The fact he got to a 2 handicap is evidence you can become a master. Especially since he suffered a physical limitation after about 6k hours.
Talent matters. Age matters. The ability to "get it" faster matters. Access makes you get it faster.
But to go from no game to a 2 handicap is proof extremely hard work pays off. To be in the top 5% of anything makes you elite even if it doesn't make you a pro in an extremely selective occupation. A top-5% engineer can work anywhere and make top money.
The way I'd put it is, this guy made himself be a competent golfer. He could average 2 over the course rating on the better half of his rounds. Not bad. Really, that's an achievement many golfers would dream of. He's broken 70, and what more is there to life?
I met a guy that started in his 60's after retiring. He hit scratch by the time he was 70.
Hearing that there's only 326,000 active golfers actually makes hitting the PGA Tour sound much more realistic than I would have thought. You only have to be one in two thousand. Edit: Thanks, no, it's 1 in 326,000, which makes way much more sense.
As a junior golfer I peaked at 2.4 (probably put in around 10,000 hours, though I obviously didn't keep track), and I agree that being scratch felt much much harder than going from 12 to 2, and +2 seemed impossibly far away.
Not to mention tour conditions for green speed, rough thickness, and length are much tougher than your average very good golf course. My home course at the time was a PGA Tour venue but theyd always close the course for a week to toughen things for the tour event.
For what it's worth, at a 2 handicap I believe you pass the bar to become a PGA of America professional (teaching pros and club pros), pending qualification exams and iirc 2 rounds of play test.
I'm curious how they'd toughen the course just for the tour event? Was it things like changing the size/position of hazards or were there more subtle differences?
1. Move the holes on the green. It's pretty easy to do, you basically have a giant cookie cutter that cuts a hole out, you drop in a cup and then move the bit you cut out into the old hole. On a well maintained course the seam will be gone in a few days. Most courses have a map of where the possible hole positions and a difficulty measure for each configuration.
2. Watering/not watering greens. If you don't water for a few days, the greens get harder and the ball doesn't slow down very much. On a sloped green this can make a decent landing turn into a gigantic overshoot.
3. Mowing height. A tall rough can suck energy out of your swing. A low green makes the ball roll fast. I'm not sure if they change the height for all areas of the course (especially if you're happy with your greens), but it seems trivial to let the rough get a little higher.
In your comment you mention moving the size/position of hazards. Moving bunkers is a bit of an ordeal and I'm not sure if they would do that for a PGA tour (but I could be wrong). Making the water level higher so the ponds get bigger seems easy enough though.
I basically did this over 6 years, 3-5 hours per day on a non-earning activity to eventually launch the business I now run. In the last 3 years I've averaged 60-70 hours per week at work, only recently earning close to my last salary (about 65% as of last check) as a Data Scientist.
It's doable enough. Just very hard. Can only really be done if it's your life's calling, which this was and I correctly identified it as such in year 2.
Being a Data Scientist gave me a huge leg up about understanding data structures and statistical analysis, huge in my field.
Formerly a software developer, I was able to install, configure, and hack together a workable WooCommerce/WordPress PHP/MySQL CMS that generated content and still is our main shop, selling millions of dollars of merchandise per year.
I used to work retail and retail management when I was young and putting myself through high school and college. Lessons about stocking, shipping, marketing, sales, logistics - all transferred into my online retail business.
None transfer perfectly, but all make an impact. True, I knew nothing about "sports science" at the outset. But I had a big leg up from my limited college education and my extensive work history. That cut the "10,000" hours down significantly.
This is how I like to think about my journey, stolen directly from the link I posted in these comments from Lyle McDonald (perhaps without the DEGREE of acerbic attitude...):
"Quick note: I’m turning off comments for this series of posts. The first reason is so I don’t have to delete the invariable trolling. The second is that I’m also not interested in atta boys or whatever. I spent the last 5 years pursuing this goal for myself. Whether folks supported it or thought I was an idiot was never relevant to what I was going to do. So neither positive nor negative feedback is needed nor wanted."
I've had to pivot the company twice, both times destroying much of what I thought it was going to be, once breaking my heart. But I've reached a zen-like mode as I grow older with the ability to simply... well, work. As it gets tougher, I get better at churning and slogging and fighting. I think that is the true way to know if something is your life's work, whether it is "successful" by any measure other than your own.
I'm lucky in that it generates revenue and I employ a lot of people and provide for them, and my family. But I can say without a doubt I'd be doing it anyway even if it didn't, because I did do that for 6-7 years not only without pay, but at negative returns given that I self-funded the entire venture.
Can you please elaborate on that point? How did you get better at that skill? Was it acceptance? Something else?
I really don't mean to turn it into a classist meme or anything, but working is just in my blood and my family's blood. The more you do anything, the better you get at it. Work under adverse conditions defines my life from 17-25 years old, so I got good at it.
> Formerly a software developer, I was able to install, configure, and hack together a workable WooCommerce/WordPress PHP/MySQL CMS that generated content and still is our main shop, selling millions of dollars of merchandise per year.
