Fair or foul? The rules of dressing for golf

Golfer in pale blue trousers

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Get golf’s dress code right and you can concentrate on your game

Learning the dress code for the golf course can be as much of a challenge as perfecting your swing.

The sport’s style rules can seem demanding at first, but are actually quite manageable if you follow a few simple instructions.

Here’s our list of what’s fair – not foul – to wear on the links. From the first tee to the clubhouse, you’ll avoid an embarrassing dressing down.

Fair way: Always wear a shirt with a collar

Tiger Woods on golf course

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This collared Tiger gets it right

Dress codes – and their levels of enforcement – differ from course to course, but you’ll find almost all will start getting shirty if you head to the fairway without a collared shirt.

Keep it tucked into your smart trousers, with no more than two buttons undone.

A slim-fitting polo shirt is a preferred pro option. Our observant friends at Menswear Style explain why:

“You only need to watch one tournament to realise all golf players wear a shirt with sleeves cut above the elbow; primarily it’s to offer a lot of movement space, but it also helps regulate your temperature in hotter climates.”

If you add a jumper on top in colder climates cashmere is a smart light choice: then you must tuck in your collar to avoid getting, er, collared by those sticklers for etiquette.

Foul way: Sports team shirts, t-shirts and big logos

man in t-shirt on golf course

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Tee off without a t-shirt

The fairway is no place to display your other sporting or branding affiliations. Wearers of football or rugby shirts or shirts displaying big logos will get short shrift.

The same goes for round-neck shirts, even if you’re Tiger Woods. The American champion rocked a roll-neck and it became a sought-after item. But as the chaps at Golf Monthly recall:

“The only trouble was lots of golf clubs 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.”

So make sure you check the course’s dress requirements before you shell out for a prohibited shirt, even if it’s from the pro shop.

Fair way: Always wear a belt with trousers

Man hitting ball on golf course

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Belt up before you belt the ball

Whether the hole’s a straight leg or a dog leg, your legs must be covered by a proper pair of men’s trousers or smart shorts in summer: and always held up by a belt, even if they already fit your waist.

The smart casual look was practically prescribed by golf’s dress code but it remains a fine balance to wear clothing refined enough to do business but still hunker in the bunker.

Find a pair that’s comfortable and flexible but, whatever you choose, wear it well. As the golf nuts at Scottsdale attest:

“No matter what colour or texture is chosen, it is critical that the trousers a golfer wears are well-ironed and present no creases.”

Though some will try to sneak round in black denim, it’s strongly frowned upon.

Foul way: Letting your trousers roll down to the ground

Man with cord trousers plays golf

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There’s thin margin for error at the ground level

Belted they may be, but it’s at the other end of the trousers where many golfers can still go wrong.

Hems brushing the green is obviously a no-no, but even letting the trouser leg hang over your footwear is a few inches too far. The regulation length is a ‘no break’, ending neatly at the top of your shoes.

Want to catch the perfect break? Here’s our men’s trousers guide including how to get your trouser length spot on.

Fair way: Wear gripped golf footwear on the course

Man on golf course

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Get a grip on the well-manicured fairway

The modern game’s lighter and more athletic golf footwear is challenging the old separation between golfing shoes (allowed) and sporting trainers (banned).

The defining rule is now concerned with what is under the shoe, where spikes must provide grip. But take this tip from our friends at Saunton Golf Club:

“If you are torn between metal or rubber spikes, rubber is the best way to go. Several clubs have banned metal spikes to help preserve their greens.”

The other key elements to consider are comfort and support, as you’ll be walking a few miles in these shoes each time you play.

Foul way: Treading your golf shoes through the clubhouse

Purple and white golf shoes

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Make sure you’ve swapped footwear by the 19th hole

You may play a perfect sartorial game on the course but you can still round the day off by putting your foot in it.

Rubber or otherwise, those spiked shoes will be pointedly unwelcome when you walk into the clubhouse.

So have a fresh pair of smart shoes on standby to change into before you enjoy that well-earned post-round drink.

Our final advice: don’t just blindly obey the rules. When making your golfwear purchases focus on comfort and weather-appropriate clothing. When the outfit is taken care of, you’ll be able to focus more on your performance.

Is golf’s code of clothing fair game? Have you been pulled up for the wrong attire on the course? What’s your favourite piece of golfwear? Share your stories and thoughts on our Facebook page.

Posted in Men's style guides.