Golf has always been and will always be a game that is governed by a relatively strict dress code. For men who love having the freedom to express their own style and the ability to show off their fashion sense, it might seem restrictive.
In this guide we’ll be looking at the most common dress codes and showing you exactly what you can wear to look stylish while still obeying your clubs rules.
Far too many men are still being denied access to the course because they dressed inappropriately or they are forced to wear clothes they don’t feel comfortable in. Hopefully this guide will help to change that and prove to you that you can play golf in style.
Why Does Golf have a Strict Dress Code?
You might be wondering, why does golf have such a strict dress code, isn’t it archaic? In our opinion, obeying a dress code is a matter of politeness. You wouldn’t turn up to a wedding in jeans and you shouldn’t to a golf course either.
Dress codes aren’t there to prevent certain groups of people, they are there to maintain standards and to preserve the history of the game. Often the regulations aren’t as strict as you might imagine and they’ll keep you look professional.
Standard Dress Code
When we considered writing this article the first problem was that each club has their own dress code and these clubs might not be comfortable sharing this guide with their members. To rectify this, we’ll start by saying that above all you should follow your clubs rules.
However, let’s look at a standard dress code that will allow you to play at 99.9% of courses across the globe.
The first thing you’ll notice on many club websites is that they demand you wear collared shirt. This doesn’t mean that you need to wear a dress shirt, it simply rules out vests, crew necks, v-necks and any other form of casual shirt. Instead, look for collared polos and shirts.
You may find that some courses allow smart denim, but this is extremely rare. In general you should wear appropriate slacks.
If you do decide to wear shorts then they must be a professional looking slack short and should be no more than 4-inches above the knee. In practice this means they should sit on or just above the knee.
Golf Shoes Needed
Some more casual courses may allow you to wear trainers of leather brogues, however, you’ll find that most courses require golf shoes.
No Metal Spikes
Although, more and more courses are restricting metal spikes because they tend to damage the green. Instead, look for modern plastic or rubber spiked shoes.
No Gym Wear
A good rule of thumb is to avoid anything that you would wear in the gym including; gym shorts, running trainers, sports jerseys and sweatbands.
Although it’s rarely mentioned in the course rules, wearing appropriate socks is important. With trousers you should be wearing a long or medium length sock, while with shorts you shouldn’t wear a sock that goes above your ankle.
Again, headwear often isn’t restricted in rulebooks but pick something appropriate. Sports caps are usually acceptable as are flat caps and visors. However, gag hats, cowboy hats, beanies and dress hats are best left at home.
Whenever you’re trying to create an outfit it’s always smart to look for inspiration and in the world of golf we have four standout men who’ve graced the green with their presence.
However, recognize that expectations have changed in the years since some of these photos. Regardless, they are proof that you can look dapper and still score on-par.
JFK’s love of golf was well-known and the President tried to get on the course whenever he had the chance. As with all of his outfits, he managed to mix conservative ideals with a new fresh vibrant feel that made him so loved.
In the first photo we can see him wearing a dark navy polo, tucked-in as per course rules, salmon pink slacks and leather shoes. Of course, these days you’d often be expected to wear golf shoes rather than loafers.
Why does this look so great? He’s sticking to the basics, solid colors that match and aren’t overly vibrant. The salmon pink isn’t garish, it’s pastel and this allows it to work well with his darker polo.
White and beige has always been a fixture on courses around the world. The President has done a fantastic job of matching a slightly darker pair of slacks with a lighter polo, this is always safer than the other way around.
You’ll also notice that his shoes are a dark brown. This creates a wonderful natural pattern of dark at the bottom and light at the top, blending through, rather than breaking the trend.
Finally, this photo is a little blurred but you can see that he is wearing a pastel yellow pair of slacks with a light blue pastel polo. You’ll see golfers in the tour wearing similar colors but more vibrant and it looks terrible. The key is to choose dull pastel colors that aren’t garish.
Every avid golfer knows Arnold Palmer, he’s a classic golf icon and was known as much for his putting ability as he was for his sense of style.
If you’re looking to maintain the traditional golfing look then Palmer is as good a man to emulate as any. He represents everything great about the 20th century pro scene and looked smart while doing it.
In the first photo it’s hard to tell if it’s Arnold Palmer or Daniel Craig as James Bond. He looks great is this look that reminds us of JFK’s similar outfit. Again, it’s an attractive look because the yellow isn’t too vibrant - it lets the blue polo take center stage.
In the middle photo you can see Palmer in one of his most popular outfits, a pair of pleated grey slacks and one of his signature sweaters. This winter rather than an uncomfortable jacket, why not consider a Palmer inspired blue sweater.
Finally, we get to see a great shot of his golf shoes and an interesting pair of slacks. It just goes to show that you can still be fun and imaginative while still looking professional.
Another President, it must be nice to have a stylist pick out your entire wardrobe.
President Obama is a great example of how the game has changed since the 70’s, compared to JFK his outfits are much more casual and they include ‘sports’ materials rather than dress materials.
You can see that he’s obeying the club rules to a tee, his socks are the perfect length and he wouldn’t dare be seen with his collared shirt untucked.
The President shows us the ideal length short, a smart and solid colored slack short than sits just above the knee.
Finally, let’s look at current pro Adam Scott who is regularly considered one of the most stylish golfers on the scene. Of course, he’s expected to follow different course codes than most of us would be, but it shows that you can look great in slacks even in summer.
The lesson to be learned from Scott is to avoid excessive amounts of color. The basics have looked great for decades and there is no need to fix something that isn’t broken.
However, he’s managed to make it look interesting without being boring by mixing colors. His first two outfits are an excellent example of a conservative course attire, while the final image is perfect for an evening game in the summer.
Summer Smart Outfit
If you want to remain smart in summer then it's important to switch from thicker materials to more lightweight materials that will let you breathe. Rather than wearing a cotton shirt choose poplin or linen.
This outfit will look great on the course, it matches whites throughout and adds some color in the shoe and the shirt, perfect for a summers 9-hole.
Summer Casual Outfit
If you're playing a more casual course then you can ditch the shirt and slacks in favor of appropriate shorts and a well-fitted navy polo. Note, this look is similar to what JFK was seen wearing.
We've matched the white on the shoe to a white glove and a white sock.
Winter Smart Outfit
In winter you'll want to layer up, especially if you're playing in the morning. Rather than picking out a sports coat or a rain jacket you might look for a 1/2 zip sweater, inspired by President Kennedy.
As you can see, the dark navy of the sweater is matched the the blue accent of the shoe and the white shirt matches the glove and toe caps. Our favorite outfit of the article.
Winter Casual Outfit
Again, if you're playing a more casual course then feel free to drop the traditional white and spring for some darker shoes and tan slacks.
This look is one of the most common that you'll see on casual courses and it's also the most comfortable. You can pick up the basics shown here for a bargain and that'll allow you to look stylish this winter.
Most of all, prioritize a superior fit. If your clothes aren't hugging your body then they're too loose but if they are restricting your play they are too tight. Don't be afraid to take your game clothes to a tailor and ask them to make adjustments where needed.