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golf dress codes

‘Recognised golf attire’: The three words that show clubs are moving on dress codes

Those infernal lists of what you can and can’t wear on the course are becoming rarer. Has there been a sea-change in the way our clubhouses approach golf clothing?
 

You’ll never be able to convince me that the length of your socks, or whether they’re white, black, blue, or even multi-coloured, is important. It doesn’t matter.

Neither should it be an issue that your trousers have got an oddly-shaped pocket – or that the hems roll up towards the ankles.

I’ve said it many times before, but it’s just completely insignificant to me. I do understand, though, that to some of you out there golf dress codes are important – that they’re part of a cultural tradition, a sense of identity, or a just a desire to conform as a collective.  

I’ll also accept I can be a hypocrite. I’ll rail about socks on the one hand, while happily donning a shirt and jacket to tuck into the post-round lunch at somewhere plush like Swinley Forest.

There are traditions in the game that are worth preserving, but there are also others where it’s making a fuss for the sake of it.

When Wearside Golf Club found themselves the source of international attention after doubling down on a ban on hoodies in the wake of Tyrrell Hatton’s BMW Championship win in 2020, they may have subsequently asked themselves whether it was a fight worth having.

I own the hoodie at the centre of that drama. I like wearing it, and the various other examples in my wardrobe, on the course. I find them comfortable. They are a piece of golf clothing made by a recognised golf clothing manufacturer. Why should I have my metaphorical collar felt because I turn up at the course in one?

The Wearside row reminded me of the early noughties mock turtleneck controversy, when shops were shipping out red garments by the truckload only for some places to outlaw them because they were collarless.

It feels ridiculous that a top worn by the world’s most famous golfer, at some of the globe’s most exclusive clubs, might not be allowed down a local club because it infringed what was deemed acceptable on some infernal list. It even, apparently, caused a fuss as recently as 2019!

Lots of clubs, at least it felt to me, had dug themselves into a hole over their golf dress codes and then felt compelled to keep shovelling even when it made them look silly.

There are people who won’t be swayed whatever you say, of course, and nothing I’ve written here is paving the way for vests, jeans, and football shirts at the likes of Royal Birkdale.

And yet I feel we have seen some significant movement on this issue. I rarely get an eyebrow raise now if I turn up at the club in a hoodie. If you’re desperate to do it, you can take to the course in Erik Van Rooyen’s signature joggers. Golf shoes are looking more and more like the trainers you might see on the basketball court.

The leeway lots of golfers have been looking for has arrived in the shape of three words: “Recognised golf attire”.

Delve into the websites of some pretty nice clubs and you won’t necessarily see a long list of do’s and don’ts on clothing anymore. You’ll see more and more use that trio of words, or variations of them.

While it won’t necessarily seem like a revolutionary shift I reckon it does constitute a sea-change in the way golf clubs are dealing with modern fashion trends.

If it’s clothing designed for the golf course, it should be fine. It shouldn’t upset the dyed-in-the-wools, who believe the world may come to an end at the sight of a denim thread, but it also allows members and visitors the individuality to be a bit different – if they want to be.

It gives clubs valuable leg room. No longer do they need to box themselves into a corner because Rory’s latest Nike golf shirt has a collarless neck.

It’s a classic, but simple, compromise and shows the sport can move with the times, while still maintaining some of the traditions that many think makes it great. Mainly, though, it’s just common sense.

So while there will always be clubs that dig their heels in, and find themselves the butt of a thousand memes on social media, such incidents should become all the rarer.

We’re moving forward and golf is all the better for it.

Listen to our views on dress codes, traditional golf clubs, and playing through on the From the Clubhouse podcast

Hear what we think on the From the Clubhouse podcast, in association with TaylorMade Golf, in the player below, or on your preferred podcast platform

Do you agree with Steve? Are we starting to see movement on golf dress codes or are clubs as intransigent on this issue as ever? Let him know with a tweet.

More podcasts from National Club Golfer

Steve Carroll

Steve Carroll

A journalist for 25 years, Steve has been immersed in club golf for almost as long. A former club captain, he has passed the Level 3 Rules of Golf exam with distinction having attended the R&A's prestigious Tournament Administrators and Referees Seminar.

Steve has officiated at a host of high-profile tournaments, including Open Regional Qualifying, PGA Fourball Championship, English Men's Senior Amateur, and the North of England Amateur Championship. In 2023, he made his international debut as part of the team that refereed England vs Switzerland U16 girls.

A part of NCG's Top 100s panel, Steve has a particular love of links golf and is frantically trying to restore his single-figure handicap. He currently floats at around 11.

Steve plays at Close House, in Newcastle, and York GC, where he is a member of the club's matches and competitions committee and referees the annual 36-hole scratch York Rose Bowl.

Having studied history at Newcastle University, he became a journalist having passed his NTCJ exams at Darlington College of Technology.

What's in Steve's bag: TaylorMade Stealth 2 driver, 3-wood, and hybrids; TaylorMade Stealth 2 irons; TaylorMade Hi-Toe, Ping ChipR, Sik Putter.

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