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Upscale Golf Course Manager Experiments with New Dress Code: Just Be Dressed

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Dec. 8, 2012 - Troon Golf is one of the major golf course management companies in that line of business; it manages high-end daily fee courses along with a stable of private and resort courses.

So Troon might be the last golf course management company you'd expect to experiment with loosening the standards of the traditional upscale golf course dress code (you know the one: collared shirt, slacks or Bermuda-style shorts, no denim). But that's just what Troon is doing - on its daily fee courses only.

What Troon's new daily fee dress code policy boils down to is this: They'd like you to show up in a traditional golf outfit, but if you'd rather play in gym shorts and a t-shirt - if that's what it takes to get you onto the first tee - hey, bring it on.

Troon manages dozens and dozens of golf courses just in the USA (many more around the world). Among its daily fee courses are Lookout Mountain and The Phoenician in Arizona; Indian Wells in California; Panther Run in Florida; Kapalua in Hawaii; The Revere Club in Las Vegas and Westin La Cantera in Texas. Just a handful of Troon's notable daily fee tracks.

Michael Lamanna, director of instruction at The Phoenician, succintly explained the reasoning: "The new generation of golfers are turned off by stuffy, formal atmospheres. Troon Golf is simply recognizing this shift and we want to be as welcoming as possible."

Personnel at each Troon-managed golf course have final say over the specifics of what is and isn't allowed at each course. So if you are planning a visit to a Troon course, it's still wise to call ahead if you have questions about the acceptability of what you plan to wear.

But the general policy was explained in a recent news release from Troon Golf:

While some courses might contain minor variances to the guidelines, the overall spirit of a more relaxed dress code now exists at Troon daily-fee facilities to make the game more conducive to today's modern social environment. Recognizing the constant evolution of golf in the way of both attire and culture, these changes are aimed at keeping the game relevant and appealing.

... Examples of Troon's new attire guidelines on the course include:

  • Attire – Socially accepted golf shirts are appreciated, but your comfort is most important. The nicer you look, the better you will play, so goes the rumor. Shorts can be just about any style, but please do try to present them at a length that everyone wants to look at. While gym shorts look best at the gym, we welcome you if that makes you comfortable to play golf.

  • Footwear – Footwear is encouraged on the course for reasons of safety and should be of a type and style that will not damage the putting greens. On that note, no high heels, boots or the like please.

For occasions inside the clubhouse, Troon's guidelines include:

  • Attire – Clubhouse attire should be comfortable and follow event specific requirements. Denim (gasp!) is welcomed in the clubhouse at appropriate times.

  • Footwear – Footwear is always required in the clubhouse. The club would prefer to see something other than sneakers during dinner hours and special events.

This is a huge change in attitude for an upscale golf company.

What's the point? New business. If you diminish the stodgy reputation of golf, if you let potential new customers know they can visit your golf course in (almost) any clothing that makes them comfortable, perhaps more people will show up at your golf course. Perhaps they won't be intimidated by, or dissuaded from visiting, your facility if they know they don't have to dress up to play there.

"It is important that our facilities adapt with golfers' preferences," said Ryan Walls, Senior Vice President, Operations, Troon, "by updating dress guidelines to ensure (golfers) always feel accepted and comfortable every time they visit."

Could this make a real difference in business at golf courses with an almost-anything-goes dress code? Maybe. But it might also turn off some of those very golfers who give the game its stuffy, stodgy image - the ones with the stiff, starched collars. After all, some golfers who prefer (and can afford) the daily fee experience prefer it because of a more upscale feel compared to municipal golf courses (where looser dress codes have always been more common).

At the and of the day, tinkering with the dress code is only tinkering around the margins of the issues acting as headwinds to the growth of golf: time and money. Golf takes a long time to play, and it's expensive to play frequently. But Troon deserves kudos for experimenting. It will be interesting to see how this goes, and perhaps it will inspire other management companies and other golf courses to do some experimenting in other areas. That's the only way to find out what does and doesn't grow the game.

Poll: Do you think relaxing the traditional golf dress code will be good for business at upscale golf courses? (click your choice to cast vote)
1) Yes
2) No

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