Relaxing dress code rules has been vital to more youngsters visiting Paul Lawrie’s golf centre in Aberdeen, as the 1999 Open champion told the NCG Golf Podcast
Dress code has been vital to the success of Paul Lawrie’s golf centre in Aberdeen.
When footfall at the 1999 Open champion’s thriving driving range took a turn, he investigated by asking youngsters why they stopped visiting the site in Royal Deeside.
“We certainly allow them to dress in any way that they feel comfortable when they come here for lessons and to play,” he told the NCG Golf Podcast.
“I think that’s important because when we first started the foundation, it was really, really busy, but then it tailed off for a while.
“I asked a few of the kids who hadn’t been for a while, what’s the story? ‘I don’t want to dress, I don’t want to change clothes to go and play golf’.
“You think wow! You’ve got to learn from stuff like that, you’ve got to ask the kids, what do you want? To a certain extent, they can’t do everything that they want.
“They’ve got to behave and they can’t shout and ball, but to a certain extent, they’ve got to be able to wear a hoodie, they’ve got to be able to wear leggings, joggers, so we’re not hard and fast.”
Golf’s worst-kept secret is its etiquette, and the style of clothing required at many golf clubs is part of this.
Many interpret this as a barrier to participation which inspires initiatives like Golf It! in Glasgow to take off.
As well as offering food stalls, a huge driving range and Toptracer screens galore, young golfers are under no pressure at Golf It! to wear tailored trousers or smart shoes.
In 2021, PGA chief executive Robert Maxfield said dress code is among the rules in golf that need relaxing to welcome more people to the golf course.
“I think we have to look at rules. I think we have to look at the way that golf clubs operate. I think we need to be more welcoming. We need to be more welcoming to kids. We need to be more welcoming to ethnic groups, to more women,” he said.
“We have to shake this label of being a middle-class, white male, dominated sport. I think we have to become more family-friendly.”
Relaxation in the sport’s rigid dress rules is no stranger to the highest level either. The likes of Tyrrell Hatton and Erik van Rooyen have respectively paved the way for hoodies and joggers in the past.
T-shirts have begun to evolve without collars and golf shoes look more like trainers by the day.
Lawrie, 55, took over the golf centre in 2012 and it now plays host to 24 hitting bays, a nine-hole par 3 course, three PGA coaching professionals, a custom-fitting bay, physiotherapy services and a coffee shop named Clarets.
The two-time European Ryder Cup member recognises the importance of tradition but also that enjoyment must outweigh the negative impact tradition can have on participation.
“I think you’ve got to be careful with children and we’ve learned that over the years where the most important thing you must put in them is, it’s fun,” he added.
“The old school and the old way of doing it was to make sure everyone dressed in a certain way and behaved in a certain way.
“I’m not saying that’s not important, but I think the most important thing and a lot of older people miss or lose is that kids aren’t having fun playing for a while in golf.
“Too many rules and too much ‘don’t stand here, don’t do this, don’t do that’.”
You can listen to Paul Lawrie on the NCG Golf Podcast here!
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