped into their electronic harness and took my best 5-iron swing.

A few weeks later I got my results along with some tips on how to improve posture, alignment, take-away and follow through.

With a little practice my game came back to its familar mediocre state.

Then, I stumbled upon the Dan Plan which has inspired The Joe Plan which is designed to help players fulfill the modest desire to improve their game and get more enjoyment out of every round.

Today is my first day. I’ll start my practice routine, which I’ll describe in subsequent posts, and play nine holes later this afternoon to get a baseline score. I have never kept a USGA handicap index, but my intuition tells me it’s between 18 and 22.

Wish me luck.

Next installment: Professional feedback.

1 comment:

Gold On Runescape said...

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