Being new to golf can be a daunting proposition. It feels like there is so much to learn about hitting a little white ball but not only that there is golf’s dress code to navigate around. A few courses remain the height of stuffiness in terms of what can and can’t be worn, but there is no reason why every golfer can’t find his or her own style to look good on the golf course.
Before delving into the numerous options for items and accessories that can be worn during a round of golf and then for a drink afterwards at the 19th, here’s a quick run-down of things to generally avoid when deciding what to wear.
What not to wear on the Golf Course
T-shirts: Casual round neck T-shirts are not for golf. What’s more there is a huge range of polo shirts (T-shirts with collars) that work really well. Also avoid football kits and rugby shirts – that is not golf.
Shorts: No to flowery-type shorts that you might wear to the beach or long three-quarter length shorts. Again, no football or rugby shorts either. Women should not wear sun dresses or cut-off denim shorts.
Footwear: Flip-flops are great on the beach, but not on the golf course. Plus, try swinging a club with them on your feet and you could easily twist your ankle. The same goes for sandals. And for women, it should go without saying that high heels are neither practical nor permitted.
Jeans: Obviously jeans have become a whole lot smarter than the hard-wearing style they were original designed for, but by and large, they have remained unwelcome on the golf course and they are not comfortable wearing outdoors for so long. Leave them at home.
Jackets/coats: There are all manner of jackets and coats nowadays, but for golf, stick to a waterproof jacket. It looks good and most importantly, it keeps the rain off.
Shoes: Anything but a pair of proper golf shoes should be avoided.
What to wear on the Golf Course
So now we have ruled certain items out, it’s time to look at what to wear to golf. The golf clothing industry is huge with vast choice, so you can easily dress yourself in golf attire from head to toe. Whatever is your colour or style, there will be golf attire to match. Whether you want to channel your inner John Daly with loud, bright colours or opt for a more sober style, that is fine, too. There will be something to match your preferences. Here’s a look at what options you have to wear on the golf course.
Polo shirts: These are a classic for the golf course, and there is a huge range available in different brands, from budget right through to exclusive names.
There has been a move away from cotton polo shirts in recent years to polo shirts made of more lightweight materials. These are specifically designed for golfers to wear outside in good weather for a few hours at a time. As a general rule and definitely if wearing with trousers, tuck the polo shirt in.
Women can also wear sleeveless polo shirts as long as they have a collar.
Trousers: So, you can’t wear your everyday jeans at the majority of golf courses, and after a while, most golfers would tell you that they are glad not to wear them. Golf trousers usually come in a slightly softer material to be comfortable, but enough to resist any vagaries in the weather.
Chinos are a good, safe option, too, although specific golf trousers are better because they have been designed for playing golf.
For women, chinos or golf trousers are the best option for what to wear on the course.
Shorts: A great idea if the weather is good! Just remember to wear shorts that are just above knee length, and they usually look better when worn with a belt. A good pair of golf shorts can definitely be worn away from the course, too.
Women can opt for skirts, golf shorts or golf skorts. These are available in a wide range of colours and styles. Some clubs still demand they be worn below the knee, but at most places, it’s a case of using your common sense and not wearing shorts or skorts that are ridiculously short.
Socks: Wear whatever you like with long trousers. But traditionally, some clubs have insisted on wearing knee length socks with shorts. Luckily, that trend is dying out but if unsure, a pair of white sports socks should be fine.
If wearing shorts, women will be fine to wear short ankle socks.
Mid-layers: Mid-layer is an all-encompassing way of describing something that is not a jacket but is more substantial than a t-shirt, so here is a guide to those various options.
Sweaters – Readers of a certain vintage may think of Ronnie Corbett sat in his big chair wearing v-neck jumpers on The Two Ronnies years ago. Those jumpers are still seen on the course and depending on the motif they have on, can be very expensive! If wearing a golf jumper, make sure it is a nicely fitted one as a baggy jumper just gets in the way of your golf swing.
Hoodies – Once a complete no-no, there is now a range of special golf hoodies. But use your common sense over this, if you think you’re going to be playing at a very fussy club, don’t wear it that day.
Golf Gilet – Gilets can be a good option in spring or summer if playing on a nice day but you need an extra layer of warmth. The golf vests are not as bulky as a gilet you may wear casually, as they give you the freedom needed for hitting the ball.
Mid-layers – These could alternatively be described as a windproof top. They are quite thin but warm, and the long sleeves protect you from a chilly breeze.
Waterproofs: Any experienced UK golfer will tell you these are an essential piece of kit! There is no escaping the rain when we are out playing golf and we need waterproofs to stop us getting soaked.
Waterproofs consists of a lightweight jacket and a pair of trousers which you can slip over your normal trousers. The trousers are perfect as rain just slips off them. The weight is important as you still need to be able to do your swing without feeling impeded by your clothes.
Shoes: A pair of shoes with metal spikes used to be non-negotiable but times have changed. Metal spikes have been replaced with non-metal spikes that do less damage to the turf. While there are now spikeless shoes, which are favoured by many golf professionals and look very similar to trainers. Golf shoes work so well because they have been designed, knowing that a golfer will be on their feet for potentially up to five hours, so they have a combination of being durable but comfortable.
Caps, hats and visors: Most golfers have at least one of each lurking somewhere amongst their golf attire. Of course, the weather dictates what type of hat to wear with caps and visors in summer and hats in winter. But with a cap, always have the peak facing forwards.
What to wear in the clubhouse:
Much will depend on a club’s own rules and on whether you are having a sit-down meal or just grabbing a casual drink. If you are having dinner, it is probably worth checking in advanced what is permitted.
If you just want a quick drink at the bar (or spike bar as they are often called), use common sense. Spikeless shoes are absolutely fine but make sure you have cleaned any mud off. Nobody wants to be cleaning up patches of mud or grass after you. The same goes for your clothes. If wearing spikes, maybe slip on a pair of casual shoes instead, but not sports shoes.
About the Author
Adam Lanigan - Golf Writer
Adam is a freelance news and sports journalist who has written for the BBC, The Sunday Post, The I, The Times, The Telegraph and more. He has been writing about golf for nearly two decades and has covered 13 Open Championships and two Ryder Cups. Not only does Adam cover golf, but he has played golf for as long as he can remember. He was a member at Northenden Golf Club for around 25 years until his children arrived and his last official handicap was 11, although on any given day his form fluctuates anywhere between eight and 18.