Should Golf Clubs Have A Dress Code?

Is there still a place or is it totally outdated?

Should Golf Clubs Have A Dress Code
(Image credit: Getty Images)

GM regulars Jeremy Ellwood and Fergus Bisset debate whether or not there remains any place for a dress code in the modern golf club.

Should Golf Clubs Have A Dress Code?

Yes says Jeremy Ellwood

Before I get too far into this thorny subject, let me say that if the question had been ‘should clubs have outdated dress codes’ I would have been fighting Fergus for the ‘no’ side.

I wouldn’t go to any club out of choice that still insisted on jacket and tie in the clubhouse all day, for example (and there are still a few!).

But that’s not to say there shouldn’t be some defining line, even if it’s merely that your shirt should either be collared or a purposely designed golf shirt, or any short socks should be ankle socks rather than those tiny invisible ones.

I believe the vast majority of golfers turn up in the very gear that is golf’s typical dress code anyway, whether written or unwritten, and at most clubs it’s hardly an onerous task to comply unless your wardrobe consists only of ripped jeans and vests.

Most clubs make their dress codes abundantly clear on their websites, so if you choose to turn up in something that doesn’t meet those requirements and then plaster messages all over social media about the unfairness of it all, I’m afraid that reflects more badly on you than that club.

You have a choice as to where you play.

And let’s not forget that some dress code requirements are for practical reasons.

If a club politely requests that you change out of the clothes you’ve just played in before entering the bar, that’s partly out of courtesy to others especially on the sultriest of golfing days or when every garment you’re wearing is soaked through.

In 95% of cases, I really don’t think dress codes are worth getting too hot under the collar about, even if it’s a collar you are obliged to wear.

Should Golf Clubs Have A Dress Code?

No says Fergus Bisset

Should Golf Clubs Have A Dress Code?

A variety of style choices on display here

One of the main things turning young people off golf is the number of things they feel they can’t do…. “can’t use your phone in here,” … “can’t play off those tees,” … “can’t use that locker room,” … and perhaps the most backward thinking and restrictive of them all… “you can’t wear that.”

The dress code is a throwback to a time of prejudice and intolerance, it’s symbolic of a deep-rooted snobbery and small-mindedness within golf that must be eradicated if the game is to survive in the modern world.

What are the old-school members who cling determinedly to a dress code afraid of?

Do they suddenly think the course will be invaded by hordes of lads in muscle-tops and girls in high heels?... Of course it won’t.

Apart from a very few exceptions, people dress appropriately for whatever activity they are undertaking.

For golf, they will mainly choose golfing attire and, if they don’t have anything so specific, they will choose comfortable and robust clothing suitable for four hours of outdoor walking.

Who cares if the trousers they select are made of denim? Who cares if the shirt they wear doesn’t have a collar? What difference will it make to anybody else’s enjoyment of their day at the golf club?

Anybody who says it will lessen their own golfing experience needs to have a serious think about how their personal principles are organised.

Dress codes are subjective. What one person views as smart and conforming, another may see as old-fashioned and excluding.

Times and fashions change, and golf must be able to move seamlessly with them. Dress codes are prohibitive to that.

We need our sport to become more about what you can do rather than what you can’t and removing unnecessary dress codes is a step in the right direction.

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?