• Alistair Tait

Time for golf to leg it into the 21st century


The sun came up today. The earth didn’t stop spinning. The clubhouse of the Royal & Ancient Golf Club behind the 18th green at St Andrews is still standing. Lightening didn’t strike Augusta National’s Amen Corner.

Yet four of the world’s top four players played in shorts yesterday. Oh no! What’s happened to the royal & ancient game?

Nothing. That’s what.

There were no howls of protest because Rickie Fowler, Dustin Johnson, Matthew Wolff and Rory McIlroy bared their calf muscles during the TaylorMade Driving Relief exhibition match at Seminole yesterday. Just the opposite.

It was refreshing to see the world’s top stars playing the game the way everyone else does when it’s warm: in shorts. It was also refreshing to see these guys carrying their own golf bags like everyone else.

Don’t expect tour pros to carry their own bags in tournaments, but please tell me a valid reason why these guys can’t wear shorts in competitive play.

There is no valid reason.

It’s been four years since the European Tour allowed members to wear shorts in practice. We can thank Darren Clarke and European Tour chief executive Keith Pelley for that. Clarke petitioned the European Tour to let his European players wear shorts in the oppressive humidity of Kuala Lumpur during practice rounds for the 2016 EurAsia Cup.

EurAsia Cup tournament director David Garland initially turned down the 2016 Ryder Cup captain’s request. The Northern Irishman appealed to Pelley, and Pelley agreed to let the players wear shorts in practice rounds as long as they wore trousers during the match.

Allowing European Tour members to wear shorts in practice rounds became official a week later. The full field for the 2016 Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship was allowed to wear shorts for practice rounds that week, and have been doing so ever since. In fact, one European Ryder Cup star wanted the tour to go further.

“I really don’t see a problem with wearing shorts during tournaments,” Ian Poulter said. “I mean it is 2016.”

Men now wear shorts in practice on the PGA Tour. Even the R&A is on board with the shorts policy. In April 2019, the R&A announced that from last year’s Open Championship at Royal Portrush, players would be allowed to bare their legs in practice.

So far, no main tour or major championship has allowed male competitors to don shorts in competitive rounds as women are allowed to do. But it surely can’t be long? To paraphrase Poulter, it is 2020.

Golf has a habit of looking out of touch. Remember when former world number one David Duval had the temerity to wear a collarless shirt in competitive play? Heaven forbid!

Not allowing the world’s top players to bare their legs further epitomises that out of touch problem.

So, can we have a grown-up discussion about letting the world’s top men play competitive golf in shorts? Actually, we don’t need one. For goodness sake, just let them bare their legs. The world won’t end just because Rory McIlroy displays his calf muscles.

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