JU­NIOR THOUGHTS

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.

New Zealand Golf Magazine - - CONTENTS - WORDS BY ALEX MCDON­ALD

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.

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