‘It May Sound Ridiculous, But Golf Can Play Havoc With My Mind And Bring Out All Kinds Of Insecurities’

Find out why our Women's Editor Alison Root experienced an unenjoyable 9 holes

Alison Root
(Image credit: Golf Monthly - Howard Boylan)

I've given myself a good talking to on the golf course countless times: “Don’t worry about what other people think.” I realise this is likely to be a common thought for many players, especially beginner golfers. But after over 25 years of playing golf, you’d think I’d be able to handle my emotions without feeling like a wreck on the course. Unfortunately, a recent 9 holes highlighted that I really need to get a grip; otherwise, it's a miserable couple of hours.

Golf is a selfish sport; I know that. Playing partners couldn’t care less about my game; I know that too. But when you’re playing with three very good golfers, that’s when imposter syndrome sets in if I’m not on my A-game from the get-go.

I should have known better than to use an electric trolley when others in the group are using a cart, even if they insist they’re happy for you to walk. It doesn’t work and should be written into the rules of golf cart etiquette.

My first tee shot was topped, my second shot scuffed, so I’m now power-walking and panicking as I see them waiting in their carts for me to reach their drives. “So what? Chill out,” I tried to tell myself, but I wasn’t feeling it inside. We all know there’s no way to hit good shots if you’re uptight and unable to swing freely.

First hole out of the way, and breathe - it will get better. But the harder I tried, the worse it got. My usual consistency, especially off the tee, had deserted me, so I felt in big trouble, and I couldn’t even blame the set of hire clubs. Although true, I avoided the typical golfer’s comment to save embarrassment, “I played really well yesterday,” knowing that my playing partners, in the nicest possible way, wouldn’t want to hear it!

Heightening my anxiety, I began trying to interpret their thoughts and conversations as they sat in the cart while I was striding along the fairways, pleading with myself to make the next shot a decent one. Without any evidence whatsoever, due to the historical cultural differences between men and women in golf, I couldn’t help but think my standard of play would probably confirm their preference for limited mixed golf!

With all these thoughts swirling around in my head, how could I possibly hit good shots? Fortunately, there were some, and I quickly looked up, desperate for approval after so many bad ones.

Reading this, to some it might sound ridiculous, but golf can play havoc with my mind and bring out all kinds of insecurities. These were my issues, not theirs; they are lovely people and were concentrating on their golf, not mine. The worst thing is that I spoiled those 9 holes for myself - I couldn’t wait to get off the course. It’s ridiculous because as soon as I was enjoying a beer with the guys afterwards, golf was forgotten. I realised how silly I’d been and wished I could have relaxed with a different mindset.

You cannot help your makeup, and I’m sure many can relate to this scenario. I know I will find myself in a similar situation again because my golf isn’t perfect, and we must always remember that neither is anyone else’s. I will try really hard not to let my mind run riot because, believe it or not, I play golf for fun and want to smile and enjoy it.

Alison Root

Alison Root has over 25 years experience working in media and events, predominantly dedicated to golf, in particular the women’s game. Until 2020, for over a decade Alison edited Women & Golf magazine and website, and is now the full-time Women's Editor for Golf Monthly. Alison is a respected and leading voice in the women's game, overseeing content that communicates to active golfers from grassroots through to the professional scene, and developing collaborative relationships to widen Golf Monthly's female audience across all platforms to elevate women's golf to a new level. She is a 16-handicap golfer (should be better) and despite having had the fantastic opportunity to play some of the best golf courses around the world, Kingsbarns in Scotland is her favourite.