Written by Hannah VanDerLaan
Golf is one of America's most popular sports, whether it’s something you enjoy watching on your TV or going out and playing the course yourself. But if you chose to spend the day on the course, is it appropriate to go golfing in jeans?
For new golfers, you may only have that old pair of jeans to throw on, but will the golf course allow it? There is a wide variety of clothing men and women can choose from, however, golf courses and country clubs pride themselves on their etiquette and “proper” appearance and therefore want their golfers to do the same.
In this article we will discuss the do’s and don’ts when it comes to dressing for the course, and hopefully make it easy for you to be able to be comfortable while still wearing the proper attire!
Understanding Golf Tradition And Attire
While the origins of the game of golf are much debated, it is mostly known to have originated back in 15th century Scotland, where the first record of golf is James II’s banning of the game in 1457. This is because he wanted his men focusing on military training over leisure, which is what golf was seen as. However, the ban was lifted by James IV in 1502 when he himself became a golfer!
Back when he began playing in Scotland, all players would wear outfits based on comfortability to protect them against the cold weather. They would wear jackets made of thick fabrics such as tweed (woolen cloth) and pair these with a pair of plus fours or ‘knickerbockers’. They would pair that with knee-high socks, collared shirts with ties, and a small tweed cap. Not the most comfortable but definitely a more formal look!
After this era of clothing, the Roaring 20’s came along. At this time the game of golf was widely admired by the wealthy and the attire was made to look more classy and formal. According to a 1918 Vanity Fair article, “the well-dressed golfer should wear a single-breasted jacket, waistcoat, long socks, and golf cap.” This is also when golf started becoming more popular for women as a leisure activity only. At this time they were only allowed to wear ankle length skirts, full length jackets, and heels (women's golf shoes weren’t yet invented).
This “clean” look of attire went on for a while until the 1930’s came along and the heatwaves came with it. Because of the heat, players started opting for more lightweight clothing and the formal jackets that were so popularized in the sport were no longer mandatory. This was also the first time women were seen wearing trousers on the course even though it was still seen as extremely scandalous.
The last large change of attire came right after World War 2 due to the development in mass production. Cotton became a very popular fabric in this time, and therefore the tennis shirt was made. A shirt that soon was seen universally as standard golf attire and still worn today. The tennis shirt and a pair of fitted slacks with a belt then became the popularized attire.
Just like the men, this was a time when women's attire drastically changed into clothing we still see today. Women were no longer mandated to wear ankle length skirts or full length pants and could dress more “casual”, opting for moisture wicking and breathable fabrics.
As the timeline clearly shows, throughout time it has been extremely important to maintain traditionally formal attire while being able to feel comfortable on the course, and that's why most courses encourage you to respect that when you go to play!
The Importance Of Comfort And The Ability To Make An Athletic Swing
When dressing for the course, most of the time the only thing running through your mind is making sure you are warm/cool enough depending on the weather. Either you are going out on a chilly day and chose to layer up, or a hot summer day and chose to leave the jacket at home. But have you ever thought about how the clothing you chose to wear affects the way you swing the ball?
Let's say you chose to go out on a day where you know you are going to need a couple more layers than normal. It's always important to remember that while yes, your favorite chunky sweater might keep you warm and comfortable throughout the day, it’s just not practical to swing a golf club in. Layering up too much or wearing clothing that's “chunky” can make it hard to swing correctly and restrict your range of motion and accuracy. This could result in you not being able to carry the ball as far or get as much ball speed.
On the other hand, maybe you chose to go on a beautiful summer day and you were able to leave your favorite chunky sweater at home. Wearing clothing that fits your body correctly is more important than you might realize.
First of all, wearing anything too oversized could be seen as “sloppy” and get you in trouble at the course. Furthermore, anything too oversized or too tight on your body can also restrict your movement while you're swinging and you will have to deal with the same problems stated before. If your baggy shirt is always getting in the way when you're swinging you will never be able to hit the ball correctly (another good reason to always tuck it in your pants!)
On the flip side of it, if your clothing is skin tight, it will completely restrict your range of motion and movement from head to toe, making your ball speed and distance drastically decrease. That’s why comfortable well fitted clothing is the best option for your game!
Golf Course Dress Code Explained
Although the Golf Course dress code remains similar universally, it’s first important to understand what kind of golf course you are attending!
Municipal Golf Courses or courses owned by the city typically have the most relaxed dress codes. They usually allow clothing that can’t be worn anywhere else, such as jeans, cargo shorts, non-collared tank tops and t-shirts, yoga pants/biker shorts, and a wider variety of footwear like open toed shoes or boots.
