Hot under the collar

Last month’s column about mobile phones in the clubhouse unleashed a multitude of reader responses. Dozens of you wrote in, overwhelmingly supporting my point that electronic devices in the clubhouse were simply a sign of the times, and that clubs need to embrace that fact.

The column also generated a bunch of letters on related “antiquated” club rules – notably around things like attire on the course (see this month’s Your Voice for a sample).

Many of you will remember that I stirred up the debate about attire a few years ago (see Knickerbockers in a knot, on our website). And it seems this debate needs a refresher.

To put this in context: Last month, I was on a short holiday in Bright (country Victoria). A couple of mates and I decided to drop into Bright Golf Club, a beautiful club that, despite being almost entirely volunteer-run, is one of the best conditioned courses in Australia.

Anyway, my mates (to their dismay) realised that they had come on holiday without any collared shirts. This led to a bit of stress prior to going to the course. “Will they let us play?” the boys wondered.  The website stated that the dress standards were simply “Neat, clean and tidy,” yet it wasn’t clear if the boys’ “collarless” Under Armour sports shirts would be acceptable.  

Fortunately, the club was extremely welcoming. They didn’t much care what we all wore. They were simply content to take our money, and they happily pointed us to the first hole, etc.

This was quite refreshing. And as a result, we decided to return a few days later for another round.  All up, we spent a couple hundred dollars in green fees, drinks, food, etc. Money that will certainly be welcomed on the club’s balance sheet.

This is a marked contrast to what many clubs out there are currently doing, with many proshops coldly turning away potential players simply because they didn’t have a collared shirt, or because their attire (despite being neat and tidy) didn’t conform to a number of (antiquated) rules.

What many club members refuse to accept is that the apparel industry is changing with the times. For the past few years, apparel manufacturers like Nike have made collarless sports shirts/polos, which are tasteful, neat and tidy, as well as great for wicking moisture, etc. 

Over the years, I’ve played in a variety of corporate golf days and invitationals where the tee prize included one of these collarless golf shirts. To this day, however, I have never been able to wear them while playing golf, as the majority of clubs I’ve played wouldn’t allow it.

Similarly, what about trousers?   There are plenty of pants/denim/jeans which are arguably more “neat and tidy” than many of the dress slacks are out there, yet jeans are often shunned at many clubs. And who says that socks must be white to be fashionable? I’ve got many pairs of golf-specific socks that are black (and thus relatively unworn). For that matter, why is it so important that we have socks at all? Just look in any fashion magazine and you’ll see a huge range of shoes that look just fine without socks. In the U.S., there are even golf-specific sandals!

And don’t get me started about the confusion when it comes to women’s attire. Some skirts/skorts that are worn by many top women professionals aren’t always acceptable at some clubs (which can thus push away some women from this great game.)

I realise that the top-tier clubs out there wouldn’t dream of changing their attire rules. And that’s their right (as it is with every club). But, happily, there is a growing trend by many other clubs out there to “relax” their dress codes. And for the majority of clubs in Australia (especially the ones that are struggling) I reckon it’s time to follow suit.

I’ve played golf for over 40 years; I was raised and taught to conform to the traditional confines of the game. But even I can see that times are changing, and it is critical that we do EVERYTHING we can to welcome people into our game. And that starts with bending/changing our rules about attire.

See you on the fairways,


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