If you just watched the Master's Tournament in Augusta, Georgia, you saw the second-youngest player ever to win. That is a pretty good way for a young man to spend the next year.

But for most golfers, like most young baseball players, the reality is much different. 

An EPGA tour player for 12 years commented to Dr. John Fry of Myerscough College on the life: "The word that jumps in my head is lonely".

Another golfer said, "One of the biggest things you give up, and I suppose you do in a lot of professional sports, is your friends - your best friends and the people you were at college with - one of the things you miss really. I've got some good friends out there [on tour] but I have found it hard - a lonely place. For example when you are traveling with four guys and they're playing well and you're playing awful, you're missing cuts and they're winning. They've got the highs and the good emotions of that and you've got the lows. You're like one of a kind in that sense." 

Fry told the British Sociological Association's annual conference in Glasgow that he interviewed 20 professionals, including Ryder Cup players and a former world number one, to reveal the "particular stresses" behind the glamor of the game. 

One big factor in the loneliness was that the number of tournaments held abroad had increased over recent years. "The impact of the increasingly global nature of professional golf tournaments means that players spend long periods of time away from home and many experience intense feelings of loneliness, isolation and perceptions of being cut off from the 'real world' during travel time and even at the tournament itself." 

Although players formed superficial friendships to help ease the boredom and loneliness from being away from their families, "players would avoid confiding in other players at all costs. Emotional support was something of a closed shop and the general consensus was if players were struggling on or off the course then generally their colleagues would be happy they were having a hard time. 

One player on the second-level Challenge Tour said that golf was "a very selfish sport and a very individual sport. Very selfish. Be in it for yourself. Don't really care what anybody thinks, what anybody else does. You've got to be very disciplined and not led astray or anything - find what works for you and do your own thing, don't be a sheep or anything." 

This isolation was increased by lack of contact with their families. One golfer who had won six of the elite European tour events told Dr Fry: "I don't see my kids that much - they are too old to travel now, to be able to skip school. I miss my wife, my kids, my parents. I don't see them enough, and that's what is difficult."

The former world number one said that "the hardest part of tour life is being away from the family".

Fry also found that most professional golfers outside of the main European tour were struggling financially. Although those at the top earned millions of pounds each year, "the reality is that the vast majority fare comparatively poorly," he said. While top-level golfers who played well enough to stay on the European Tour circuit could make a good living, for those in the lower level Challenge and EuroPro tours it was difficult to break even. To earn £60,000 at the Challenge tour, with tax and touring £30,000 expenses to pay, a player needed to finish in the top 20 of the rankings list, out of around 400 players - most earned much less and many lost money. Those on the EuroPro tour were even less likely to break even.

"The take home message from this research is that it clearly takes a particular type of person to cope with the lifestyle of touring professional golf".

Fry is Research Lead at the International Institute for Golf Education at Myerscough College. His co-researcher on the research was Dr Daniel Bloyce, Head of Sport at the University of Chester.