Picture this: you’ve selected a course, scheduled your tee time, and loaded your golf bag with the necessary equipment. Now, it’s time to get dressed. What are you going to wear?
Depending upon the course (and the golfer), you may not give your attire much thought. Some public (and most municipal) courses do not have a strict dress code, which means players are permitted to show up in jeans and a tee shirt, should they so choose. However, this degree of casualness in dress is usually frowned upon by many course employees and pros.
According to Brad Kane of The Patriot-News (Harrisburg, PA), dress standards have become more and more relaxed, “since most facilities are loath to turn away anyone with cash in hand. Besides, the game needs to grow, so shedding the exclusive nature of the sport is a good thing.” According to Kane, you don’t need to be fashionable, but you should at least try to find a shirt with a collar. Tank tops are never acceptable, and, although “tee shirts and jeans are allowed, [most] course[s] [prescribe] polos and slacks or hemmed shorts to [their] players.” Remember, though, that these rules only apply to some public and municipal courses.
On the other hand, all private courses and country clubs and many public courses have a required, formal dress code that dictates specific sartorial requirements when it comes to golfing attire.
According to Golfsmith, “the clothing in golf is a part of the decorum of the game, perhaps more so than any other sport. Not only is there an unspoken etiquette, but most golf courses have a dress code that requires particular attire in order to play. These dress codes are not as restrictive as the rules for PGA Tour or LPGA Tour players, but they are designed to ensure that amateur players adhere to a certain protocol to help maintain the game’s traditions. It is always a good idea to check with course management about the club’s dress code.” With this in mind, the AtTheTee.com team has curated a wealth of useful information to help you dress properly and avoid a fashion bogey during your next golf game.
When it comes to shirts, private courses (and most public courses) require that men wear collared shirts. These are often made of traditional cotton, microfiber, or polyester. Golfsmith explains that “some course managers also allow modern-style golf shirts that have a turtleneck-style collar.” Golf Digest elaborates: “when wearing a golf shirt, your sleeves should be three-quarters of the way to your elbow. Also, when wearing a crew neck sweater over a sport shirt, keep the collar in for a trim, clean look.” LIVESTRONG adds that “at some courses, long sleeve shirts with a sweater and/or blazer are required of men.”
Women have a bit more flexibility when it comes to choosing a golf shirt, but they must “adhere to a traditional sense of modesty. This means no bathing suit tops or tube tops” (Golfsmith). Golf Swing Right Now adds that “shirts for [female golfers] are available in short sleeve or long sleeve, [and you should look for] clothes that will protect you against harmful UV rays.” Additionally, “it is suggested [that you] buy shirts that come in stretchable fabrics for ease of flexibility to execute the perfect golf swing and get better golf scores. Polo shirts and beautiful tops are available in airy, breathable fabrics to enable you to stay cool in the hot summer weather.”
Essentially, “you should avoid tube tops, spaghetti straps, short shorts, bikini tops, mini skirts, and other such clothing, [and] shorts should be long enough that they cover your thighs.” According to LIVESTRONG, “the dress code for women may stipulate that they may not wear a shirt that exposes the midriff during the swing [and] may permit sleeveless shirts for women as long as the shirt has a collar.” If you are looking for an “inexpensive starter outfit,” Jenn Harris of PGA.com recommends stores like Marshalls or TJ Maxx, which “always have golf clothes at a great price.” Finally, Caitlin Plainos of 29 Secrets warns against showing “cleavage” or wearing “denim jackets, sweatshirts, or hoodies.”
Caitlin Plainos is a freelance writer and editor and world traveller from Toronto, Canada. Learn more here and @CaitlinPlainos on Twitter.
Golfsmith recommends that “men should wear long pants made of cotton or a polyester blend, or dress shorts with a pleated or flat front. Some courses will permit men to wear jeans, but others do not...cut-off jeans and workout, running, or basketball shorts usually are not permitted for men or women.” Peter Post of EmilyPost.com elaborates that “pants always will do very nicely--linen, khaki, cotton, or, in cold weather, wool.” Additionally, Golf Digest advises that “the bottom of your trousers should kiss the top of your shoes,” and that “shorts should fall just above your kneecaps...too long is sloppy, [but] too short is obscene.” Finally, according to LIVESTRONG, “belts are also required with pants or shorts nearly everywhere.”
