The State of Golf Attire

Part One: How Did We Get Here?

What on earth is going on with golf attire?  An investment in 18 holes and the equipment required  is a relatively expensive privilege, and everyone used to dress the part.  There have always been exceptions, but those offshoots were usually an ugly shirt, rather than a material shift in style.  Today it seems that what is considered ‘acceptable’ on the golf course has changed for the moisture-wicking, neon, personal trainer look, rather than a classic, masculine look that pays homage to the great game that we all enjoy.

It’s hard to pin down when golf attire changed.  In the mid-90’s, you had Nike make a splash with their now defunct B-league tour, and then landing Tiger Woods as the face of their brand.  Nike brought a ‘new money’ country club style to golf attire, with somewhat brighter clothes, but everything was still baggy.

The biggest change happened in the late 00’s when the technical fabrics became en vogue.  Brands like Nike, Adidas, Fairway & Green, and later Peter Millar, Footjoy, and Under Armor have capitalized on the new fad.  Not only with golf shirts, but with pants, shorts, pullovers, and hats all being made of the stretchy poly material that doesn’t collect sweat.

The problem is that the ethos of golf attire has jumped the shark.  It’s bad enough that technical wear is EVERYWHERE, and this wouldn’t necessarily be such a bad thing for golf, but there are limits.  There is this weird fascination with early-90’s-esque Andre Agassi tennis designs on cap-sleeved, uber neon golf shirts and pants that are too tight.  I get it: watch any tour event on TV and they are clearly going after a younger, non-country club audience.  This is great, and I’m all for it, but golf is hard enough.  You don’t have to dress like a Star Trek mechanic on vacation.

I believe that golf, in itself, deserves reverence.  Golf is as much about tradition and respect as it is about fairways and greens.  Golf relies on the honor system, and it is as accessible as it as ever been.  The PGA Tour is extremely popular these days, I would argue even more so than during the Tiger Woods era.  It’s a shame that the accepted look on the PGA Tour doesn’t reflect that tradition.  For the most part, golfers will swing the club anywhere from 70 to 100 times in a four hour period, AND ride 6500 or so yards in a golf cart, so you don’t need to dress in heavy duty technical attire.  I’ll give a pass if you are walking 18 with a caddie.

Disagree?  Well, how did all the greats survive until the mid-00s when the technical attire took hold?  Remember, the look back in the day was wool or polyester pants, cotton/poly blend golf shirts, leather dress shoes with metal spikes…and they swung the clubs just as many times as they do today.  And they walked all 18.  And probably had more fun.  They dressed like men:

Personally, I prefer to play in cotton.  It wears better, and it’s not as ‘slick’.  Call me crazy, but I like a little patina.  The problem with 100% cotton shirts is that the sweat factor.  There’s no way around it, a sweat soaked shirt looks horrible:
Super soaker fight, or Sunday at East Lake?

Beyond that, I stick with traditional golf shoes.  I haven’t gotten into the uber-athletic or skateboard look, as it is pretty sloppy.  I like a tour visor, or a white hat.  I like solid shirts, or a shirt with a subtle stripe.  I like shorts that have a 6-7″ inseam.

My flare is in the accessories.  I like Smathers & Branson or La Matera belts.  I think they give a subtle pop to a pretty basic outfit:

I’ve also gotten a couple of the G/Fore golf gloves in kelly green.  Again, fun.  Dammit.

When I get a chance to play nice courses, I don’t buy a shirt.  I have plenty of golf shirts.  I look for something a little more fun, like a belt (above), or a Tervis.  They have longer staying power than another golf shirt.

I think a simple, traditional approach is better.

Part Two: The Players

Here is who is doing it right:

Brandt Snedeker: Wears a tour visor, and he constantly does pastels, but does them right (like above – with grey pants).  Also, he plays fast (extra points).  Brandt gives Peter Millar a good name.

Jordan Spieth: It seems like every outfit he wears goes with his green jacket.  I get it.  I’d do the same thing.

Davis Love III: He was always very well dressed, but when he signed on with Polo Golf back in the day, it brought it to a new level.  He’s resisted the tech/neon RLX stuff, and continues to look as good as anyone on tour.

On the fence:

Billy Horschel: Octopus pants are the greatest thing to ever hit the course.  But then he goes and looks like he found the sale rack at Lilly:

One more:

Dustin Johnson: He goes with solids a lot in the traditional primary colors.  Always looks great.  He wore the same outfit when he won the US Open, and then two weeks later when he won the Bridgestone.  Here’s the thing.  You know he’s fighting it.  You know he used to live in sleeveless world of low SPF and wakeboards during the day, and strip club rap and Marlboro Lights at night,  I don’t know if this is good or bad, hence why I’m on the fence:

Here kitty kitty…

I’d currently rate DJ a ‘buy’.  There’s a lot of upside there.  I think his kid is helping him clean up.


