Weekend hacker Eric Haughan aims to transform his golf game in 2018. In the first of a new series, the 12.4 handicapper outlines his ambitious targets as he signs up for lessons with Ireland's leading coach.


Golf, it really is a funny ol’ game. By ‘funny’, I mean a right royal pain in the hind quarters most of the time. Funny in the way your mate getting a football in the groin is funny. By funny, I mean I hate it.

Often times I wonder what unspeakable crimes I may have committed in a past life to be born a wannabe golfer and an Aston Villa fan. There’s only so much disappointment a man can take. Is there any other pursuit in life that can tease and tantalise quite like golf? 

Promise so much and deliver, often, so very little… Playing Euromillions, maybe??

For the best part of 15 years I’ve enjoyed more downs than ups on the golf course yet, all the while, the game cruelly shows me occasional flashes of competence – even, once in a blue moon, the merest hint of actual talent!

So here I am, fresh off another year where I followed up tidy rounds in the low 80s with soul-destroying scores in the 100s and ‘retired’ my clubs at least a half dozen times before, of course, being tempted back by this mystifying temptress.

Now, just to further torture myself, I’ve decided to ‘get (somewhat) serious’ about the silly game and given myself a target to shoot at. After a lifetime of mid-handicapping with those all-too-brief glimpses of ability, I’ve set myself the challenge of finally reaching a single-figure handicap.

Like a junior football team who have won the Championship over and over again while propping up the bar of their local boozer, I’ve had the ‘get serious’ conversation with myself many a time regarding my golf.

I’ve then usually lay back down on the couch until the urge to do any meaningful practice passed. My current 12.4 handicap has been holding relatively steady for the past three years but, as Rocky said, if you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always got.

So I’ve gone out on a limb, somewhat, and put myself in the hands of renowned coach and GUI Godfather, Neil Manchip.

For many reasons I chose this Scotsman. Firstly, he coaches that Shane Lowry chap, and he seems handy. Secondly, the mother was born in Scotland so there is a Celtic kinship there. And thirdly, as my mate helpfully explained: "If Manchip can’t sort you out, it probably means you’re f***ed altogether."

So at least, either way, we’ll know.

Neil Manchip (L) is the coach of Shane Lowry, so surely he can help Eric

Having brought the handicap down from 16 to 12 about four years ago, I have found the next step a frustrating struggle. We all have a golfing mate who rips one down the first fairway on his way to a par-par start, only to appear dazed and confused on the sixth tee when he’s since lost four golf balls, spent 20 minutes in a bunker, burst into tears twice and in general hasn’t been able to hit an elephant’s a*se with a banjo.

Well, I’m that guy.

The kind of chap who can breeze through the front nine like Graeme McDowell and stagger round the other side.

Fleeting flashes of brilliance dwarfed by many moments of mediocrity. Nobody loves a quick-fix more than a weekend hacker.

You name it, I’ve tried it. Instructional videos, YouTube gurus, swing aids, sports psychology books, fancy tees, fancy clubs, fancy golf gear, fancy balls!

I’ve tried everything short of voodoo – and that’s only because I’m not mad about needles.

"He’ll get inside your head, that Manchip lad. He’s good at that," one colleague advised. "I bloody hope so," says I.

Although he might not like what he finds in there. No backing out now, Neil. And there it is. The search – nay, quest – for golfing respectability begins.

Sounds easy, lets do it!

Follow Eric's quest for a single-figure handicap on RTÉ Sport Online in the coming months.