Golfsmith prescribes that women also “wear long trousers, capris, or dress shorts, or what are called golf skirts. These garments are made with a cut pleat or V-notch on the front or side to allow for motion in the golf swing and include an undershort.” According to Ms. Plainos, “do: wear capris, shorts, skorts, or golf dresses on warmer days [but] don’t: wear jeans, sweatpants, yoga pants, or other athletic pants.” Ms. Harris agrees that “colored khakis or capris are the best choice for pants,” and Mr. Post adds that “bermuda-length shorts are appropriate virtually everywhere these days, especially in warm weather.” Golf Swing Right Now advocates “crisp pants that fit well, but [also] allow free movement during swing and follow-through. There is guaranteed mobility as you move, lean, [and] swing or flex on the golf course.”
Rules regarding golf shoes are universal for both men and women. According to Golfsmith, good golf shoes “will help stabilize a player’s swing, allow for traction when walking, and provide comfort during a round that can last several hours. These shoes include spikes on the soles. Many courses now require “soft” spikes made of hard rubber or plastic, not traditional metal. Furthermore, other types of shoes that may appear to offer the same comfort and stability are not necessarily permitted. Sneakers or running shoes are sometimes allowed on golf courses, but not always. Sandals, street shoes, and boots are not permitted on most courses.”
Regardless of your gender, Golf Digest prescribes that socks worn during golfing “should come to your ankles, but never rise above them.” On the other hand, Golfsmith points out that “more traditional tube socks also are permitted. Although a course dress code is not likely to specify what kind of socks a player is permitted to wear, there is unspoken etiquette that requires a player to wear socks that complement the clothing.” Although it may not seem immediately obvious, socks are an important component of any golfer’s attire because “advances in fibers help to keep a golfer comfortable and and [their] feet dry."
Both male and female golfers wear hats, and when it comes to headwear, LIVESTRONG writes that “most clubs allow baseball-style caps, as long as they are worn straight forward. Courses may also allow golfers to wear straw hats or visors if they prefer.” What not to wear: “cowboy hats, dress fedora-style hats, beanie caps, and gag hats are generally not appropriate for a golf course” (Golfsmith). Interestingly enough, hats play a more important role among professional golfers. Mr. Post explains that when the pros “walk up to the eighteenth green on Sunday, they acknowledge the gallery’s applause with a gracious tip of the hat [and] when the match is over, they never fail to take off their hats as they shake each other’s hands.”
According to Ms. Plainos, both men and women should be sure to wear golf gloves, which are essential to avoiding blisters and callouses. She also recommends sunglasses and, for women, simple jewelry, but warns against “long necklaces or dangly earrings that could get caught or tangled.” Golf Swing Right Now concurs that women should avoid ostentatious jewellery, which “will get in the way of your golf swing and will look gaudy and out of place on the golf course. Save your statement jewellery for the evening when you are going out to a party!”
Planning for Inclement Weather
If you’re expecting cool weather, Mr. Post recommends you “be prepared to layer with a sweater, windbreaker, and/or fleece vest or jacket, as well as perhaps and hat and scarf.” If you get caught in the rain, look for “pants and jackets [made with] water-resistant materials that will keep you dry, but that also breathe and are supple enough to let you swing a club comfortably."
Bottom line: If the forecast predicts rain, come prepared for the worst.” Golf Digest adds that, “if you thought fit was important for regular golf apparel, it is paramount when it comes to outerwear and rainwear, which should be worn trim. Oversized clothing does not enable you to swing freely. If anything, it gets in the way.”
Golf Digest implores all golfers to think about matching. Their pointers include matching your belt to your shirt “to pull the whole look together,” to ensure any patterns on your clothing aren’t “dominating both the shirt and the pants,” to always have at least one pair of khakis, which are “versatile [and] go with everything,” to “go with a simple top [when wearing] bold-colored pants,” and to also remember that “a bright shirt asks for a simpler bottom.” Similarly, “your colors don’t always have to be bright to make a statement. If you keep your colors in the same palette, you’re able to create balance,” and “a bright-colored belt can add just the right amount of pop to bring a simple outfit to life.”
Golf Digest reminds golfers that you should always remember to tuck in your shirt; failing to do so “just looks sloppy.” Cargo shorts are also a no-no, along with baggy shirts and popped collars. “If your waistline is greater than 36 inches,” you should be sure to avoid wearing a contrasting belt--try matching it to your trousers. Additionally, “matching your belt to your shirt is another way to minimize contrast in your midsection.” Finally, make sure your patterns aren’t too busy or cluttered, and keep in mind that pleated pants or shorts are also a bad idea (Golf Digest).
Golf Swing Right Now also warns against wearing clothing with commercial logos, explaining that “you might get away with a small logo, but a shirt with a large brand name might not be appropriate at a club.” Unsurprisingly enough, they also recommend golfers avoid stained, torn, or ratty clothing, which “gives the impression that you are not showing respect to the game or the club.” If you keep all of these rules in mind, you are guaranteed to play in sophistication and style during your next visit to the links. Happy golfing!