Rickie Fowler:  He was doing great after he signed Butch as his coach, but has recently fallen off the wagon.  The ex-high-school-athlete-school-janitor-wearing-high-tops look is tired.  And creepy.

Rory McIlroy: Is that a henley from American Eagle?  And are your pants so tight you can’t squeeze out a fart?  Loosen up, bro.

Sergio Garcia:  All banana everything.

What do these three guys have in common?  They are all sponsored by the big athletic companies who have a golf division (Puma, Nike, and Adidas).  They are working to gain market share by appealing to a younger audience.  While each of these brands have plenty of traditional golf attire, they choose to dress their sponsored players more risque.

Part Three: Doing it Right

Folks, I’m here to help.  While there is good in some of the bigger brands, there are some new golf brands out there doing great work.  While the too tight, neon, athletic look is all about ‘now’, the traditional look will always stay in style.  Especially on the golf course.  Here’s what I like:


Holderness & Bourne: these guys are making small-batch-esque shirts and accessories that are American-made polys and cotton blends, they have a GREAT, tailored cut, and an even cooler spread collar.  The price point is great for what you get.


Peter Millar: Even though they are really focusing on their casual line, their golf gear is as good as there is on the market.  I love their pants and shorts, and their e4 pullovers are outstanding.  These have become the standard bearer in good pro shops.  They are in with The Masters, so they must be doing something right.


Linksoul: Let’s call it ‘California Cool’?  As they say: ‘make par not war’ seems to sum it up.  Their styles are what I would call non-neon updated traditional.  Most of their stuff is cotton, specifically their polos and layers.  Their ‘Make Par Not War’ trucker hat is a must, and no, that’s not a flat bill.  It bends.  Just like your duck-hook.


Criquet Shirts: I’ve been a fan of these guys ever since they got going.  Outstanding style and actually very traditional.  Their shirts hold up well, and have a good price point.  Their new stripes are great for early Spring, before the humidity sets in.


Stitch Golf:  Along with the ‘hip’ attire, headcovers have really become over the top.  A 460CC driver’s headcover doesn’t need to be the size of a spare tire with NASCAR level branding.  Stitch Golf has GREAT headcover designs that are super stylish, and very functional.  Check out the whole collection.


Conclusion: Picture This

I’ll finish with this:  Golf is one of those events where great memories are made, whether it with your family (dad, brother, grandfather, son, grandson, etc.), with your friends, or with your co-workers.

Think about that once in a lifetime opportunity to go play Burning Tree, or Merion, or Riviera, or East Lake, or Augusta National.

Now think about that group picture on the 18th green.  It’s iconic.  It’s a picture that you’ll cherish for the rest of your life.

Now study that picture…and think about looking at that picture in ten years, when it’s still on your desk at the office.

What are you wearing in this picture?  Neon?  A skin-tight golf shirt?  High top golf shoes?

Don’t be that guy.

Do it right, folk.



  1. MRS
    07/08/2016 / 8:11 AM

    FANTASTIC POST. Spot on analysis.

  2. jnnorthcutt
    07/08/2016 / 8:50 AM

    C’mon JRS, give DJ a little credit. He’s wearing a white cotton crew and a Patagonia hat in that “Classic Myrtle Beach” pic 🙂

    Nice work tho. Agree with much of it.

  3. HMB
    07/08/2016 / 9:33 AM

    Rickie is just getting to an age where the sneakers, jogging pants and flat bill is rather weird. At least he has started cutting his hair, but once he hits 30 in a couple years….time to class it up.

  4. 07/08/2016 / 9:40 AM

    I own a pair of these Allen Edmonds shoes. They are great. I 100% encourage anyone who is a fan of nice leather shoes to buy these. I have never slipped when hitting a shot in these shoes. A plus- they encourage me to wear slacks when playing-can get hot in Dallas, but still worth it.

  5. Ben
    07/08/2016 / 10:19 AM

    Here’s another one to add to the list: B. Draddy, part of Fairway & Greene’s golf division. Great looking shirts that are cotton with a little bit of stretch.

  6. Adam B.
    07/08/2016 / 10:37 AM

    Love this. Well said. My golf buddies have always given me guff for holding to natural fibers on the course. I’ve never been a fan of the “shiny” shirts.

  7. MJS
    07/08/2016 / 11:07 AM

    It’s about time we had this talk – couldn’t agree more. Great post sir.

