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IMGCA Article - The Mental Game of Golf


Unique Mental Challenges for Women Golfers

Jeff Troesch, MA, LMHC

The game of golf provides trials for every player, independent of the player's gender. However, for some women in our society, there is a special challenge.

Women in the Western world have traditionally been raised and socialized to be cooperative, polite, feminine and "nice". There is implicit pressure that some women feel to make sure that they don't stand out too much or present themselves as trying to outdo or "embarrass" another woman. These messages can sometimes conflict with being competitive on the golf course.

In stark contrast, men have traditionally been reinforced and given full latitude to be competitive, win at all costs, and take down their "opponent". In the English language, there is a lot of overlap between adjectives that describe masculinity and those that describe a competitor. Time after time men can go head to head on the golf course, do whatever is necessary to beat their adversary, and then enjoy the 19th hole with their fellow competitor.

For many women, it doesn't feel that simple. For some there is a perceived or real fear that if they are too competitive in the golf arena, that they may suffer some social consequences. Some fear being labeled as "too competitive", "too serious", or worse. Some women feel as though they must choose between "social" golf and "competitive" golf, as there is not as much of an overlap as it feels there is for the men.

Admittedly, this is an internal conflict that some women do not experience, as they are in arenas where this doesn't feel like an issue. Others are perfectly content to let their golf development and improvement be a priority- without concern for the potential social ramifications.

Gratefully, society continues to move toward embracing the notion that a woman can be both competitive and feminine. However, for the women for whom this inner conflict exists, it is often helpful to recognize this clash and resolve to be purposeful about coming to peace with it.

What is your goal for your game? Is it more socially related? Is it more competitively related? Are there times when one takes priority over the other? Clarifying this objective in advance of the day at the club or course can help keep things in perspective and help goals be met more easily. At the very least it can help create an internal environment that feels less confused, thus allowing the game to be one that is more enjoyable and pleasurable.

Jeff Troesch, MA, LMHC is an internationally recognized expert in the mental side of golf. As the former Director of Sport Psychology for the David Leadbetter Golf Academies, Jeff has worked with thousands of golfers nationwide and brings a wealth of experience to seasoned golf professionals as well as the recreational golf lover. You may contact Jeff directly through his website,

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