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  • Alistair Tait

Stop this sartorial silliness!

Updated: Jul 30, 2020

Has any sport done more to contribute to its own downfall than golf? I mean how many other sports do you fret about wearing the right socks like you do in our royal & ancient game.

Pardon the pun, but talk about a sport shooting itself in the foot on a consistent basis.

Catriona Matthew grew up having to deal with silly dress rules, but the victorious Solheim Cup captain probably didn’t think her children would too. Guess what: the game doesn’t seem to have moved on much in some quarters.

The 2009 Ricoh Women’s British Open champion took to twitter to complain about yet another example of some in this game doing their best to turn youngsters off golf:

“@GullaneGolfClub asked daughter and friend (both junior members) 2 leave bar area when ordering drink after their game Friday because they had unsuitable (unhemmed) shorts on, they were going back outside 2 sit anyway!, time to change policy #getwithit #encourage #future

We’d all like to think this is an isolated incident, but the flood of tweets in response tells you it isn’t. Socks seems to be the biggest bugbear for many. Seems if your socks are not a certain colour or have the wrong logo, then you can suffer the wrath of club officials. In some cases you can even be kicked off the premises.

There was an interesting story last month ago about a golfer who had turned up at a Hertfordshire club he was once a member of. An assistant pro informed him black ankle socks weren’t allowed, only white ankle socks. He was allowed to play but, needless to say, his experience was somewhat soured by the pettiness of his former club’s rules.

I think/hope we’ve moved on since the days when knee length socks were the only way any man could play in shorts. It was a shock when I arrived from Canada to be told the only part of my legs that could get air on a warm day was the two inches around my kneecaps. I felt like donning an old pair of football socks and inserting a pair of shin pads just to make a point.


The long sock rule took years to be rescinded at most clubs. I played with a former golf secretary at a club on the south coast of England who’d tried for years to get the club committee to rescind the long sock rule. They steadfastly refused until a group of 20 Swedish men decided against spending their money at a club where they had to wear knee socks in mid July.

The Swedes took their business elsewhere. Guess what? When the secretary informed the committee the sock rule was costing them much needed business, the sock rule was quickly relaxed.

Another club professional friend used to get harassed on a continual basis because of his club’s long sock rule. Visitors would come into the shop to purchase knee length socks as per the club’s rule and complain. It wasn’t the club professional’s fault. He didn’t make the rules.

Thankfully said club no longer has a long sock rule, but it took years for the committee to see the light. It’s ironic the former club committee would get so hung up on a man’s bare calves when some members would turn up, take the same tired old pullover out of their locker, the one with all the holes in it, and take to the course happy to look like a character out of a PG Woodhouse novel.

It wasn’t just socks, but no socks too. How many golfers have changed into a pair of loafers sans socks to enter the clubhouse on a hot day and been told it wasn’t allowed? Too many to count.

If only Denis Pugh was still active on Twitter. The highly respected coach has been against dress codes his entire life.

Simple protocols for adults I get. I mean the idea of someone turning up with just a face mask over his privates like the guy walking down Oxford Street recently wouldn’t be pretty viewing. For children? Let them play in what they want. And let them into the clubhouse in whatever they’re wearing. We want to grow the game, not turn kids off it forever.

If you think the experience of Matthew’s daughter is an example of officiousness gone mad, then friend and fellow golf writer John Huggan can top that. In response to Matthew, he tweeted:

“I was once told to leave the clubhouse at another East Lothian course because the infant I was carrying in my arms was wearing denim dungarees.”

As Huggy rightly pointed out:

“The high levels of pomposity have not yet been eradicated. Love golf, hate the nonsense.”

Spot on. The sooner we stop this sartorial silliness the better.

#JustSaying: “I'd give up golf if I didn't have so many sweaters." Bob Hope

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