Should golf clubs still require dress codes?

Stuffy dress codes hold back the game.
Are black socks with shorts really a crime on the golf course?

One the most embarrassing moments in golf isn’t the duffed tee shot or a swing and miss. (I’ve done both).

It’s being called out for violating a club's dress code. It’s the club's way of saying “You’re a slob and your kind are not welcome here.”

It’s embarrassing and infuriating. Every golfer knows you need to wear a collared shirt and presentable shorts or pants. Many public courses have relaxed their ‘no jeans’ policies. But there are some real head-scratching policies out there.

Poor Max Powers thought he was in for a fine round of golf at the Letchworth Golf Club in Hertfordshire, England, until he checked into the pro shop, where he was told he couldn’t play wearing black socks with shorts. He was offered the opportunity to buy white socks for 7.50 Euros, but he declined out of principle.

I know exactly how off-putting this situation is. I saw it happen to fellow golf writer/radio personality Michael Patrick Shiels during a golf trip to South Africa in 2015. Like Bowers, Shiels was told he couldn't play the Leopard Creek Golf Club unless he changed his black socks, which apparently is a bad look with shorts. Shiels bought a conforming pair, but the damage was done. None of us felt welcome after that incident. Too bad, too, because Leopard Creek, home to a European Tour event, sometimes shows up on World Top 100 lists.

I've had my own run-in with the golf fashion police. About 6-7 years ago, I snuck away from a family vacation to Asheville, N.C., to play my first course in the famed Cliffs community - The Cliffs at Walnut Cove in Arden, N.C. While warming up on the putting green, I noticed someone walking briskly toward me. I thought it was one of my playing partners.

Apparently, somebody – a crabby member who didn’t like strangers at the club? – told the pro shop staff that I was wearing "cargo shorts", the pocketed bane of all private clubs. I don’t remember exactly the style of my shorts, but they were most definitely not cargo shorts. I think my shorts had some extra stitching on the front and back and maybe a button or two that looked like a pocket. No matter. The staffer told me I’d have to change my shorts or leave. He offered to sell me a pair of shorts at half off. Steaming inside, I spent $25, changed and went on my way. What a way to ruin a first impression of a club. I thought about dropping them a nasty review, but I stayed unbiased through the humiliation.

Golf Advisor is littered with golfers peeved about archaic dress codes.

Another reviewer had a "cargo" incident like me at the Heyrose Golf Club in the United Kingdom. He wrote: "Finally as a warning to the casual golfer, like myself, DRESS CODE!! it was boiling hot today so I racked up in shorts. Unfortunately they had cargo type pockets, course rules say tailored shorts only so I had to buy some. That isn't a problem but it was a little frustrating when I realised the guy in front of us had beige jeans on. Also, although the lovely lady in the pro shop turned a blind eye you MUST have white socks if your wearing shorts., pathetic rule but there you go."

I found another sock victim at the Handsworth Golf Club , also in England: "My only reservation is that we had to pay £3.99 for white ankle socks due to their dress code which I found a little harsh especially for visiting players. I understand the traditional views of some people in terms of Golfing attire, but I feel this was just a bit to picky especially for paying visitors who may not know the dress code."

It seems women have had more problems with shirts than socks. Reviewer ejcooper2003 wrote about her experience at Rancho Las Palmas Country Club in Palm Springs, Calif. - "Just a warning if you are female and playing this course. Make sure you wear a collared shirt,. We got there and had to purchase a shirt. There is nothing noted about this on the dress code placard posted on the starters kiosk. Also, not posted on the website. My golf partner made the reservations, and there is nothing noted about this. We play golf all over the Palm Springs area, and this course is the only one who actually made us wear, purchase a collared shirt, so I guess it's a money maker for them."

User Randy4648167 wrote that his wife had a similar experience at Eagles Nest Country Club at Pebble Creek Resort in Goodyear, Ariz.,: "Dress code, they are very strict especially with the Women’s dress code,. My wife had to buy a collared shirt even though they sold tank tops similar to the one she was already wearing."

