It’s safe to say that golf fashion has come a long way since the days of plus fours and tartan. As the game has evolved, the dress that the world’s best choose to wear has moved along with it.
Thoughts on the LPGA dress code.
Professional golfers are now unquestionably athletes, and the shift towards more comfortable form-fitting apparel reflects this. The PGA allowed players to wear shorts during practice rounds at the PGA Championship for the first time, and high top shoes and collarless polos are becoming more and more common on the men's tour. All seemingly positive moves for those wanting golf to shift with the times.
But in a sport trying to find a balance between sticking to tradition and moving with the modern age, is the recent adjustment to the LPGA's dress code a step in the wrong direction? The announcement banning “plunging necklines”, leggings and racerback shirts without collars would be met with a $1,000 fine caused a social media firestorm, with commenters branding the LPGA “sexist” and accusing them of taking a step backwards. World number two Lexi Thompson took to Instagram to poke fun at the change, posting a photo of herself dressed in early 1900s gear that she labelled “dress code compliant.”
However, after the initial outcry, response from players was mixed. Many felt the new rules wouldn't affect them at all, or that it should be up to the players themselves to decide what they are comfortable playing in. Others referred to the expectations other sports stars are subject to when travelling, with an emphasis on professionalism. Perhaps it was a move by the LPGA to separate its players from Instagram and Twitter's growing number of so-called “golf babes” that often generate more attention and sponsorships than many professionals.
The announcement came as a surprise to many, as back in March the LPGA was applauded for modernising its idea of what constitutes appropriate golf wear. In fact, USA Golf magazine called for the rest of the golf world to catch up, as Michelle Wie's choice of skirt and sleeveless, collarless top during the HSBC Champions would have been frowned upon at many courses around the world. This raised some speculation that it was pressure from sponsors that triggered the rule change, rather than a desire from the Tour for players “to present themselves in a professional manner to reflect a positive image for the game.”
While the rules may not have a direct effect on club players, they may set a precedent that clubs choose to follow with their own dress codes. Clubs have always struggled to appeal to younger women, and a key component of NZ Golf's ‘She Loves Golf' programme is a relaxed approach to clothing. Leggings and other active wear is hugely popular with women, and becoming standard day to day wear for many, so it seems only natural for this to extend to the golf course. However, should courses in New Zealand choose to follow the LPGA's lead active wear may not be so welcome.
While these rules may not affect me, I am all for seeing the game grow and modernise. Encouraging women to get involved in golf at all levels is a crucial step towards breaking down the image of golf as an old man's game, and policing what women can and can't wear doesn't exactly scream new age ideals.
Lexi Thompson of Team USA plays a bunker shot during The Solheim Cup.