Iona Stephen explains how golf changed her life and why The R&A 'Iona Investigates Golf and Health' is so important to her.
Launched at the beginning of May, The R&A’s ‘Iona Investigates Golf and Health’ is a three-part series with broadcaster and presenter Iona Stephen.
Iona speaks with famous faces from other sports – including former Liverpool and Republic of Ireland footballer Jason McAteer and ex-England cricket international James Taylor – leading medical professionals, fitness instructors and club golfers to understand how golf improves general fitness, eases stress and anxiety, and offers social interaction.
The series took 12 months to put together and covers an area that is very important to Iona. Here she tells us a little bit more about why the project was so personal.
Finding and falling in love with golf
In the first episode, we start by going back to the golf course where I started playing golf and look at why I started playing. I didn’t start playing golf until I was 19-year-old when I was at university.
Golf came into my life at a time when I was experiencing a lot of anxiety and stress. Part of that was to do with the pressure of being a student, everyone experiences that in a different way but it was more from the pressure of being a young person and knowing what I wanted to do with my life.
I really didn’t know what I wanted to do having gone to Glasgow to study Architecture and I was really finding it very stressful. It was tough making all these serious life decisions when I wasn’t sure where life was taking me.
At the time I played international hockey and was invited to go and play golf by a couple of girlfriends. I wasn’t sure it was going to be for me but they reassured me it was a lot like hockey, just with a smaller ball. Within four hits and two holes I was hooked.
I was absolutely gobsmacked at what a wonderful game it was. It was great to be able to get out of the city and be in the middle of the woods surrounded by a beautiful country park.
Getting out on the golf course, life slowed down. In that moment when I was playing golf, I felt like I was exactly where I needed to be doing exactly what I needed to do.
Returning to Ranfurly Castle
The golf club in question was Ranfurly Castle. It was the first time I had been back in over 10 years, so it was quite emotional. It’s amazing to think that when I joined the golf club I had no idea where my life would take me and how golf would change my life.
It wasn’t too long before I decided I wanted to become a professional. That then obviously changed my relationship with golf because it became my job. But for me golf was always my place of happiness.
A career-ending injury
That was until I got my wrist injury. That was a difficult time because my release, my outlet, my peace was no longer an option for me and I didn’t really know where else to turn. Having found golf and fallen in love with it, it was difficult to find a replacement.
I really got into cycling and running when I had my injury and still love both to this day. However, they don’t give me the sanctuary that golf does.
I missed it terribly and was very low because a doctor told me I would never swing another golf club in my life. Those were the words that actually came out of his mouth and it was very difficult to hear.
The impact of golf on your health
But fast forward a few years and a few stem cells later and slowly over time I was able to play nine holes and then 18 holes again.
Even though with work I am on the road a lot, I know that when I go home, the first thing I will do when I wake up is head out for nine holes on the links, whether that’s on my own or with my family. It’s still my sanctuary to this day. I am so grateful that golf is a part of my life. The impact that golf can have on your health is monumental.
Ten years ago when I was getting into golf, I dragged my Dad to Crail Golf Club to sign him up and now it’s a huge part of his life too. He plays, he caddies sometimes and has made some great friends. He plays more golf than I could ever do and it’s been transformative in his life.
Being part of this R&A series on Golf and Health where we were able to speak to a wide variety of people just confirmed what I and a lot of golfers already know – that golf can change and improve your quality of life.