LPGA Dress Code Updates: Our Take

Posted on February 23, 2018 at 02:13 AM

This summer, the LPGA threw the game a curveball (er, a slice?) with the release of its updated Tour dress code, and they aren’t messing around.

If you’re wearing a racerback top, for example, it has to include a collar. Your skirt or skort must to be long enough so that when you bend down to grab a ball, there’s zero risk of revealing your rear — even if it’s covered by undershorts. Women are allowed to wear leggings, but only if they’re under a skirt. And workout clothes? Don’t you dare!

This shift came as a big surprise to the golf community, and not just because of the borderline-slight on women (more on that later). Up until these new rules came out, the Tour had been doing so much to appeal to a younger crowd. And given that two of the game’s defining tenets — tradition and decorum — aren’t necessarily topping your average millennial’s “What’s Cool” list, debunking the stodgier stereotypes around golf is no small feat. But tradition and decorum also make golf so special (!!), so naturally, there’s this tension around staying true to the game while remaining realistic about present day.

This tension isn’t just an LPGA-Tour thing, either. We see it quite a bit when we’re out on the course ourselves. There was that time, for example, when a friend of Tami’s invited her brother and sister-in-law for a round of golf at her club. After the 3rd hole, an employee emerged to inform the sister-in-law that her skirt was too short and “distracting”. This means that another club member had called the pro shop to complain (which is standard protocol, as clubs don’t want members confronting other members). Odds are that the offended party was an older female member.

Many clubs do have an older, more established — and usually more conservative — membership, and they struggle to balance the needs of those members with those of the next-generation golfing family. When a member calls the pro shop to complain, the pros must oblige, which inevitably leads to a humiliating conversation for everyone involved. What are you supposed to do, anyway? Head back into the clubhouse and change? What if you don’t have a back-up option?

Sky Sports Golf presenter Henni Goya points out that, in her experience, female golfers are the ones getting in the way of change. She has a hunch that it has to do with feeling threatened — but it could also be a hazard of the game’s antiquated character. Goya offers: “Maybe golf is just so far behind the times that they haven’t even seen that this is a movement in media now; that women do actually like to help other women.”

This idea of women supporting women takes on even more significance when you consider what a fantastic impact the game can have on future female generations. A girl can learn so much from golf, be it persevering through that umpteenth missed putt to keeping conversation alive with a foursome of strangers (you can’t text your way through 18 holes, after all.) As women, we should be encouraging this exposure, not denying others of it. But if outdated dress codes are turning younger girls away from the game, then that’s a huge missed opportunity for personal development — and that’s a shame.

Of course we need to respect the game, which in itself already boasts far more rules and etiquette than most other sports. But despite that, why does, say, yoga get to have so much fun? And can we talk about how men are allowed to wear joggers on Tour — it’s a celebrated trend, even! — yet in the LPGA, they’re forbidden? (PS: Leggings under a golf skirt is never a good look. Just saying.)

There is a fine line between the tradition of the sport, the rules of a club, and the fashion of the day. Yet despite the fact that it’s the 21st century and styles have changed, there are still far more professional women golfers stuck in dated LPGA-legal golf attire than there are professional women golfers who have pushed the boundaries of what’s allowed (see: Michelle Wie.) When professional swimmers started wearing full-length swimsuits with hoods, for example, a fashion statement was the last thing on their minds — they were positioning themselves for optimal results. Obviously.

The ability to comfortably swing a club, maintain even body temperature and optimize overall performance should be top of mind for any professional golfer, no matter their gender. Until the LPGA modifies its latest mandates, it’s up to women’s golf apparel to work harder than ever. And therein lies KINONA’s goal: To deliver such dynamic materials and smart designs that women can play the game they love without even thinking about their clothes — a welcome alternative to this otherwise clothing-obsessed era that’s somehow holding the game captive.

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