Public Golf Courses or courses owned privately but open to the public are a little more strict on clothing choices than municipal courses, but not as strict as private country clubs. Every public and private golf course is allowed to create whatever dress code they deem fit, and most of the time that usually includes no cargo shorts, open-toed shoes, denim, t-shirts without collars, tank tops, cropped tops, yoga pants/biker shorts, or too short or revealing bottoms.
Private Clubs or courses privately-owned and only members or guests of members allowed often have the most strict dress code. For women this often includes shorts, skorts, and skirts that may not be shorter than fingertip length or a certain length above the knee. Women must also usually wear collared shirts, designer collarless golf shirts (both covering midriff), or a collared golf dress of appropriate length (fingertip length or certain length above the knee). For men this includes a fitted polo/collared shirt and appropriate length golf shorts or pants.
The one problem a lot of people run into is, there are no actual “standards” as to what’s considered inappropriate on the golf course so what are you expected to do when going to a new course? The easiest thing you can do is make a call to the clubhouse of the course you want to go to and ask about their dress code before heading over! This will save you the hassle of having to go back home and change if what you are wearing isn't allowed. If you don’t want to call or for some reason they don’t pick up the phone, I would suggest you play it safe with a collared shirt and appropriate fitting golf pants/shorts or skort.
What To Wear To Play Golf Instead Of Jeans
There is an abundance of different things men and women can wear to play golf instead of jeans! Preferably you want to wear something that isn’t too big on you to where It looks sloppy, but fits you comfortably enough so it doesn't restrict your movement and allows you to concentrate on your game. Below we will discuss a variety of good options for you to be able to do that!
What Should Women Wear To Play Golf?
Women have a wide variety of clothing to choose from, so before you go it's always a good idea to check which type of course you are playing at. From there you can decide what the appropriate thing to wear is! You can always look back at the explanation above of the different course dress code “requirements” if you’re unsure. Below is a list of different clothing items that are safe and comfortable to wear to any golf course!
- Short Sleeve with Collar (Polo Shirt)
- Sleeveless Golf Shirt with Collar
- Long Sleeve Zip Up Shirts with or without Defined Collar
- Short Sleeve Shirts with Mock Collar
- Collared Button Down Shirt
- Crew-Neck Sweaters
- Golf Dress of Appropriate Length ( fingertip or just above the knee)
A good rule of thumb for any golf course- If it has sleeves you may not need a collar, but if it's sleeveless, ALWAYS have a collar!
- Capri Pants (with belt)
- Full Length Golf Pants (with belt)
- Skirt/Skort of Appropriate Length (fingertip or just above the knee to be safe)
- Golf Shorts of Appropriate Length (with belt)
- Khakis of All Kinds
RELATED: Golf Skirt vs Tennis Skirt For Golf
Golf shoes aren’t necessarily a requirement of golf courses. Closed-toed shoes are a must and also the only practical thing to wear, but women should feel free to use any type of sneaker on the course before going out and buying a real pair of golf shoes. Keep other accessories to a minimum as they will just become a distraction, although all hats and visors are welcome!
What Should Men Wear To Play Golf?
Men have less of a variety of clothing to choose from, so it's usually easier to pick an outfit for the course. However, to avoid any problems at the course whether it breaks “dress code” or simply restricts your movement while playing, you should stick to the items on the list below!
- Short or Long Sleeve Collared polo/Golf Shirt
- Crew Neck Sweaters/Vests/or Jackets
- Fitted Golf Pants (with belt)
- Fitted golf shorts or khakis (with belt)
- Collared Full or Half Zip Jackets
RELATED: Can You Play Golf In Sneakers
To avoid restricting your movement when playing, it’s recommended that you wear well fitted clothing instead of anything too oversized or skin tight. As for shorts, you should always wear a pair that sit right above the knee for the same reason. Any shorts that sit below the knee run the risk of not allowing you to have full control over your swing. The only accessories that are recommended (and welcome) at any golf course for men are hats/visors.
Golf shoes are always recommended, but just like women, if you don't want to make an investment in a new pair, any sneakers with a good amount of tread on them will work!
What Else Should You Not Wear To Play Golf?
Other than jeans, there are other clothing items that you should not wear when going to the course. Either these items are not practical, or not even allowed!
The most obvious ones in my opinion are open toed shoes or flip flops. Not only are they not practical to walk the course in, but they are not allowed! Besides the obvious fact that your feet will kill you after walking in any open toed shoes after a couple hours, these shoes will also make it extremely difficult to comfortably swing your clubs. They will more than likely get in the way instead of helping you.
