Tattoos In Golf - Do They Get Your Club's Stamp Of Approval?

Tattoos are accepted widely these days, but is this the case in the world of club golf? Top 50 coach Katie Dawkins is not so sure

Tattoos that are visible on the course should never be an issue, Golf is a game of etiquette not appearance.
Tattoos that are visible on the course should never be an issue, Golf is a game of etiquette not appearance.
(Image credit: Andy Dow)

Many golf clubs are really upping their game and becoming modern and inclusive clubs, however, are women with multiple tattoos taking up the sport and freely breezing into golf clubs without worrying? Some women are actively avoiding them because of the stuffiness that is commonly associated with the game.

These intimidations may not be totally golf’s fault. Society plays a huge part in how women feel they are perceived in the world generally. The world of golf is one big old step up in decorum and elitism in many eyes. Though we know golf is on the move, getting away from that snobby air and into a more relaxed place where you can just be yourself is hard at many private clubs. There is still some way to go.

Modern and inclusive clubs make everyone feel welcome regardless of how much ink they have

(Image credit: Andy Dow)

Take one of my pupils as an example. Anelia called me one day to discuss her golf bag designs. She’s creating bespoke bags made from sustainable products and wanted my advice.

I encouraged her not just to come and see me at Hamptworth Golf Club, but also to take part in my group lesson.

Tattoos are now part of the brand Famara's marketing

(Image credit: Famara)

Anelia tentatively agreed and rocked up on a sweltering July day in black leggings and a black bomber jacket. Halfway through the lesson I told her to take off the jacket before she cooked. Her response floored me. “I can’t, I have a lot of tattoos and I don’t want to offend anyone,” she said. I take people for who they are and never judge so my response was a breath of fresh air. She was soon golfing in short sleeves with her stunning full sleeves of artwork on display.

Anelia is Bulgarian and growing up in the Cold War, she saw tattoos as a way to rebel against the Iron Curtain. There are stories behind her ink. This is who she is illustrated on her skin and it is personal and fascinating.

Rather than judge, I showed interest and since then she makes the 2 hour journey from Weybridge in Surrey to Wiltshire to play golf, for social events and is now modelling for the fabulous brand Famara, whose strapline is in fact, ‘Art Worth Wearing’. She is accepted and celebrated for the woman she is, respected and encouraged to play this awesome sport. Why on earth wouldn’t other clubs be as welcoming?

Finding your support group is essential, people who want you to be YOU

(Image credit: Andy Dow)

Gary Stangoe, General Manager at The Caversham Golf Club near Reading, says that he wouldn’t bat an eyelid if a golfer was tattooed from head to toe. “Golf is a game based on etiquette not appearance. As long as golfers display etiquette on the course they’re welcome. Growing up in Scotland where many of the courses allow players to play in jeans and a T-shirt, it’s the norm to accept the golfer for who they are and how they choose to appear.” 

‘No Jeans Allowed’ on the clubhouse noticeboard is one thing, but imagine if “No Tattoos Allowed’ appeared. Suddenly you are facing a human rights case and we head right back into a society that you'd have thought would be WAY behind us. Yet just recently at one of the most famous courses in Sydney, Kings of Leon drummer Nathan Followill was told to cover his tattoos up or he wouldn't be allowed on the course due to their no tattoo policy! 

Ink On Tour?

Granted, there aren’t many tour pros who are inked up with sleeves of body art, but there are plenty who do have tattoos. Boo Weekley has two full sleeves, yet covers them up. Whether it’s to keep sponsors happy, it is the way the tours operate at the moment. Female pros such as Mel Reid, Danielle Kang, Becky Brewerton, Casandra Alexander sport fairly modest tattoos. 

However, given the age we live in, and the gentle shedding of that elitist layer, roll on 15 years and we will see plenty more expressionistic ink on the fairways at tour events on all tours. Why should self-imposed badges of identity prevent you from excelling at a sport you shine. I just hope clubs are savvy enough to welcome everyone and young golfers are encouraged to be themselves and play the game.

As characters emerge such as Harry the Tattooed Golf Coach, let’s encourage everyone to break down some barriers and perhaps go as far as educating members on the history of the tattoo and in human behaviour.

Anelia feels she can be herself at Hamptworth Golf Club, but this isn't the case at all clubs

(Image credit: Andy Dow)

There are often stories behind people’s body art and I’d encourage anyone to take an interest in why someone has specific designs and what they mean. Find out their story as I did Anelia’s. I asked her where she’d like to see society and indeed golf in 20 years. As a mature student studying Neuropsychology, her answer was in-depth, so I’ve summed it up here. 

“People will hopefully have overcome their subjective biases and not categorise us as ‘them’, the odd bunch, maybe their brains will not scream ‘DANGER’. I feel at ease and can be myself here with you as my coach, that’s not the norm and it should be.”

As the years go by, I hope to see fewer golfers hiding tattoos away and more ink gracing the fairways. I’d say to anyone worried about being frowned upon at a golf club to get in touch. This is your life and your game, nobody else’s. Stand Tall and Be Proud. Be YOU because you rock.

Katie Dawkins
Advanced PGA Professional and freelance contributor

Katie is an Advanced PGA professional with over 20 years of coaching experience. She helps golfers of every age and ability to be the best versions of themselves. In January 2022 she was named as one of Golf Monthly's Top 50 Coaches.

Katie coaches the individual and uses her vast experience in technique, psychology and golf fitness to fix problems in a logical manner that is effective - she makes golf simple. Katie is now based on the edge of the New Forest. An experienced club coach, she developed GardenGOLF during lockdown and as well as coaching at Iford Golf Centre, The Caversham- Home of Reading Golf Club and Hamptworth Golf Club she freelances, operating via pop-up clinics and travelling to clients homes to help them use their space to improve. 

She has coached tour pros on both LET tour and the Challenge Tour as well as introduced many a beginner to the game. 

Katie has been writing instructional content for magazines for 20 years. Her creative approach to writing is fuelled by her sideline as an artist. 

Katie's Current What's In The Bag

Driver: TaylorMade Qi10 9degrees.

Fairway: TaylorMade Qi10 5wood

Hybrid: TaylorMade 4 & 5

Irons: TaylorMade 770 6-AW

Wedges: TaylorMade Tour Grind 4 54 & 58

Putter: TaylorMade Tour X 33"

Favourite Shoes:  FootJoy HyperFlex with Tour Flex Pro Softspikes on the course.