But anyone could really do that just following simple online guides/examples. CMS is child's play especially when you didn't even build one from scratch but just pieced ready made software together.
> I used to work retail and retail management when I was young and putting myself through high school and college. Lessons about stocking, shipping, marketing, sales, logistics - all transferred into my online retail business.
Sure, but you aren't an expert in any of those.
Of course cross domain knowledge helps but I think you are missing the point of the 10000 hour rule. It was a rule to make you an expert, not a jack of all trades.
He is not stating that the 10,000 rule will make you a jack of all trades. He is saying that he was able to cut down the "10,000" hours to less because of his transferable skills. S/he might not be an expert in these transferable skills, but s/he might be an expert in his business which is sports science.
But that's not what he described.
> S/he might not be an expert in these transferable skills, but s/he might be an expert in his business which is sports science.
Sure. We all have transferable skills. I don't think the 10000 hour rule meant that you start off with a blank slate and went from the basics of learning language, mathematics, etc.
The 10000 rule is part learning and part practice/muscle memory/etc.
In other words, it "includes" transferable knowledge.
If you know latin, you'll have an easier time getting competent in italian. But to become an expert in italian, you still need to go through the 10000 hours. That's the idea of 10000 hours. I don't believe in the 10000 hours mantra, but that's my understanding of it.
You are indeed missing the point.
That's simply not true. There's a huge sea of bad (out of date or simple ignorance) and non-working examples for all sorts of technology, which is amplified by any tech stack. Being able to sift and qualify that you're doing the right thing, or even starting over after a lengthy failure is not a common trait.
Just thinking back to my childhood in the 80s, I could totally believe this. I'd come home at 3:30, watch the entire Disney Afternoon until 5:00 when my mom would get home, pretend I hadn't been watching anything, then watch the news with her (6:00-6:30), have dinner, and then usually watch an hour or two more of primetime. That's about 4 hours a day, as a 9-year-old.
These were the habits of three whole generations (Silent, Boomers, and Gen-X) and half of another (Millenials). I don't watch any TV now, but that's because computer games and the Internet replaced it in my teenage years.
I also followed Dan's progress for the first couple of years. Here was a guy who was putting things to the test in a way that had not been done before. I expect if he writes a book on the topic I would not be the only one who bought it.
So it is with some surprise that I read that Dan didn't know how to 'end it'. He did an amazing thing, and the results weren't what he expected or hoped but they were authentic and that is important. I don't think anyone who followed his story would say "oh he just slacked off for years" or any of that. I would hope he could sit back and evaluate it not as someone who 'failed to make the PGA' but rather as someone who tested this hypothesis of 10K hours and found it wanting. That is an excellent achievement and I hope he can see it that way.
Side note: the Atlantic's shit-tastic anti-ad blocker wouldn't let me in even though I'm a paying subscriber, AND I whitelisted them, so here's the AMP link: https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.theatlantic.com/amp/article...
Golf at professional level is not just about skill, but also mental preparedness, fitness and probably a lot of other factors.
Nick Faldo did an interview with Joe Buck where they touched on the subject, and he said without the complete conviction that you're going to sink the putt/make the birdie/win the tournament - you'll never accomplish any of it.
At the Pro level, the mental aspect of the game is more important than the physical.
There's a reason everyone recommends "The Inner Game of Tennis" in this context.
I think the lesson to take away from Dan's experience and what the author of this book argues as well is that yes, practice can make you a lot better. But to be among the best in the world, you'll need to have some sort of genetic advantage.
But I think doing this was probably still the best thing I did in my life. Doing something that seems out of reach and then becoming competent is great. Even without having success in the sense of winning.
I started doing kickboxing but my leg speed/flexibility was a very limiting factor and I sucked at it. I would be floored by people that were training for half the time I was, but my hand and upper body agility was suited very well for a 'in-fighter' kind of style in boxing. I changed and was able to very quickly start having boxing matches and winning them.
I truly believe different sports require different body types (fast/slow, tall/short, etc etc) and sometimes is just the problem of finding the right sport for you to be proficient in. (I was a very good goal keeper when I was a teenager, top in the region, but when the other kids started to have their growth spurts and I didn't, my 'skill' compared with the other kids started to decline.)
I'm inclined to wonder if they were lucky & came with it, for whatever reason. Like, they happened to grow up playing basketball and shoveling dirt, so they have years of formative training already.
I heard an interesting hypothesis once about ski stars- basically, that many pro skiers today had just the right foot & shin geometry as kids such that ski boots fit really well. A kid whose foot is NOT a great fit for the boots, might have plenty of latent skill & ability, but nobody custom-fits boots for kids. That's not to denigrate the pro skiers today, just to say, everyone comes to a sport with a different background, and having certain lucky prerequisites help you stand out right from the beginning.
Great comment. Directly spoke to me. Thanks for taking the time to post it.
I practice a 'non fluff' variant, emphasizing lots of 'real world testing' against uncooperative opponents ;-)
Did you stop ? If so, why ?