The same goes for any type of boots. Boots are more of a “chunky” shoe and will mess up your swing. Even though they might be comfier to wear, leave them at home so you don’t run into any problems at the course.
Onto the shirts and pants, any tank top/t-shirt, oversized shirt, cargo short, or any shirt without a collar should not be worn. These clothing items are not about comfort but about proper etiquette to follow at the course. Tank tops and t-shirts are definitely comfortable to wear, but if you know anything about golf you would know that shirts with a collar on it are a must!
Wearing a collared shirt shows you respect the course you're playing at and wearing any type of tank top or shirt without one looks disrespectful to the people working there. The same goes for any oversized shirt. When picking out a collared shirt, try it on before you buy it so you know it fits you properly. It should be tucked in and form fitting, anything too big and untucked will look sloppy!
RELATED: Why Is Golf So Popular
That also goes for shorts/pants. Always make sure you buy the right size so your pants don’t sag whatsoever. A good pair of golf pants can keep your shirt tucked in and that’s not possible if your pants keep sagging!
A belt is definitely recommended, and stay away from any type of sweatpants. The same goes for shorts, and even if they do fit perfectly, stay away from any cargo, soccer, or jean shorts to avoid running into problems with the workers at the course.
Since women have a wider variety of clothing to choose from to begin with, naturally there are more items of clothing that should be left at home and not worn to the course. This includes yoga pants or biker shorts, cropped tops, low cut shirts, and heels.
The recurring theme of this article is to “keep it classy” when heading to the course, and even though biker shorts and yoga pants are comfortable to wear, they are not seen as appropriate at the course.
As for cropped/low cut shirts and heels, they just aren't practical. Having to constantly pull your shirt up or down to cover midriff or cleavage every time you swing will quickly become frustrating and distracting. Even more frustrating will be when the heels you chose to wear keep getting stuck in the grass or make it impossible to correct your swing as your feet keep getting stuck in place!
Leave the heels at home and pick up a pair of golf shoes or even sneakers if you don't want to buy a new pair of shoes. But remember no metal spikes, they tear up the grass!
Practical Tips For Choosing The Right Golfing Clothes
There are a lot of things to consider when choosing the right golf clothes. Besides the things we have already talked about like making sure your clothing fits correctly to be able to comfortably swing without restricting your movement, there are a few other things you want to keep in mind before you leave the house.
Most importantly, as previously stated, make sure the clothing you chose complies with the course's dress code. A quick look at their website or a phone call to their clubhouse wouldn’t hurt if you are unsure. It saves you the hassle of having to turn around and go home to change if what you are wearing isn’t appropriate for the course.
If you are unable to reach them for any reason you can also choose clothing items from the list given in this article to be safe.
Lastly, always check the weather before you leave. Make sure you grab that collared zip up jacket if you know you are going to be cold, and don’t wear anything too heavy if you know you are going to sweat right through it! Also, always pack a rain jacket in case it rains. It’s easy to take off or add layers depending on how you are feeling, so it's always a good idea to pack a jacket in your bag just to be safe! Just be aware not to pack anything too chunky to avoid restricting your range of motion when swinging.
Can You Wear Jeans To The Driving Range?
Just like golf courses, driving ranges have different rules depending on which one you are attending. If you are going to a public driving range, it may be different than if you were going to one in a private club.
Private and most public courses with a driving range won’t allow you to wear any type of denim as they prefer to keep their dress code on all parts of the course. The best idea would be to dress exactly as you would if you were going out to play if you are attending any golf courses driving range.
Public driving ranges or any company that is solely a driving range (like a Top Golf) are completely different. Even though it's always recommended to wear clothing that won’t alter the way you swing and give you a complete range of motion - something jeans don’t do - these driving ranges allow you to wear whatever you like. This includes any type of denim, yoga pants, shirts, pants, and shoes.
Final Thoughts On Golfing In Jeans
Overall, it's safe to say that the next time you choose to go golfing you should leave your jeans at home. Other than the fact that many golf courses won't allow you to wear them, they aren’t practical for the course.
Golfing in jeans or any other fabric type that restricts your motion will only make it harder to play. Instead, wear lightweight and breathable fabric that allows you to obtain a full range of motion while swinging. Just make sure it follows the course's dress code and maintains that “clean and tidy” look!
Now that you have more insight into appropriate clothing to wear, hopefully you can have fun and comfortably play without any problems or distractions at your next golf outing!