Last week, the story of one golfer spread across the internet like wildfire, and before you start conjuring up visions of the next Happy Gilmore, we need to tell you that the ending of this particular tale wasn’t quite so happy.
Max Power was turned away from playing at Letchworth Golf Club in Hertfordshire last week for the colour of his socks, and it was demanded that he purchase white socks from the club’s pro shop before he’d be allowed on the course.
Are golf clubs really in a financial position to be turning away paying customers? In a time when golfs’ major governing bodies are frantically coming up with new initiatives to encourage more people into the game, the obvious answer is no, they’re not.
Finances aside, Max Power’s story has left us wondering if the answer to golf’s diminishing participation lies in the antiquated rules around what to wear, begging the question, is it time golf clubs ditched the dress code?
Our columnist Philippa Kennedy certainly thinks so as she tells us in the next issue of Women & Golf that “for clubs, it’s the best way forward”.
Since her former club, Royal Mid-Surrey, relaxed the dress code, the new changes have been met with nothing but success, even to the extent that the Associate Membership category (under 30s) is now full.
“The days of PG Wodehouse characters like old Bufton are well and truly numbered as a forward-looking committee drags their club into the 21st Century”.
The new, relaxed dress code asks members and their guests to wear “appropriate golf attire” whilst they are out on the course but allows casual dress - including smart jeans of any colour - in the clubhouse. Shorts and soft-spike shoes can be worn throughout the ground floor of the clubhouse, but the upstairs bar and dining rooms still forbid denim. As formal areas of the club, this seems perfectly reasonable.
“It’s a mammoth sea change in what used to be a very traditional club. Frankly, these measures have arrived not a minute too soon. For years golf club membership has been in decline because youngsters are put off by stuffy rules”.
On women’s golf, Philippa commented, “you only have to look at the smart, sexy golf kit worn by female tour players to know that these are clothes many young and indeed older women golfers want to wear.”
On so many levels, golf is changing for the good. Martin Slumbers, Chief Executive of The R&A, is doing his best to drag women’s golf into the 21st century with an exciting new Women in Golf Charter that should mean that gender is no longer a barrier to participation. Women & Girls’ Golf Week enjoyed international success, reaching millions of people across the globe earlier this month, and more and more we are seeing modified handicaps, mixed formats, and shorter versions of the game in a new ‘welcome to all’ sort of approach. If all of that wasn’t enough, England Golf’s latest Get into Golf campaign even features leather-clad social media stars documenting their journeys into golf- did you ever think you’d see the day that golf would be Instagram-worthy? Us neither.
But will all of this solve golf’s tale of woes? It certainly has the potential, but not if golf clubs don’t keep up.
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