2010 Golfweek for Her: It's time to address the dress code

It’s the dress-code predicament that has troubled women forever: How to be fashion-forward without crossing the boundaries of traditional taste.

The subject likely takes us back to our junior years, when some of you, maybe like me, wore our father’s oversized and boxy shirts – despite every effort to shrink the heck out of them in the dryer – and in the end, hated getting dressed for the golf course.

I still remember heading to my home golf club, which was notorious for being a stickler for “appropriate” dress. I wouldn’t dare step out of the car wearing jeans or shorts – unless they were hideously long.

I can recall one time wearing a pair of Ralph Lauren “Golf” capris (or at least that’s what the tag said). I was feeling pretty stylish, but before I could take three warm-up putts on the practice green I was approached by the fashion police. I was told to change out of these “pedal-pusher-type bottoms” immediately, and return only when I was dressed appropriately. As a distraught teenager, I left the course that day and vowed never to return. But I had the golf bug and came back the next day, complying with their stinkin’ rules.

I’ve never forgotten that day.

Today, there is no shortage of women’s golf products. We can choose from pink balls to turquoise grips or from hundreds of shoes, skorts and shirts. But stodgy traditions and strict dress-code regulations enforced by some clubs hardly have relaxed.

Even men, including PGA Tour pros, have been subjected to these arbitrary rules.

Remember when Mike Weir showed up for a practice round at Royal Montreal GC for the 2007 Presidents Cup? Dressed in a mock-necked shirt, banned at the time, Weir was refused access to the course. Can you imagine? Weir’s agent had to buy him a suitable shirt so Weir could enter.

Can’t our sport come up with uniform guidelines so it’s a little bit easier to get dressed to play? Our game has enough hurdles – time, money, difficulty. Do we really want to exclude people over fashion?

A U.S. Golf Association spokesperson told me that other than regulating footwear (nonmetal spikes only), the association doesn’t address dress codes.

“All we ask is for our players to be neat in appearance. If our host course has a strict dress code, we ask that it be waived for the week of our championship,” says Beth Murrison.

The American Junior Golf Association defers to its tournament hosts, and it’s reasoning is understandable.

“Our goal is to be consistent across the board, respect the host course of each and every tournament and make sure that (our) association and members are always acceptable and respect the game and various codes of conduct,” says Courtney Jones, an AJGA tournament director. “It’s important to remember that these are children.”

For the rest of us, fortunately, many LPGA players are taking a stand. They’re dressing with style to match their talent – and exuding tons of confidence in the process.

Why shouldn’t we aspire to dress like the pros, too?

“Look at how far tennis has come,” says Paula Creamer, one of the LPGA’s fashionistas. “Golf will never get to that level, I don’t believe. I don’t think it needs to, but it has definitely come around.”

I’ve loved fashion for a long time and golf even longer. I’ll hold out hope that golf clubs and organizations will allow these two passions to merge. After all, respecting the game shouldn’t mean shunning people for trying to be themselves.

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