A Unique Perspective on Dress Codes in Golf

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.

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 However, the stigma attached to modern day dress codes in golf is often outdated and misguided.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.

Identity

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?

Tradition

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.

Performance 

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?

Final thought

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.

Happy golfing!

Josh

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  14 comments for “A Unique Perspective on Dress Codes in Golf

  1. October 22, 2015 at 6:54 am

    Amen!

  2. October 22, 2015 at 11:22 am

    I think how you dress is an investment in the sport as well. If you take the time to consider what you’re wearing to a golf course, you become invested in the sport. That investment makes it more likely that you’ll respect the course you’re playing on, and the people playing around you. You’re less likely, as an example, to dig your putter into a green after a missed putt, or to drive your cart in areas that aren’t permitted. It changes the frame of mind you’re in when you’re out there.

    Also your point of dressing like a golfer makes you feel like a golfer is a valid one. I once had a guy ask me why I would ever wear my golf cleats while practicing off a mat at the range. My answer was simple. Because that’s how I would play a round. I wouldn’t ever play a round of golf in flip flops, so why would I practice in them?

    I’m all for a dress code.

    • October 22, 2015 at 12:07 pm

      Matt,

      Awesome point about becoming invested in the sport. You are definitely more inclined to be respectful of it.

      Practice like you play…only seems to make sense! Psychologists always talk about trying to simulate playing conditions, or simulate pressure when you practice so when you are actually playing it doesn’t feel as foreign. I think this would fall under the same logic.

      Thanks for weighing in!

      Cheers
      Josh

  3. Beth
    October 22, 2015 at 12:29 pm

    I think you are definitely right about the “look good, feel good, play good” philosophy. There are days when I might not be playing my best, but at least I know I’m rocking my outfit! Some of my friends who are new to the game also seem to have this philosophy and although they are just learning, they are keen to look good doing it and have the perfect outfit lined up for those occasions where it is required.

    Women’s golf clothes have really come a long ways in my lifetime. I think the ladies on the LPGA have really helped with this by showing just how fashionable (and functional) women’s golf clothes can be.

    Lots of perspectives about dress codes out there, but I am definitely for them.

    • October 22, 2015 at 12:58 pm

      Beth,

      You bring up another great point about your friends who are new to golf. Picking out or shopping for a snazzy new outfit adds to the whole experience for them, so they’re investing in the game, and are more likely to have fun and stick with it. Hello ladies, it opens up a whole new realm of shopping!

      Thanks for commenting 🙂

      Cheers
      Josh

  4. October 22, 2015 at 6:02 pm

    Josh

    What a great post! I totally agree that a dress code helps everyone! Industry, courses and players all benefit from a dress code. I prefer courses with dress codes, it just feels different.

    I would suggest that players like John Daly do not help your argument, but I will give him a pass (he is one of my favorites)

    I also agree with Beth that “look good, feel good, play good” is a side of golf often overlooked. Remember what Billy Crystal said in his song: You Look You Look Marvelous – Nando, don’t be a schnook,It’s not how you feel, It’s how you look!

    I am all for dress codes!

    Cheers
    Jim

    • October 24, 2015 at 10:08 am

      Jim,

      Thank you! Love rooting for JD too, but yeah, his golf attire…

      Billy Crystal is wise beyond words…haha, thanks for sharing!

      Cheers
      Josh

  5. October 27, 2015 at 8:45 pm

    I am all for dressing the part. It respects the tradition of the game. Plus there are very modern takes on golf wear that look very smart. Ian Poulter, Nike, puma and J Lindeberg to name a few.

    • October 28, 2015 at 12:25 pm

      Linley,

      Good points, thanks for weighing in!

      Cheers
      Josh

  6. November 23, 2015 at 12:16 pm

    Hi Josh,

    I’m all for a dress code in golf even though I realize it may stall the growth in some areas of the population to an extent. I’m a bit of a traditionalist so I like to see golfers look smart on the course just like the top professionals do.

    I always like to be well dressed as I feel better and if I do this it gives me my best chance of playing well.

    Cheers

    • November 23, 2015 at 5:52 pm

      Hi Troy,

      Happy to hear you’re on the same page! Although it may stall growth in isolated cases, I think with an adjustment of attitude across the board it can actually grow the game and get more people hooked on the game for life, as opposed to just dabbling. Thanks for weighing in!

      Cheers
      Josh

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