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Brent Kelley

Upscale Golf Courses Experimenting with Lower Dress Code Standards

By December 10, 2012

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What is the dress code in golf? Traditionally, it's been a pair of golf slacks or Bermuda-style shorts, a nice shirt with a collar, and golf shoes. That's not the same everywhere. There are plenty of golf courses that allow a nice-looking pair of jeans or even denim shorts. And there are golf courses where t-shirts are just fine.

But the general rule is: The more expensive the green fees, the more strict the dress code. Dressing down in a t-shirt and jeans to play golf has been, in the USA anyway, something seen primarily at municipal golf courses and lower-cost facilities.

But is having that traditional dress code - collared shirt, golf slacks or nice shorts (no demin) - hurting golf? Does it contribute to the air of stodginess that many associate with the game? Is it bad for business? If an upscale golf course lowered its standards on dress code, might that increase business? Are there some potential golfers out there who would play a course if they could play in a t-shirt and gym shorts, but wouldn't play that same course if they had to abide by the traditional dress code?

These are questions that are being asked within the upscale golf industry, both at public and private golf courses. These folks are in business, and the business of golf isn't "growing the game," it's growing profit through growing the game. So all those questions lead back to the main one: Will relaxing our dress code bring more paying customers to our golf course?

One of the most prominent golf management companies is Troon Golf, and Troon recently announced a new dress code policy at its daily-fee golf courses. The specifics are still up to the on-site personnel at each facility, but Troon's new daily fee dress code goes something like this: We'd like you to abide by the traditional golf dress code, but if you'll only play our course if you can wear gym shorts and a t-shirt, then that's fine, too.

Will this change in policy encourage more golfers to play those Troon tracks? I grew up in Texas, where golfing in jeans is not uncommon (do it myself sometimes!), but I have my doubts - it risks turning off the traditionalists who make up the majority of golfers who already play high-end golf courses. But I'm interested to see how the experiment plays out. (It's money, not dress code, that is the barrier to entry at high-end facilities - but there are golfers out there who can afford those courses but stay away because they are uncomfortable with the upscale vibe.) Experimentation is rarely a bad thing, so long as results are honestly analyzed and changes are made accordingly.

Read more about the new Troon daily fee dress code policy, and tell us what you think in comments.


December 13, 2012 at 8:00 am
(1) radpar says:

I’ve been chastised for wearing a neat ribbed tee shirt, and then have pointed out to the pro shop worker the nearby so-called appropriately dressed golfer with his collared shirt hanging out of his shin-length, baggy shorts, black socks and sneakers. Who looks better? The Pro just shrugs! WTF? However, many local courses, upscale and otherwise, are now showing more tolerance for neat but non-traditional golf apparel. Hurrah!

December 13, 2012 at 8:51 am
(2) GSB says:

I dress the part when I go to a fancy course Ė nice slacks, nice shirt (tucked in), nice shoes. But in my fellow golfers, I care for more about behavior than appearance. Iíd much rather play with golfers who are wearing raggedy olí shorts and ugly olí t-shirts but who understand golf etiquette and the rules, than with someone who is impeccably dressed but is a jerk on the golf course. So thatís what Iíd say to Troon: As long as you are stressing etiquette and course care to everyone who shows up in non-traditional golf clothes, then letís see how this experiment works.

December 14, 2012 at 11:24 am
(3) dave says:

I don’t think being allowed to “dress down” will help anyone feel more comfortable at a fancy place – just the opposite. I took my father in law to a PGA Tour course once. He usually plays on a cheap, small town muni, and he felt out of place from the moment we turned in and he saw the ornate clubhouse. When we were greeted at the bag drop and he saw me tipping a cart jockey, I could tell he wasn’t going to have much fun. Like a duck out of water. Just out of his element. If he had shown up wearing a t-shirt and jeans, he would have been even more miserable, because it would have only made him feel more out of place. I learned my lesson: Only take the in-laws to places with a “down home,” not an upscale, vibe.

December 20, 2012 at 6:55 am
(4) Golf T-shirts says:

Comfortable shorts with collared t-shirt and a Nike pair is the best dress code I find for golf.

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