Thank goodness the staff at the Lone Tree Golf Club & Hotel in Colorado, did show some "grow the game" savvy while upholding its dress code. One impressed user wrote: "My 13 year old son needed a collared shirt to meet dress code and the pro shop offered to lend him one, but we purchased one for him in the pro shop. Very helpful staff."

On the other side of the debate, a number of reviewers ranted about courses with "no dress codes". They didn't like seeing jeans or T-shirts on the course. Who is right?

To me, collared shirts and respectable shorts or pants should be the standard the industry applies almost across the board. Any shorts and jeans are fine as long as there are no rips or tears. Some T-shirts might be okay, but tank tops are where I draw the line. Obvious, fancy clubs that want to impose their will on what people wear do so at their own risk. I don't mind wearing a jacket and tie at Muirfield in Scotland because the club is one of the most traditional in the world. But at places like the Cliffs - a nice club, yes, but not on Muirfield's level - should be more understanding of the needs of today's golfer. Fun and casual - that's more of what golf needs. Stuffy and conservative be gone.

Should clubs relax their dress codes for today's golfer? Have you ever been accused of running afoul of a dress code? What's your opinion: Should black socks be allowed with shorts? How about cargo shorts? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

Jason Scott Deegan has reviewed more than 700 courses and golf destinations for some of the industry's biggest publications. His work has been honored by the Golf Writer's Association of America and the Michigan Press Association. Follow him on Twitter at @WorldGolfer.
192 Comments
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Fred
Pretty silly about collared shirts when the PGA Pros don't have to wear them.
SassySPA
If you can't be bothered to dress for the round, you probably won't replace your divit, repair your ball mark, or rake the sand properly. Now, I don't think that the colour of your socks matters, but t-shirts and jeans have no place on the golf course.
John Bottone
Don't lower the bar! Every golfer ownes the proper clothes and they should wear them.
Kurt
Dress codes are important. However, golf is not drawing young people to the game. Black socks and shorts this type of ridiculous rules drive people away. Tee shirts no, shorts ok, cargo shorts really who cares. Try ti focus on slow play and fairway length for the Verage player.
Mike
Tattered or holey shorts would be an issue for me but...sock color? Is it just me or is there now outfits to match for golf? I can see rejection in my future. :(
maddogi80
Dress code, I'll play somewhere else.
Bob
black anklets/socks with black shorts? Sure. The problem is, Where do the course managers draw the line? These days, too many men (and women) push the envelope. An upscale course has a right to expect reasonable decorum. Don't like it? Go play elsewhere.
Leigh
I'm a woman and I was once asked to leave The Thistle in Calabash, NC for not wearing a shirt with a collar. Not offered to buy a shirt -- I was asked to LEAVE. As I and my husband were doing so, an employee gave me one of his spare collared work shirts. The female manager who had made us leave was absolutely furious when we returned. She made us feel so unwelcome that we have never gone back. I should also mention that about half an hour into play, she sent an employee out to find us to make sure I was still wearing the shirt. Tell me, what was the point of this blatant animosity?
Larry E Knight
Nike has folks on the PGA Tour playing very fancy clubs wearing their new style of shirt.It does not have a traditional collar. In effect it is a tee shirt.Tiger,Paul Casey and others have been wearing the shirts.
John
I've been asked to leave more golf courses than I can count. I'm casual, but classy, I think... Relax, I'm not talking torn, or short, short jeans, or raggedy shirts. I've bee asked to put on white socks vs.the black I wear, change my shirt(Turtle neck during the winter?, or wrong logo) Not allowed to wear my golf sandals. My sunglasses, as razor style, and they had Harley Davidson on them. The absolute worst was in Mesquite, NV at the Palmer. Had our own cooler, not allowed!! But we had it on the other Palmer course and it was allowed. Guess it depends on who the enforcer is...
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Should golf clubs still require dress codes?
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