  8. TCB
    07/08/2016 / 11:17 AM

    At Hilton Head this week. When playing Harbor Town I still found a nice Peter Millar cotton(not sure about what other fabrics are blended in) polo with a pocket on it. Absolutly love it, also found an awesome belt.

  9. PLF III
    07/08/2016 / 11:33 AM

    Why is no one discussing the second hand smoke to Paulina’s dog? I have a Stitch headcover on the big dog and get a lot of compliments. Shirts from top courses are overrated.

  10. ACM
    07/08/2016 / 3:29 PM

    Great Post! Its finally been said.
    I think Peter Millar, Footjoy, even Polo and some others do a really nice job of advancing with the technology, using dri fit/ poly blends while still maintaining a classic look. You know, it is possible to advance with the times and not look like you’re getting ready to go to mars.

  11. Michael
    07/08/2016 / 4:47 PM

    One player who I have noticed is always dressed in an understated but classy manner (and one of the few still wearing khaki pants on tour) is Matt Kuchar

  12. RRD
    07/08/2016 / 8:47 PM

    “When I get a chance to play nice courses, I don’t buy a shirt. I have plenty of golf shirts. I look for something a little more fun, like a belt (above), or a Tervis. They have longer staying power than another golf shirt.”

    Spot on. I eschew golf shirts with logos. My Fox Chapel Tervis tumblers and Shoal Creek belt are each going on seven years strong.

  13. Steve
    07/08/2016 / 10:52 PM

    I agree with most of what you stated but I have one big exception. Jesper and J Lindberg changed golf fashion in the late 90’s which was a good thing at the time. But the trend after that point has been downward. It seems like most golfers don’t have the idea of style so they pick the craziest thing they see and call it style.

  14. Jamey
    07/08/2016 / 11:07 PM

    Love all of your points and I need to check out a couple of the brand’s that you mention. Played Harbour Town this week as well and went with baby blue shorts and a white shirt with a subtle stripe. Simple is best. Also thought I’d mention another player who dressed well to go along with a classic swing. Though he’s on the right now, Jonathan Byrd in Polo always looks classy.

  15. Brock Beck
    07/08/2016 / 11:08 PM

    My simple response is, “To each his own.” The brands that you suggested wearing are so simple and boring, at least to me. Granted, I’m not suggesting wearing high tops. But the style it seems to me that you are going for is the preppy country club look. And the belt that you references above…wow. That’s arguably as bad as Rickie’s high tops. It looks like a gag gift at an office Christmas party. And you might be the first person that I’ve ever heard compliment Brandt Snedeker’s style of dress. And whoever replied that Kuchar and Simpson dress well, might be more boring than you. I think the only worst dress people that you left out were Dufner, Mickelson, Furyk, and Reed. But hey, to each his own. At least you kept me intrigued enough to read the article. And for the record, in the picture above, Hogan and Palmer look like studs and definitely had a classy look. But you can still keep it classy and stylish today, minus a boring shirt and a belt w/ trees on it. But, at the end of the day, rock what you want to rock…no shame. It’s all just a matter of opinion any way.

  16. Jay
    07/09/2016 / 11:35 AM

    I agree with Brock. If you want to be stalking the course like you stepped out of a David Bowie video, so be it. At least try to have a handicap of <10 when you choose that. There's no dignity roaming the woods and jumping creeks looking like a radioactive leopard. IMO- golf is one of the life areas where boring is good. It's OK for a little eccentricity per your needle point belt or a green glove or maybe a set of those chrome nuts hanging off the back of your cart, but I try to keep my game simple.

  17. Ryan
    07/14/2016 / 2:02 PM

    Great post. I really like Canoos’ golf shoes. They look like boat shoes which is an aesthetic I really like and pairs well with a golf polo and shorts.

  18. Lee
    07/16/2016 / 8:31 AM

    I think the pros wearing Ralph Lauren and Peter Millar are the most stylish.
    How about the black quilted vest on black jacket Rory and Jason Day are wearing on British Open Saturday? It looks like a 1980’s hair band uniform. Soon they will be wearing parachute pants.

  19. 07/16/2016 / 9:22 PM

    Finally, someone is writing about golf fashion. Rory looks absolutely terrible, like a trainer at 24HR Fitness, not an elite golfer. No wonder Nike Golf is suffering. Phil and Henrik look terrific this week at The Open Championship, classy, elegant, athletic.

  20. Dr. R. Chris Wilkerson
    06/28/2018 / 2:03 PM

    IMHO.. Arnold’s. look tops them all. Best dressed golfer I ever met was Gary Player…. Straight out of central casting and had the game  and class to match. 

  21. MJS
    06/28/2018 / 11:14 PM

    Hard to believe more guys don’t see it this way… 

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