I grew up in a small Saskatchewan town of about 1,400 people. I learned to play golf with the help of my Dad on a 9 hole municipal golf course. There were no dress codes. Heck, there weren’t even tee times. It was a great place to grow up and learn the game. It was inexpensive, ridiculously accessible, and you could show up any time and wear anything you wanted, as long as you were wearing something. Courses like this are important for the game, and I am very thankful I had such easy access to golf growing up.
I watched lots of golf on TV as a kid. I idolized Tiger Woods, and therefore wanted to dress like him. Nobody told me to, I just wanted to. My Dad would take me to Old Navy and I would pick out some “2 for $20” polos (or whatever it was), and I’d make sure to get a red one to be like Tiger. I’d tuck it into my shorts and off I’d go to the course, looking like a golfer and feeling like a golfer. It was intuitive to me — I’m playing golf, so I should wear golf clothes. I loved the game, was proud to be a golfer, so I wanted to look like one. If I was playing a different sport, I wouldn’t wear my golf clothes, I’d wear the clothes or uniform appropriate for that sport.
Recently (sort of), I was asked a question on Twitter about attire for golf, and after reading some subsequent responses and pondering the topic for a while, I realized I couldn’t sum up my thoughts in a simple tweet or two. I promised a blog post on the topic, and at long last, here it is.
— Greg Griffith (@griffygolf) September 11, 2015
— Todd Halpen (@GolfProYYC) September 11, 2015
Regarding Jennifer’s question, I don’t have a direct answer. Her intent to wear comfortable, athletic clothing on a golf course is obviously logical. I imagine that the majority of golf courses which enforce a dress code wouldn’t have a problem with her choice of attire. If you aren’t wearing jeans and don’t look like a slob with a baggy, untucked shirt, you’re probably not going to get hassled at most courses. When it comes to dress codes and whether they are lame or not, I have a lot more thoughts.
I realize not everyone grew up watching golf as a kid and has wanted to dress like the pros ever since. However, the stigma attached to modern day dress codes in golf is often outdated and misguided. It’s not about making things difficult. It’s not about it being non-inclusive, or some sort of superiority attitude. Golf clubs are offering one main service — golf. I don’t see anything wrong with a golf club setting dress code standards to create an environment for golfers that upholds the traditions of the game in a modern way.
It surprises me that more people don’t intuitively want to dress like a “golfer” when taking up golf, and look dapper on the course. In fact, I believe there are more advantages to setting and abiding by dress code standards in golf than there are from resisting them.
What differentiates one sport from another? The rules, the scoring, the equipment, the playing field, and yes, even the attire you wear. Whether it be uniforms, protective equipment, or footwear, every sport is unique and the attire that is worn helps give it an identity.
I have a friend who joined a rec hockey team for the first time. He spent a tremendous amount of time researching gear, sticks, and making sure he had the proper jersey and hockey socks. He even asked me how I tape my socks, and if it is better to have the tongues of his skates sticking out or tucked under his knee pads. The last thing he wanted was to be the only guy on the ice that didn’t look like a true hockey player.
When it comes to golf, there is a lot more resistance when it comes to people dressing the part. Nobody seems to think that wearing a hockey jersey, a baseball uniform, or a rugby shirt instead of your jeans and t-shirt is lame when you participate in that respective sport — so why is there resistance when a golf club expects you to wear golf attire when golfing?
Our game has a great sense of tradition. Traditions help enrich experiences, events, and sports. Golf attire, although greatly evolved from its origins, is one of the traditions of our game. Rather than fighting it, why not embrace this tradition in its modernized form. Wimbledon has white. The Masters has the green jacket. Your friend expects you to wear a tuxedo or dress to their wedding. Golf courses want you to tuck your golf shirt in. Deal with it.
Growing the game
The golf industry is struggling in certain parts of the world. People are trying to grow the game and get more people out on golf courses, and more importantly, keep them there. A dress code might deter the odd person from playing a one-off round, but if they’re deterred that easily, they’re not likely to become a regular supporter of the game. If someone is genuinely interested in the game, showing them how easy it is to get into the proper gear will make them feel like a golfer, give them a sense that they belong on the golf course with everyone else, and in turn will be more likely to get hooked and support the industry for life.
Instead of just trying to get people to play golf, we should make more efforts to make people feel like golfers. Instead of encouraging them to borrow the game, open a door for them to become part of the game and its traditions. Once they get the bug, there is no turning back.
Golf is cool, and so are the clothes
There are an unprecedented amount of golf apparel companies in existence. There have never been more options for golfers when it comes to golf apparel. Whether you’re a hipster, traditionalist, or prefer the athletic look, someone is out there making golf clothes to suit your style. Gone are the days of pleated pants and baggy golf shirts that all look the same. Being a golfer opens up a whole new realm of carving out your personal style.
Sure, golf clothes can be expensive. However, there are a lot of affordable options out there if you shop smart. Costco often sells Callaway golf shirts or shorts for as little as $25. Pro shops and golf stores will put on sales at the end of the season. I have an inordinate amount of quality golf shirts, and I don’t recall paying full price for a single one. Golf shops still make money. You look good on the course. Everyone wins.
I’m not just talking about the performance of the fabric. Although, that is a big selling feature too — from odour free shirts to lightweight materials that wick sweat away, golf apparel has come a long way. It has never been so comfortable and performance oriented. Looking good and feeling like you belong on the golf course will help your confidence and put a swagger in your step. Just like your body language, the way you dress says a lot about you. The “look good, feel good, play good” theory has real science behind it. Golf is hard. Why not utilize every advantage you can?
There is nothing tricky or unattainable about following a dress code in golf. Generally they are pretty simple. They don’t discriminate against how much you paid for your clothes. They’re in place to create an atmosphere enjoyable for golfers and instill a sense of pride and tradition in the game. They might ask you to tuck your golf shirt in, but take my (and my wife’s) word for it, whatever your style, you’ll look a lot better for it. It might even help your game.
Dress codes are everywhere in our lives, whether written or unwritten. I don’t have a problem with a golf course being one of those places. Like it or not, the way you dress influences the way people view you, and the way you feel about yourself.
Are dress codes lame? I don’t think so.
Should you look good and go golfing? Absolutely.
I’m not saying every golf course should have a dress code, but if you look sharp when you go golfing, chances are you will never have to worry about it.