In Depth: the long and the shorts of it

GOLF could be in for a bumpy ride trying to fit in with the 21st century and beyond.

THE golf club can be an intimidating place. Accompanying the pleasure of playing the greatest game on the planet comes with it a myriad of seemingly absurd golf club rules that one must be aware of in order just to get to the first tee. 

I barely flinch and I have to pack a full extra set of clothes knowing I’ll be stepping foot inside a golf club later the same day, or throwing in extra pair of socks - longer and plain white, in case the dress code forbids the sight of an ankle or a logo.

New golfers stepping into some of our more private golf clubs must wonder just what century they walked into. But while it’s not necessarily a bad thing to hold strong against the tidal wave of modern day disrespect, it occasionally doesn’t do much for golf’s already stuffy reputation.

Consider this quote: 

“The players have embraced it. Shorts are a natural evolution to help modernise the game. It puts our players first and our fans first as well. The fashion of golf is something that the youth adopt. We will have strong rules, but there will be some fashion statements, and it’s a great start.” 

It reads like something uttered from the early part of the 20th-century, but it came from the European Tour Chief Keith Pelley last month after players were given the green light to wear shorts during practice days and pro-am events. 

To give some perspective, the game of tennis (admittedly a little more active than golf) was first shook up by the sight of shorts in 1932 when a British player by the name of Bunny Austin dared to show a little leg at a tennis tournament.

A short time later he wore them at Wimbledon. Wimbledon. In 1932. 

Perhaps because of the limitations placed on this modern-day, short-wearing phenomenon, and the “speak to the hand” nature of the conversation by the PGA Tour, this small allowance by the European Tour was big news. 



It was such big news that the world’s best golfers were asked for their thoughts.

"It's awesome. It will be something that I would love to see on the PGA Tour, as well," World Number One Jordan Spieth said.

"Guys seem to all love it over here. I've not heard one person, one tour player complain about it."

Rory McIlroy echoed Spieth’s sentiments.

"We're supposed to be athletes nowadays aren't we?" the World Number Three said.

"It is definitely a more athletic sport these days and we should be showing that off. I can't understand why anybody would think it a bad thing.”

"I don't think it takes anything away from the tradition of the game or etiquette or how guys look on the course." 

So how is it a professional sport so dependent on the sponsors’ dollar, so intertwined with cutting-edge technology, only coming to terms with the idea that the male stars of the game can wear shorts? 

One of golf’s greatest ironies is that golfers wear plus-fours, plaid pants, and white belts on the golf course but try passing through a private club in a pair of cargo shorts and you’re deemed a second class citizen. 

In the second decade of the 21st century, it’s remarkable most clubs prohibit one from playing golf in anything that doesn’t have a collar.

I’m surprised there even needs to be a rule banning golfers playing in jeans. It only takes a couple of holes before one realises how uncomfortable it is. And heaven forbid you might walk into the clubhouse in a pair.

The culture of golf is changing and is being stretched across a number of centuries. The front end is careering towards the future with flat brimmed caps, high-tops and golf balls that claim to go straighter and further than ever before.

The back end is barely moving, stuck among the dust and cobwebs of an era well before jeans, sponsors and turbulators even existed. 

The game of golf is full of wonderful traditions, rules and etiquette that make it one of the most unique, pleasurable sports to play. But golf could be in for a bumpy ride trying to fit in with the 21st century and beyond. 

Golf’s governing bodies and those administering the world’s most lucrative professional golf tours are now scrambling to deal with slow play, prohibit scruffy beards and monitor the newly implemented anchoring ban. 

It’s clear they’re flying by the seat of their pants. Let’s hope the pants are comfortable ones. Shorts, perhaps?


Michael Green

Michael Green founded AussieGolfer.com.au - Australia's #1 golf blog - in 2007, is a member of The Australian Golf Writers Association and has covered some of Australia's biggest golf tournaments, including the Australian Open, the Presidents Cup and World Cup of Golf.

Michael began playing golf as a 10-year-old in Adelaide where his father introduced him to the game.

He has managed to maintain a single-figure handicap while studying, living and working abroad and keeping a close eye on his three children.

Michael has a PhD in Physics and when not writing about golf, he continues to work in medical research in Sydney.

Want video tips delivered straight to your inbox? Subscribe to iseekgolf.com newsletters.

iSeekGolf is Australia’s largest golf tee times website.
To book a tee time at an iSeekGolf venue, visit iseekgolf.com/teetimes


More Articles from Michael Green