If you’re going to play golf, first of all you need to get a golf club. If you’re going to play golf with a driver, you need a driver. And if you’re going to play golf in England, you need a baseball cap and a pair of proper shoes.
Then there’s the clothing. I don’t know what an English gentleman is supposed to wear on the links. I was told that it’s traditional for men to wear a morning suit and top hat, but I’ve never seen anyone wearing that outfit on the course. On Sunday afternoons we usually see bare arms, bare legs, and loafers. And this season I saw someone wearing shorts and a T-shirt (though no one else seemed to notice). So my guess is that the proper clothes for playing golf in England are whatever will make you look less ridiculous than everyone else on the course.
I have been on the cusp of fashion before, at weddings when everyone was wearing black tie, but it has been so long since I’ve been dressed appropriately that I can’t remember what formality is supposed to look like.
Golf: the first sport to require a clothing code. In the early nineteenth century, the game was almost unheard of in Europe, but it took off in America. The reason is that golfers needed some way to distinguish themselves from cowboys and sailors. They needed at least one style of dress that set them apart from these less-civilized people. For a long time all American golfers had on cowboy hats and trousers.
The big fashion push came in the 1920s. It was said of those days that you could walk into any country club and know what kind of golfer you’d find inside, because he would definitely have a top hat and monocle.
Golf is a game of power and finesse. If a golfer wants his opponent to feel intimidated, he should dress in shades of gray. A golfer who wants to intimidate his opponent will wear a three-piece suit and a flashy tie.
I expect that this would be true whether or not the golfers were professionals, but professional golfers are often more conscious of the impression they make than amateurs. Every professional golfer knows that wearing the right clothes will help him get closer to the hole, or even win the tournament.
The long-term trend is away from clothes and toward golf clubs. The desire to wear clothes is fading, while the desire to play golf is rising.
The old masters had no problem with the clothing: the only thing they ever wore was a pair of shoes, and those were often left undone, as they are now in golf clubs. Some people say that they just wore their shirts inside out; but that seems unlikely. Either way, wearing clothes in golf clubs and not at all at other times would have been unlikely to cause confusion between the two venues. There are many more important things to be confused about than whether you wear your shirt inside out; and how you wear your shirt inside out isn’t one of them.
I’ve noticed that the biggest difference between what I know and what other people want to know is appearance. The reason golfers wear jackets when they play is not because it’s cold, but because they think a jacket makes them look better.
I started playing golf with the same idea. Wearing a jacket would make me look like a pro, and I wanted to look like a pro. It was only after I got frustrated trying to hit the ball that I realized the reason pro golfers wear jackets is not because it’s cold, but because they have to have sleeves long enough to do the job.
“Wear golf shoes that are comfortable, have good traction, and have a low heel,” advises Jim Hagen, the founder of Golf Digest. “The more you can do with an adjustable golf shoe, the better off you’ll be.”
If your golf shoes aren’t comfortable, or aren’t adjustable, it’s hard to play well. But if your golf shoes are uncomfortable because they’re too small or too big, or because the heels are high or low, then you’re going to find it hard to play well.
It is important to buy a pair of golf shoes that fit properly. If you buy a pair of shoes that don’t fit and wear them all day long, it’s hard to keep up the concentration needed for putting.
The club is a way of controlling the ball, just as a watch is. Too many people don’t realize how much power their clubs have. They’re like guns: they can kill you or get you killed. A club should be treated with care and respect, and no one should take it lightly.
Golf clubs are some of the most powerful tools in the world, but because of the way we’ve made them, they’re also among the most dangerous and misunderstood.
A golf club is not an ordinary object like a pen; it’s an extension of your body and a weapon with which to hurt someone else. This was recognized nearly two centuries ago by Alexander Dallas Arbuthnot, whose book “The Game of Golf” warned that “the average golfer’s life can be at once rendered worthless by the smallest miscalculation.”