I never wanted to play golf. For months, my friend Katie tried to convince me to join her in taking lessons, and my answer was always the same: “I’m a football player. I’m not a golfer.” I just didn’t see how I could belong in a world that seemed to offer a heady mixture of racism, elitism and sexism. From a distance, all I could see were barriers, especially golf’s obsession for rules and regulations, including a strict dress code. As a woman who doesn’t like being told what to wear in her free time, this was enough to put me off even trying golf. I know I’m not the only one feeling this way. Golf suffers from an image problem, especially amongst young people, so I was intrigued when the LPGA (Ladies’ Professional Golf Association) decided to update their dress code. Violations will be met with a $1000 fine.
- Racerback with a mock or regular collar are allowed (no collar = no racerback)
- Plunging necklines are NOT allowed
- Leggings, unless under a skort or shorts, are NOT allowed
- Length of skirt, skort, and shorts MUST be long enough to not see your bottom area (even if covered by under shorts) at any time, standing or bent over.
So certain items of clothing are NOT allowed, while others MUST be long enough. The problem I have with this is twofold:
1) It is confusing. What exactly is a “plunging neckline”? Where does the “bottom area” end and where does it start?
2) Who will be in charge of enforcing it? Do they need to provide their own measuring tape?
3) Say your skirt is of acceptable length, but a sudden gust blows it up and reveals part of your “bottom area”. Does the course architect get fined for creating a wind tunnel?
4) Why does golf have such a problem with the female body, when other sports seem to embrace it? Have you ever heard of swimmers, sprinters and long jumpers being reprimanded for showing too much skin?
5) I could go on, but I said my problem is twofold and I’ve already gone on too much.
All Tour professionals are athletes. They are amazing ambassadors for golf. I find it so embarrassing that they’re shamed in such a way. Their goal is to win tournaments and they have to feel comfortable and confident to play as well as they can. For some of them, that means wearing modern pieces of clothing that are cut differently from the traditional golf outfits. They’re young women; of course they’re going to have different tastes from our venerable elders. Is that really such a big problem? Is it so offensive to see a woman’s collarbones on the course? How is that harming the sport?
I understand that for some people, the dress code is a way to maintain certain standards of behaviour on the golf course. I would argue that some of the rudest people I’ve come across adhere strictly to the dress code. To me, dress code and behaviour have very little to do with each other. This change looks more like a knee-jerk reaction of an old-fashioned establishment trying to control their younger and more modern members. But the worst thing is that it was widely shared and publicised, which is horrible for the image of a sport which is trying to modernise itself in order to attract the young players it needs to survive.
This change of dress code has achieved one thing: confirming the reputation of golf as hopelessly old-fashioned and sexist. As a football player, I know an own goal when I see one. This one is spectacular.