Last week, Basketball legend Michael Jordan, an avid golfer who plays off a single-figure handicap was playing as a guest of a member at the exclusive La Gorce Country Club in Miami Beach, Florida.
Jordan (below), who had played the course several times before wearing the same attire, was dressed in a pair of multi-pocketed combat shorts for the round. During this round however, a member complained that Jordan was not suitably attired as per club rules, and an official was sent to rectify the situation.
Jordan was offered the chance to change into different shorts, or buy shorts from the club shop but refused to do so and opted to play on dressed as he was. This led to several members complaining and as result, a ‘source’ at the club claimed that; “he won’t be invited back.”. Was it a member’s right or outdated snobbery?
Once again, this high-profile incident brings up the issue of golf clubs and dress codes and it is an issue I genuinely do feel passionate about.
Private Members Club
Firstly, I do understand that as private members clubs, golf clubs have the right to decide upon whatever rules they deem fit for the running of the clubs as per the needs of its members. That is their right as they pay to become a member.
My one question is; is a dress code really a necessary part of that in this modern day and age? Are these really so offensive?
Unfortunately, my view is that this entire notion of dress code is entrenched, not in helping people to wear the clothing items needed to play golf better, but simply in a form of class snobbery. It harkens back to the days when elitism was not just accepted but encouraged, when our differences were used to keep us apart, when the notion of “equality” was still an alien concept to many.
The fact of the matter is, the clothes that so many golf courses are so desperate to ban, training shoes, tracksuits and jogging bottoms, collarless shirts and (heaven forbid!) jeans, are all items of clothing that tend to be associated with the lower, working classes.
As such, the traditionally upper and middle class golf clubs, view them with distaste.
From that simple premise it is easy to see why there is a real need to uphold “image” for some clubs. They don’t want the “proles” involved. They don’t want their car parks filled with 10 year old Datsun Cherries, they want the shiny new BMW’s and Mercedes and presumably, people attired like below:
They view their golf course as being this precious, cosseted world where morals, manners and gentlemanly sporting conduct abound, where the common-man may be good enough to trim the greens but not play on them.
But even if you are rich and famous, if you fail the clothing test and you are treading on thin ice, especially if you are wearing flip-flops or training shoes.
Professional Golfers’ Dress Code – long trousers or shorts?
It is not just the amateur game and private clubs that clothing is an issue. Every week, across the globe, professional golfers are forced to play in most sanctioned events in sweltering balmy conditions in a pair of trousers. Their caddies can wear shorts (presumably because they are servile minions of the lofty professional and thus not worthy of noticing), but the golfer must be attired so.
Why? In a recent end of season tournament in Turkey, I was stunned to turn on the television and see the likes of Lee Westwood and Charles Schwartzel playing in a tournament in shorts. Of course, I immediately assumed that society had now broken down and that the Mayan’s were probably right.
I glanced out the window and was relieved to find that the world continued as normal. My local course wasn’t turned to ash by hundreds of people turning up in similar clothing and torching the greens, ploughing the fairways and turning the clubhouse into a crack den. Buildings weren’t rent from their foundations and tumbled to the ground. The sky did not fall on our heads.
What happened instead was that some golfers competing chose to play in shorts, some preferred trousers, but I bet they were delighted to have the choice.
No spectators needed treatment at the First Aid tent for seeing Lee Westwood’s knees. The sight of Charles Schwartzel’s calf didn’t send the genteel folk fleeing into the Turkish hills.
What is particularly irksome to me is that while certain types of clothes are forbidden by golf authorities and private courses, the fact of the matter is, you can ban clothing but you cannot ban a lack of style.
Like it or not, the middle-aged man golfer look is not a particularly attractive one if you elect to buy some of the gaudy offerings available today. Rickie Fowler may look resplendent in his bright orange shirt and trousers each Sunday, but in the real world, most golfers would walk around the course looking like a bemused tangerine.
Ian Poulter has the drive and determination of a Jack Nicklaus and the icy cold temperament of Tiger Woods, yet he has his own fashion style (above), which can kindly be described as being “unique” or more accurately “not on this planet.”
And as for John Daly’s clothes, it comes to something when you can spank the golf ball 360 yards with your driver time and time again, and all the people who watch you can talk about are your pink, powder blue and orange trousers.
Yet these are all perfectly fine and dandy on a golf course as they are “per the rules”, but a nice pair of (let’s not deny it, expensive) combat shorts with a few extra pockets attached, is not?
I know which I find more offensive on the eye and which would distract me more when playing. What about you?
Golf Shoes vs Training Shoes or Sneakers
Have you also noticed how many top players golf shoes now are starting to look less like golf shoes and more like training shoes? That’s because the design of the trainer is generally more comfortable than a traditional golf shoe, so players want to wear them.
I understand that golf has to promote the right image, but I am not sure uniformity over uniform is it. In a game where we cherish individualism, it seems strange to stop people wearing what they like and are comfortable in.
If golf wants to reach a wider audience and promote the game to children and teenagers to help nurture the next generation, then these outdated rules and regulations mean only those really, really dedicated to the game will continue with it.
Which is a shame as it means millions are missing out on enjoying the game because they wear the wrong clothes and will not be accepted by “the members”.
I’ve no doubt the La Gorce Country Club members are slapping themselves on the back, having shown a multi-millionaire the error of his ways.
I’ve equally no doubt that there are thousands of courses across America, and indeed the world, that would welcome the patronage of Michael Jordan and reward him equally without the utterly avoidable and facile patronisation.
Golf has many fine and noble traditions.
The dress-code is one it can do without.
Pictures courtesy of Lee Westwood, John Daly, Ian Poulter & Michael Jordan Facebook Page, Gorilla Golf.