Golf is a quirky game in many ways. For beginners, the concept of a dress code for playing a round may be a bit daunting! Yet, when you take a closer look, there is nothing at all frightening about the general requirements for dress on the course. And, you don’t need to spend a fortune to dress in acceptable fashion.
Why do golf clubs adhere to a dress code? It’s simply a mark of respect. Golf is a gentleman’s and ladies game that is always played respectfully, and always has been. Part of the dress code is – and this may not be apparent at first – actually aimed at the player’s comfort. Once you get into the game and start wearing the ‘uniform’ you’ll see what we mean!
Before we talk about individual areas of the dress code – and we will do so for both men and women – let’s have a brief look at what you can expect to be required of you.
Be assured that you will find just about every golf club, wherever you are in the world, will have a dress code that you need to adhere to. In most cases, you will find it similar to the club you belong to, as there is a broad and general ‘casual’ golf outfit that – except in some special cases – will be entirely acceptable.
Where you may find a difference is if you have the opportunity to play at an ‘exclusive’ or very expensive club. You will know this either by the name – it may be a course that is world-renowned – or by hearsay.
The general advice is that if you are to play at a club you have never been to before, get in touch with them beforehand and ask for their dress regulations. You’ll find they will be more than happy to advise you. In a case where you can’t ask, go for the safe option: avoid the full ‘casual’ dress option, and go collared shirt and smart trousers (note that many clubs expect ladies to play in a skirt) with a belt and your best golf shoes. You can’t go wrong if you follow this code.
There are many golf clubs that will happily accept a more casual attire – a smart t-shirt may be acceptable, perhaps – but only go down this route if you are sure. There are also a few no-no’s when it comes to dressing for golf: never, ever wear jeans, it simply is not done; steer away from sandals and flip flops, and if in doubt, avoid t-shirts.
Before we continue, a little aside: in some countries seasoned players have been complaining that dress codes at golf clubs are becoming more relaxed. This is especially so in the case of Australia, for example, where some players have been turning up – and getting accepted – wearing camo-shorts and beach gear. Don’t be that person; golf is a game that has its traditions, and one of those is the dress code.
In The Clubhouse
So far we have been concentrating on the golfer’s outfit on the course. We need to talk briefly about attire in the clubhouse, where you will be heading after your round for a drink with friends, or perhaps taking a meal.
Most clubs will be happy to let you into the clubhouse in the outfit you wear on the course – but remember to change your shoes if you wear spikes.
In more exclusive clubs, you might need to change into a smarter outfit to ‘fit in’ in the clubhouse, and most clubs will have changing rooms where you can do so. Once again, if it’s a club you’re not familiar with, the thing to do is ask.
The Golf Outfit
So, let’s get into a little more detail. Remember, there are many golf shops that can help you choose the right outfit – and we suggest looking at online sources for great deals – and that will also give you ideas and inspiration. Let’s start at the feet and work our way up!
Choice of Footwear
Footwear is largely the same for men and women, so here are some tips.
First, it’s important to remember that the older style of metal golf spikes are likely to banned wherever you play. These are the ones that chew up the surface, so if this is what you have, you need a replacement.
Golf shoes with the shorter ‘dimples’ on the sole – designed to give grip when playing a shot – are acceptable in most places, but it is still worth checking what is and what is not permitted if playing an unfamiliar course.
For the casual round on your local course you should be fine with trainers or standard sports shoes.
What you should not attempt to play golf in are the following: flip-flops or sandals, casual day shoes, and for women, high heels!
The popular image of the male golfer with patterned socks pulled up to just below the knees is one that you will still find applies in some very strict instances. However, while socks are a requirement just about everywhere – for men, that is – most courses nowadays will be happy if you wear standard sports socks.
For ladies, short ankle or sports socks are the general requirement.
Trousers and Skirts
For the male golfer, a pair of golf trousers is the best course of action, whatever the level of exclusivity the course. This is the most comfortable choice of attire for the legs, as they are designed to be breathable, and you will be doing a lot of walking! Chinos are also perfectly acceptable, but may not be as comfortable as golf trousers.
For women, golf trousers are also acceptable golfing wear, but some of the stricter and more traditional clubs may insist that ladies wear a suitable skirt that is below the knee on length. Not all clubs are so strict, and some may simply request that skirt worn is not absurdly short – this should of course be common sense for any lady golfer!
A definite no applies to the following: for men and women, jeans will certainly not be permitted. For women, as we have said very short skirts may see you turned away, while sundresses and pants worn for athletics – track suits and otherwise – will not be allowed.
A brief word on the wearing of shorts by both men and women when on the golf course: for women, golf shorts are usually perfectly acceptable – they must be of the required type, and the likes of cut-off jeans will not be tolerated – while for men, some of the more exclusive courses will say no to shorts, but most will allow decent, just above the knee shorts for men in hot weather. The rule is to keep your modesty intact!
There is a rule here that applies to both men and women – your chosen golf shirt must have a collar. This means you can also choose a typical polo shirt for playing a round. There are usually no rules on colour choice, but it makes sense to wear something that is not too bright on the eye.
Men may also play in full-sleeve shirts; however, this will not be as comfortable as the traditional golf or polo shirt. Your shirt must also remain tucked in, whichever type you choose to wear.
For women, the rules are generally the same as for men, but with a few added options such as the choice of a V-neck shirt or sleeveless, as long as they have a collar. Turtleneck tops may also be acceptable, but check first as always.
The following will not be accepted and should not be considered: tank tops, halter-necks, football shirts and rugby shirts, and V-necks where men are concerned in most cases.
You will have an image of the patterned golf sweater, usually complete with its diamond pattern motif. This is often the commonplace choice for playing in cooler weather, but the pattern is not obligatory!
Keep it plain and simple, and remember that – for men – the preferred fit is a tight sweater, both for smartness and comfort. Loose sweaters may be frowned upon. Also, you must tuck the collar of your shirt into the sweater – this is standard golfing practice.
For ladies, the rules are generally the same, and they may also wear warm shirts with buttons, but check with the course first.
Not every game of golf is a walk in the sunshine. You may need to play in cold and wet conditions, in which case waterproof jackets or anoraks are perfectly acceptable, both for men and women. Your course shop will have a good selection for you to choose from or from which to get an idea of the style permitted.
Tight fitting is best – for ease of playing and comfort – and avoid denim jackets or anything with fur, as these will get you turned away!
For both men and women, there is no requirement to wear a hat or cap. However, playing a round of golf can mean a long time under the sun, and protecting the head is important. Be sensible; no silly hats, just standard sports caps – baseball caps or golf caps – and always worn with the peak forward!
Golf dress code and etiquette may seem a little bewildering, perhaps somewhat ‘stuffy’ and old-fashioned at times, but in fact once you get into it, you’ll realise that it’s one of the few sports that does not have a ‘strict’ dress code or indeed a uniform, just a set of rules that mean everyone on the course is respectfully dressed at all times, and as comfortable as can be.
I'm Rob. I'm an avid golf enthusiast and golf tutor with over 40 years experience playing this beautiful but frustrating game. I'm here to offer advice (if you want it) and share my passion with golfers from around the world.