6 Golf Club Rules That Are Holding The Game Back

Golf needs a progressive approach to appeal to new generations of players. We consider some golf club rules that are holding the game back.

golf club rules holding the game back
Do we really still need to wear knee-high socks?
(Image credit: Tom Miles)

The game of golf has come a long way over the last few decades and golf clubs have largely moved with the times in an effort to appeal to and provide for a new generation of players with different life views and expectations.

Almost wholly gone are the days of men-only bars and the requirement for knee-high socks to be worn with shorts, but some clubs do continue to cling to slightly archaic principles that are overly prescriptive and can appear discriminatory or backward-thinking. For golf to thrive going forwards, clubs need to deliver full inclusivity and do away with any rules that make the sport appear stuffy and out of time – That’s the image we need to lose. Here are 6 golf club rules that are holding the game back.

Dress code

Golf clubs really don’t need any sort of prescriptive dress code anymore, although guidelines could be useful for those starting out. The overwhelming majority of those who choose to play golf, choose an outfit that is appropriate for an outdoor activity and, whether that outfit has a collar, a hood, involves a tailcoat or Jacobean ruff, it really doesn’t matter. If someone chooses an outfit that isn’t fit for purpose, they’ll realise that pretty quickly when they get out on course and won’t choose it again. If they choose to dress like a wally, that’s their prerogative. Likewise with the old-school:

Jacket and Tie rules

If people like arriving at the club in jacket and tie and like to put on jacket and tie after their round, that’s great. They will look and feel smart and should be commended for their approach. But it shouldn’t be a requirement. It makes life very awkward for visitors who may be on a holiday or tour who haven’t packed their tweeds. It can also be rather uncomfortable on the warmest days of summer. If jacket and tie was, instead, the preferred but not required attire for certain parts of the clubhouse, many would adhere to it but those who are less well prepared would still be able to enjoy a drink and a bite to eat after their round.

Members’ Guests rules

holding the game back

(Image credit: Tom Miles)

We need to attract more people to become golf club members and one of the best ways of doing that is for current members to introduce guests for the round, or for the day. But sometimes the rules on doing so appear constrictive and are immediately off-putting to those prospective members being shown what the club is like.

Members’ guests only being accepted after a certain time, members’ guests only being allowed into the clubhouse when accompanied by the member who introduced them, only one or two member guests being allowed to be introduced at a time... Members’ guests need to be made to feel like a proper member for the day they’re visiting. That is the best approach to get as many as possible to move from being a members’ guest to being a member.

Junior Restrictions

juniors in adult competitions

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Juniors are the future of golf and, as almost every club will say, we could do with having more of them. Something that will very much turn juniors off golf is facing rules that prevent them from doing things and make them feel like naughty kids. Rules on when juniors can book times, rules on juniors not being allowed in the bar if unaccompanied by an adult – these don’t encourage young people to get involved. Neither do rules that prevent juniors playing in adult competitions.

The “Men’s” Club Championship

The club championship should be simply that – the club championship. Playing off scratch and off the same tees, the club championship should be open to, and able to be won by any member – junior to senior – and he, she or they will be club champion for the year. Too many clubs still refer to the men’s club championship as the club championship.

Rules on phones and TV

holding back the game

(Image credit: Tom Miles)

Let’s face it – the smart phone is a fundamental part of modern life. We bank on it, book flights on it, pay for things with it… It’s here to stay. If a club still has one of those signs hanging up with an ancient looking mobile phone with a red line through it, the younger generation would think it comical and a clear indication that they are in somewhere they shouldn't be, somewhere inhabited by “old crusties.”

Also, clubs without TVs in the main bar or lounge area. Will younger people want to pay to be members of a club where you can’t watch the last round of big golfing events or, say, the Wimbledon final in the main seating area?

Fergus Bisset
Contributing Editor

Fergus is Golf Monthly's resident expert on the history of the game and has written extensively on that subject. He is a golf obsessive and 1-handicapper. Growing up in the North East of Scotland, golf runs through his veins and his passion for the sport was bolstered during his time at St Andrews university studying history. He went on to earn a post graduate diploma from the London School of Journalism. Fergus has worked for Golf Monthly since 2004 and has written two books on the game; "Great Golf Debates" together with Jezz Ellwood of Golf Monthly and the history section of "The Ultimate Golf Book" together with Neil Tappin , also of Golf Monthly. 

Fergus once shanked a ball from just over Granny Clark's Wynd on the 18th of the Old Course that struck the St Andrews Golf Club and rebounded into the Valley of Sin, from where he saved par. Who says there's no golfing god?