Weekend hacker Eric Haughan aims to transform his golf game in 2018. In the second instalment of the series, the 12.4 handicapper endures a frustrating return to the course and enjoys his first lesson with a golfing guru.


"A journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step."

So goes the ancient Chinese proverb. And after a belated opening round for this 2018 golfing season, it’s probably accurate to say I’m about a thousand miles from scratch-handicap golf.

But, we all have to start somewhere – and an unseasonably mild February afternoon at lovely Laytown & Bettystown Golf Club in Meath was as good a place as any to begin our 1600km mission (a little metric system there for the Europeans).

I am now entering my tenth year of penance – sorry, membership – with the Dublin Journalists’ Golf Society. What we lack as a group in golfing mastery, we more than make up for in general mischief and golf-related gallows humour.

Save for maybe the Playboy Mansion, a more eclectic bunch of swingers you’ll do well to find.

We began our annual ‘circuit’, as always, at the beautiful Royal County venue. Having split the first fairway on the way to a routine par, yours truly walked – nay trotted – to the second tee convinced that single-figure golf was as inevitable as death, taxes… and the treble-bogey I eventually racked up on the second.

At such times of mini-crisis, I oftentimes take comfort in a former colleague and golfing partner’s favourite phrase: "As my dear ol’ Gran used to say, God rest her… ‘that’s golf’!"


Probably more important than all that, however, is balancing expectations and aspirations with the main reason we all play golf – fun!

And so the day went, in a similar Jekyll and Hyde manner as those first two holes of the year. Plenty of signs of life - and a few old hard-to-kick habits rearing their ugly head.

My first lesson of the year with Shane Lowry's coach Neil Manchip  was as informative as it was interesting. A colleague recently described the laidback Scot as "unflappable" – and it’s true, the man cannot be flapped.

We discussed goal setting – but we were cognisant of the fact that achievement of a goal is merely a by-product of sticking to the process. Jim Gavin would’ve loved it, which is ironic, considering Neil is a staunch Mayo fan.

We worked on a few basics, beginning with chipping, on to pitching and then the full swing. Our lesson was thankfully devoid of too much technical instruction and dealt more with what goes right in my swing when I hit a good shot. We also investigated what tends to go wrong when I send a drive bounding down the R151 – as I did from the 15th tee at Laytown & Bettystown.

Baby steps.

Probably more important than all that, however, is balancing expectations and aspirations with the main reason we all play golf – fun!

As much as I hope keeping a public account of my trials and tribulations on the course keeps me honest, so to speak, and ensures I stay motivated to keep trying to chip away at the handicap, the last thing we want to do is suck all the craic out of it.

Neil cautioned against this when I first discussed this blog with him and it was something that was already in the back of my mind. As he himself said: "We often play our best golf when we least expect it."

It’s a trap I possibly have fallen into before when originally nibbling the handicap down to its current 12. There were weeks where I would shoehorn in an unplanned round of competitive golf because I was "only .3 away from 14" etc and the result was usually a .1 back instead!

It goes back to sticking to the process and, as golfers love to say, ‘staying in the present’. Deciding that I want to reach single figures is all well and good, but it has introduced what Neil terms a "result constraint" to my golfing goals.

And that, in itself, leaves you something of a hostage to fortune. All that being said, on we go with eyes wide open, plenty of room for optimism and still much to work on down the range while I dodge domestic duties.

The mornings are threatening to get milder and the evenings beginning to lengthen. Ah yes, real golfing weather may be only a short, driveable par four away. Lads, as the Carpenters sang: We’ve only just begunnn…

Follow Eric's quest for a single-figure handicap on RTÉ Sport Online in the coming months. You can read the first instalment here.