Dress Codes On The Course

Dress Well Or Play Well?

A great debate rages in the world of golf. It has nothing to do with how you play the game, but it has everything to do with what you wear on the course. Whether or not golf courses should have dress codes, and just how strict those dress codes should be, is a topic that divides the world of golf.

Some golfers go to the course influenced by the fashions worn by the PGA and LPGA players. These organizations do have their own dress codes, although the LPGA code is somewhat more liberal than the PGA’s. As stated in the FAQs section of the LPGA Web site, their dress code “allow[s] sleeveless and collarless shirts to be worn during play. There is no specific length requirement on shorts or skirts. Denim, cutoffs, workout clothes are not allowed.” The PGA dress code requires players to wear pants (not jeans) and a collared shirt. But other golfers, who may be casual golfers and not interested in televised golf, may wonder what’s appropriate to wear on the course and what is not.

Most golf courses, even municipal ones, have some sort of dress code. The dress code may only state that guys must wear their shirts at all times, but the unofficial expectation is that dress will be appropriate. The larger debate grapples with the idea of stricter dress codes. There are a fair number of golfers who believe that all male golfers should wear collared shirts and all female golfers should wear shirts that are either collared or have sleeves. There are also many golfers who believe golfers should be able to wear whatever they want—jeans, cutoffs, tank tops, whatever.

The proponents of both sides of the dress code issue are at odds not just over clothes, but over a fundamental belief of what the game of golf means. Supporters of strict dress codes feel that golf is a gentleman’s game, and being so, players should be appropriately attired. For these supporters, the game loses a certain sense of tradition and dignity when courses are full of players in jeans and T-shirts.

Opponents of strict dress codes argue that the elitist nature of such fashion edicts could keep whole socioeconomic classes of people off the golf course. They contend that it doesn’t matter what people wear; players can enjoy the game of golf wearing all kinds of clothing.

Private clubs and high-end public courses are more likely to follow a strict dress code. Members at private clubs pay their dues and expect a certain level of decorum, even from guests, which includes dressing appropriately. It’s harder to enforce a strict dress code at a municipal course because of the diversity of players and the fact that it’s a public course—if you pay your greens fees, you should be able to play dressed however you want.

If the golf industry is trying to increase the numbers of golfers, it may hurt the cause to restrict itself to players who can buy J. Crew khakis and Ralph Lauren polos. Instead of focusing on clothing, golf enthusiasts should focus on introducing others to the game and sharing the fundamentals, including knowing and following the rules and practicing proper etiquette. What is more important to the continuation of golf—practicing, keeping pace, and behaving well or wearing pants and collared shirts?



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