If you’re just starting out in golf, you might be surprised to find that many golf clubs have strict rules about what you can and can’t wear on the course. From the types of tops you can wear to your footwear, golf has had a dress code since clubs began over 100 years ago, and although the style has changed over time, there are still golf dress codes to adhere to.
So, if you’re looking to book your first round on a golf course, make sure you read the below tips to ensure you look the part and don’t get turned away.
“Golf attire is as divisive as it gets when it comes to golf, and it's always worth considering what you’re going to wear before you get to the course,” says Phill Palmer, ex-professional golfer and co-vlogger at The Golfing Vlog.
Emma Brown, PGA professional and blogger at The Lady Golf Coach, agrees with this. “First and foremost, if you are going for your first golf lesson or to play your first few holes, I would check with your club to see if they have any specific rules.”
When golf clubs were first established, it was seen as an elitist sport reserved for the upper class. For this reason, dress codes were put in place that asserted this exclusivity. Over time, however, the rules have been relaxed in order to encourage more people to play.
“Unfortunately, there are a lot of clubs that still have really strict dress wear,” says Emma. “Certainly, no jeans, no trainers, no shirts, certain length shorts, certain length socks - the list goes on. However, a lot of clubs have relaxed the rules a bit in order to get more people, especially women, into golf and help people feel relaxed coming into a golf club environment.”
• Do: wear a collared polo shirt or mock neck top
• Don’t: wear t-shirts, sports jerseys, polo shirts with foul language or big banner advertising
Most clubs will expect both men and women to wear a collared polo shirt that’s long- or short-sleeved. This is the most popular style of top to wear golfing and come in a range of colours and designs. Alternatively, mock neck-style tops are also widely accepted.
According to Golf Side Kick, t-shirts, sports jerseys, tops with big banner advertising across the back or front and foul language in big letters is not acceptable. Women should avoid halter-neck and tank tops, says Golfweek, although sleeveless tops, provided they have a collar, are allowed.
Golf Side Kick also goes on to say that it is worth considering the material of your polo shirt depending on the weather and time of year.
“The material you use will affect how you feel on the course. In cooler areas, cotton is always great while in warmer and more humid areas, a synthetic material will let sweat evaporate and keep you dry and cool.”
• Do: wear a vest, sweater, wind shirt or light jacket
• Don’t: wear a denim jacket or sweatshirt
Many golfers like to layer clothes over the top of their collared polo shirt, whether for fashion or for more practical reasons.
“Dressing in layers is common for golfers,” says Golfweek. “Wearing a vest or sweater over a mock neck or polo shirt is one option on a cool day. You may also wear a collared button-down shirt, light jacket or wind shirt for additional coverage. Denim jackets or sweatshirts are unacceptable.”
If you’re not sure whether or not to bring an extra layer, Gentleman’s Gazette recommends bringing one just in case of unexpected rain or chilly weather. “More often than not, weather can change during a 4+ hour game of golf, so having the ability to add on or take off a layer of clothing keeps you cool in the sun and warm in the shade.”
• Do: wear slacks, capris or knee-length shorts, skirts, skorts and golf dresses
• Don’t: wear jeans, sundresses, sweatpants or athletic trousers
For men, Golf Side Kick recommends slacks and shorts that come to the knee. “Keep in mind, they need belt loops. No drawstring or soccer shorts. You can also get shorts and slacks made specifically for hot weather or temperate weather like the shirts above.
“The safest colours for your golfing pants and shorts are cream, beige, khaki, grey and tan. White, pink and other bright colours are something you graduate into as you move up the golf hierarchy and establish yourself as a flashy snappy dresser.”
“In the early spring or autumn, slacks are most commonly worn by women on the golf course,” says Golfweek. “On warmer days, shorter slacks such as capris, crops or shorts are advised. Shorter pants should be knee-length or longer. Skorts (a combination of a skirt and shorts) and golf dresses are also popular choices. Jeans, sundresses, sweatpants or athletic trousers are all considered improper.”
• Do: wear golf shoes or comfy trainers (but check with your golf club first)
• Do: wear short, athletic or ankle socks with shorts, skirts or dresses
• Do: wear crew (mid-calf) or full-length socks with long trousers
• Don’t: wear steel spike golf shoes, sandals, flips-flops or other non-sport shoes
“If you have golf shoes, wear them, if not comfy trainers,” says Emma, “You will need golf shoes eventually though as they help with grip and stability in your feet.”
Phill says it is always worth checking whether your club requires golf shoes or not, just to be on the safe side. “Just also be aware of in-clubhouse rules on where you can and can't wear them.”
Golf Side Kick says there are three types of golf shoe; steel spikes, soft spikes and spikeless.
“Steel spikes are used by the pros and won't be allowed on the majority of standard courses for amateurs, so avoid these. Soft spikes are the most popular type of shoe. You can also get spikeless, where the sole of the shoe has lots of small rubber studs that are great for people who get stud pressure walking on spiked golf shoes.”
When it comes to socks, Gentleman’s Magazine says: “there are many options, and we recommend a pair specifically designed for playing golf as they will help to wick moisture and also be reinforced for significant walking and the movements made by your foot during the backswing.”
“Golfers typically wear short, athletic length or ankle length socks with shorts and crew or full-length socks with long trousers,” says Golfweek in a separate article. “Crew length socks go up to mid-calf, while full-length socks stretch all the way up to your knee. Athletic length socks extend just slightly above the collar of your shoe or can be found in a ‘no-show’ length that seats very low to your foot to make it appear you are not wearing socks at all.”
For women, Golfweek says: “with shorter trousers, skorts or golf dresses, low (or no-show) socks are most popular. With longer trousers, crew socks in colours that match the pants can be worn.”
• Do: wear golf hats, visors, straw hats or flat caps
• Don’t: wear backwards caps or wear your hat in the clubhouse or bar
In traditional golf style, your attire isn’t complete without a hat. Golf hats don’t just stop at visors and baseball caps, with lots of other fun options to consider.
“A hat is a must on the course to protect you not only from the UV rays but also to keep the sun out of your eyes during the game,” says Gentleman’s Gazette. “Typical golf hats include open-weave straw hats and baseball caps. Choose a light straw-coloured hat with a wide brim on hot days and a waterproof baseball hat on misty days. If the weather is cooler, a flat cap is a fun and a traditional alternative to other hats.”
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