There is no set or fixed golf dress code. A golf club’s dress code is whatever the club concerned decides. Some clubs are happy to have none, other can have some highly complicated regulations. However there is some broad consensus among those golf clubs which have chosen to have dress codes as to what is and is not acceptable.
If in doubt, wear chinos and a collared shirt. No club is going to object to that. Well not if the shirt is tucked into the trousers anyway, as some clubs have prohibitions on untucked shirts.
What is acceptable on the course and in the clubhouse can be different, too. If you have ever wondered what a spike bar is, this is a bar that players can go into straight off the course without having to change out of your spiked golf shoes.
Some clubs have a dress code for the clubhouse that changes at certain times of the day – in which case typically evenings have more restrictions. Clubs can also have different regulations for different rooms. Not only the spike bar is less regulated that the normal bar, but sometimes dress regulations are tighter for the dining room than the bar.
Shorts on the golf course are always a tricky subject. Well not so much the shorts themselves – most clubs require that they are tailored and long – but in the matter of the accompanying socks. Some clubs require long socks, so that the only bare bit of flesh left is a knee cap; others allow any type of socks; some only allow short socks if they are white.
I have always found it easier just not to play golf in shorts.
Golf trousers – well a variation on the chino is the most acceptable. Denim, is a no-no, cargo trousers – those with masses of handy bulky outside pockets – is also often proscribed.
Shoes for golf can be an issue. Trainers are out, as it has to be golf shoes at most courses. Although the modern golf shoe often looks so much like a pair of trainers it is hard often to work out what people are wearing. Spikes are another matter – many courses do not allow metal spikes on shoes as these leave spike marks on the green.
Remember when Tiger Woods, among others, used to play in tournaments in a roll-neck shirt? If you don’t, here is a picture to remind you.
Well what Tiger wears golf sells, so you could buy these shirts in pro shops, marketed as golf shirts. The only trouble was lots of courses wouldn’t actually let you wear them out on the course. Rather brilliantly, the pro shops at some of those courses which would not allow these shirts were some of those which stocked them.
With shirts the normal rule was that they have to have collars. But this is gradually being relaxed at some places to “clothing which has been designed to be worn on the golf course.” Which is kinda ironic given that golf is typically played by those wearing items called a polo shirt and a baseball cap.
As mentioned before, if in doubt go for a polo shirt and chinos or slacks – that will get you on any course anywhere. Oh except at those places which require all golfers to wear a red top...
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Contributing Writer Golf courses and travel are Roderick’s particular interests and he was contributing editor for the first few years of the Golf Monthly Travel Supplement. He writes travel articles and general features for the magazine, travel supplement and website. He also compiles the magazine's crossword. He is a member of Trevose Golf & Country Club and has played golf in around two dozen countries. Cricket is his other main sporting love. He is the author of five books, four of which are still in print: The Novel Life of PG Wodehouse; The Don: Beyond Boundaries; Wally Hammond: Gentleman & Player and England’s Greatest Post-War All Rounder.
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