Steph Curry (basketball star) carries a 2 handicap so just having athletic talent can really make a difference, give him <2000 hours of practice and I'd bet he could play on the web.com tour.
But not if you practice hard enough to dislocate your knee in (the current record is) 2 months. Unless you're a kid, you need regular, long (as in a week minimum) breaks in practice. Every few months.
Moreover, I wonder if he'd become "automatically" better after a downtime of say 2 months. I could imagine his brain still has a lot of processing to do from this extreme time.
* Professionals miss the cut n times in a row, then win next tournament.
* The ridiculous "tips" videos with all the machinations and methods they put forth to help you with your game - I'd rather play Twister.
* Equipment - costs and technology changes. Drivers are getting closer to looking like a sawed-off bowling ball attached to a shaft.
However, I do enjoy watching the pros play and Spieth's 13th hole in the British Open and follow up was a memorable event.
The PGA has to be commended for making public a great amount of super-detailed data for use in analysis. I wish the bigger sports did this.
The book "Every Shot Counts" by Mark Broadie may help guide you to improve your game, if you are interested in a data analysis approach.
But this is sort of a misinterpretation anyway. The point isn't that 10k hours is enough to make you a master in isolation, it's that masters don't get to be masters before 10k. At the top end of elite practitioners of any art, talent still matters.
I read this book. It is well written and better researched than outliers by far.
Deliberate practice and perceptual exposure can cut this down rather much.
With that said, I think there are two hard requirements for golf:
The first one comes with the second as someone who has f* you money can make a lot of time. I know someone who "retired" at 40 for two years to exclusively practice golf. He eventually went back to work, not because he had to but because he was bored (serial entrepreneurs have to start companies... it's an addiction)
I unfortunately am in the middle. I have been able to spend hundreds of dollars on the sport not thousands like some people I know. I have a hitting net at home I can go in my yard so I don't need to go to the driving range and that helps (a few hundred dollars well spent) but if I went to the course every weekend I'd be broke in no time. And I most certainly can't go on "Golf Vacations" half way around the country (though if I happen to be on vacation near a course I will go).
 I found my shot improves ridiculously if I step back, breath, and stop thinking so hard about it. I've spent a long time thinking about shots only to slice it then gone up to the tee and swung without giving it a second thought and hit a perfect shot... repeatedly.
I side with "Effort bound" as a life motto. To challenge myself, if not for correctness relatively to the reality.
The main problem with this endeavor is the definition of success. The outcome is strictly binary. That is either he makes a pro tour or not. Apart from publicity, there is not a whole lot that can be redeemed if Dan gets, say, only 90% there.
There are numerous ways one can challenge himself or herself and benefit enormously along the way to the top 6% in the respective field. For example, if it were finance, then he would have been very wealthy. If it were triathlon, then he'd be in great physical health. Etc.
In real life going for it is not the only thing that leads to success. It's also choosing wisely what you do.
Why not apply that mindset to commercial photography, the field he was already in?
The book Mastery goes into much more detail, where it repeats that 10,000 hours is necessary, but there are other components to mastery. Among them is mentorship and creating some form of masterwork.
The pro athletes have gone far past the 10,000 hours mark, but chances are they also had mentors and they've also taken some risks and invented their own styles. Keep practicing.
You could spend 10,000 hours playing golf but it's highly unlikely you have spent 10,000 hours in deliberate practice.
Deliberate practice is the relentless drill on areas you need to improve that sit outside your comfort zone. A game of golf, like anything, will include a variety of skills, some comfortable, some not so.
I can't speak for the validity of the research but it's not as simple as doing something for 10,000 hours. The idea is to breakdown everything that you need to do in a golf game, analyse objectively where you stand on each and relentlessly nail the weakest areas.
It's not fun, it's hard and I guess the key thing with talent is that it makes all of that a little bit easier plus a burning passion for the bigger picture (I wonder if that's the source of talent - a burning passion and some other innate advantages)?
it's literally just up to your ability and nothing else
Read the greatest kung fu manual ever written, "Five Lessons" by Ben Hogan, or use some other book. I met one kid that modeled his swing off of YouTube videos and with that got himself to a scratch handicap.
The real cost is time.
$3300 is not in any way "cheap" for the majority of Americans.
I like HN, but it's disheartening how many of my peers in tech seem to think that a West Coast programmer's salary is normal.
That is not a lot to live on. And, since we're talking about the median, 50% of the earning population are going to be left with even less than that.
Hmm. You could say much the same about tennis, surely?
I suspect the biggest cost at the top level is coaching time: Is it possible to get good enough to match the elite players without access to a coach who is good enough to train players at that level?
Children's sports is a process where you have a bunch of kids play and the coach looks to see which kids have an affinity for the sport. It is essentially a weed-out process that eliminates most kids.
I was an over achieving 6'2" power forward in junior college. Led the team in rebounding and blocked shots, but was always matched against guys 6'5" and taller, and 20 or more pounds of muscle heavier.
So I don't care how much practice I did under what regime, I had already found my limits. 6'-2".