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.
193 Comments
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Joe
Snobbish idiocy! With all the problems in the world, black socks? Cargo shorts? Who gives a f-c-? The idiots who can’t stand the sight of t shirts and regular shorts need to go out and look at 75% of the world in POVERTY AND SQUALLOR! Snobbish elitist foolishness! Get out more and see the suffering in the world!
David
Look at some of the Equipment colour combinations out there. Who says black doesn't go with white? I once played against a man wearing 'flip-flops' (pink), he won, I couldn't concentrate...... He also played with his pink balls....... and pink tees..... Get the picture! Dekay
Mike wyffels
There are a lot of days I just want too hit a bucket of balls but I have to be in proper attire.
Allen
I have been declined due to my cargo shorts and felt quite stupid. I haven't run into the black sock problem yet though. I think that the argument about people not respecting the course if they won't dress " properly" is naive and just downright silly. I have followed some very flashy dressers around who never fixed a ball mark or replaced a divot in their lives. They feel people are paid to do it for them. They are the ultimate elitist people who are making it difficult to sell the game to young people who truly believe that your actions and not your appearance is what counts.
Dave
They should come to NZ they would be told to get S______D as long as clothing is respectable no problem should exist. Maybe next they will tell people to get a haircut and have a shave. the World is FULL of PEDANTIC TWITS WHO should get a Life. Instead of being outspoken IDIOTS
Aaron
SassySPA your assumption that someone who doesn't dress to code probably wouldn't replace divots, etc... is false. If that was the case then every course that has a dress code should never have divots that are not replaced, or sand that is not raked. But the simple fact of the matter is that even the fancy clubs with dress codes still have those disrespectful golfers that don't take care of the course. The way a person dresses is irrelevant to their behavior.
Jim
Absolutely black socks are okay for golf. Collared shirts are a thing of the past, just look at the Nike boys on tour. They look tacky but?? Jeans are a no no at almost all clubs. A little class is fine but let’s get up to date.
Johnny
I feel that the dress code should be kept to a higher standard in golf. A collared shirt must be worn at all times, no jeans, t-shirts or cargo shorts. The newer golf shoes now have a more sneaker look to them which I do not like. Golf has traditionally had a pompous flavor to the game. I think that it has eased up a bit thankfully. Once the dress code eases, it will spiral down to tank tops and then the classiness of the game will be gone forever. It's not asking much to wear a collared shirt and nice shorts or long dress pants.
Ritch
Golf clothes have evolved over time. I doubt anyone wants to go back to wearing ties and tweed plus fours. A few years back people were in a funk about the the mock turtleneck shirts Tiger and some other players adopted even though a review of history would have shown Nicklaus and other tour players wearing the same style back in the sixties. I used to work the pro shop at a very public course in a rural area of Texas. Jeans are a very common in this area. To take a no jeans stance for play would probably have killed the business. I am opposed to tank tops. In many cases those that choose to wear them have no business doing so in public. Private clubs can establish whatever rules they want. People know what they are getting into when they buy the membership. Public courses probably need to get over themselves and realize that fashion changes and adapt if they want to grow the game and their business. I have been fortunate so far. I favor my collection of different color golf socks and have yet to be asked to change them before playing a round.
Barbara Jean
No they shouldn't.
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Should golf clubs still require dress codes?
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