Clive’s Commentary: Golf’s Selective Assault on Fashion

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Golf has a rich tradition of fashion that weaves back to Nick Faldo’s appalling sweaters of the late 1980s and ‘90s, plumbs new depths in Duffy Waldorf’s shirts before manifesting itself in Ian Poulter’s contemporary outfits. Although I buy most of my golf clothes in charity shops (thrift stores), I have no problem with the top players brightening up proceedings with dazzling fashion statements. They genuinely add to the overall fun, which is a good thing.

However, the clothing question takes an altogether more sinister turn at local club level where casual curiosity in what people are wearing gives way to almost fascist efforts at total control. Dress codes are almost entirely about what you can’t wear. Heading the list is golf’s greatest enemy… jeans. Quite how such a seemingly innocent piece of apparel became so unacceptable is not immediately apparent but one suspects that its enormous popularity in the wide world outside of golf must have something to do with it. How can a supposedly elite sport accommodate such a populist item of clothing? They somehow manage it in France without the clubhouse roofs collapsing but, there again, they are French and therefore rather suspect. For heaven’s sake, they even allow children on the course!

Next on the hit list come tee-shirts. In the good old days before Tiger and a great many of his mates confused the issue, anything without a collar was deemed to be totally unacceptable. Now no one really knows, so it’s perhaps safest to assume it’s not allowed unless it’s brightly coloured and would look absolutely ridiculous anywhere other than on a golf course.

Shorts are another area of huge controversy. Basically the authorities hate them because they are simply too comfortable and, frankly, too provocative. Professionals, of course, are forbidden to wear them and the rest of us are taking an enormous gamble by daring to show our knees. The only type that are sometimes allowed are so-called ‘tailored’ shorts. The rationale behind this restriction is inspired and relies on the fact that no one really knows what constitutes a tailored pair of shorts and therefore very few are courageous enough to risk it.

Even if you employed a world-famous couturier to run you up a tasteful pair of knee-length shorts, you could still come seriously unstuck if your socks weren’t long enough. The official thinking behind the dreaded “long socks only” rule is to ensure that any cooling benefit derived from wearing shorts is effectively negated by restricting the uncovered area to just the knees.

Although there is absolutely no evidence to suggest that trainers (sneakers) do any harm to a golf course – in fact they almost certainly do considerably less damage than spiked shoes – they are, of course, absolutely banned. Why? Quite obviously, anyone who doesn’t have a pair of expensive golf shoes clearly is not a regular golfer and the very last thing we want to do is encourage people to take up the game.

Assuming, for the sake of argument, that you have somehow evaded all the various controls, made it onto the course and all the way round with your shirt tucked in and without being vilified for being inappropriately dressed, you are now, like a football team that has just scored, extremely vulnerable. Not only must you find your way back into the locker room without inadvertently entering an area in which spikes are strictly forbidden, but you must also be careful when you go for a drink afterwards that you don’t inadvertently enter a bar where jackets and ties must be worn. Naturally, not even a jacket and tie can save you if, God forbid, you stumble into the members only bar.

If, indeed, you are lucky enough to get served you might care, over a drink, to reflect on why fishing is so much more popular than golf.

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