In Australia, according to Golf Australia, the game’s popularity has grown by 21 per cent in the past year.
Demographics like these, in an increasingly style-savvy sport, are attracting the attention of the world’s fashion houses, now well and truly dominated by traditional golf apparel companies for years. Like Nike, adidas, Puma, Footjoy and Oakley.
The new kids on the block include Under Armour, Lacoste, Uniqlo, Bogey Boys, Hugo Boss, Castore, Lululemon, J Lindeberg, TravisMathew and Birds of Condor.
Short skirts for men are common on the course during the summer months and the days of skirts having to reach the ankle – or later, the knee – are long gone for women.
No one was surprised at the recent Ryder Cup when Team USA took to the first tee wearing a Ralph Lauren hat.
But don’t think that this is all about boating, especially at private golf clubs. Nothing causes more misery to their committees, or takes up more time at a meeting, than the vexed matter of dress on the course. Jeans are still not allowed at most private golf clubs – for men – T-shirts or jogging shorts. Women golfers are subject to very few rules, although jeans are still a no-no.
Club committees realize they are walking a fine line here; Helping the game attract younger players by retaining some semblance of tradition and history.
Much of the apparel revolution is driven by professionals, and not just in golf. When Spanish tennis champion Rafael Nadal showed up at the 2018 Australian Open in pink shorts and a sleeveless gray top – which showed off his shoulders and biceps beautifully – the tennis world was forced to adjust its dress codes. If it was okay for Rafa, it should have been okay for tennis. (That said, it’s unlikely that Wimbledon will relax its all-white policy anytime soon. The official rule still states that players must wear “all-white appropriate tennis attire.”)
Professional golfers — Tiger Woods, Rickie Fowler and Justin Thomas among the men, and Sandra Gall, Paige Spiranak and Lexi Thompson among the women — now wear form-fitting clothing that accentuates their athletic qualities with strong fits and bold colors.
And at the recent Ryder Cup match between America and Europe at Whistling Straits, no one was surprised when Team USA players stepped onto the first tee wearing Ralph Lauren hats.
“You have lifestyle on one side, and performance or athletic wear on the other,” says Ryan Ellis, CEO of men’s lifestyle brand Travis Matthews. “[And] For the past 10 years, you’ve had athletics, which is a disparity-setting one.