When choosing golf attire, it pays to remember that golf is a game of inches. Missing a putt by just a tiny bit is still a missed putt. Selecting golf clothes is a similarly precise endeavor. If your outfit is just a teeny bit wrong, it’s still wrong.
And given that golf is often played with clients, potential customers, coworkers and/or your boss, the career and business pressure to look good is substantial.
But don’t be nervous. In this blog post, we’ll tell you everything you need to know about golf attire so you can worry about your swing rather than your outfit. (Because frankly, your swing needs a little work.)
Golf course dress codes
Golf attire, unlike most other forms of men’s clothing, tends to be rule-specific. Golf may no longer be a game played only at country clubs, but looking like you’re a dues-paying member who belongs on the course is still key. That’s why the first rule when choosing golf clothes is to know the rules.
Many clubs and high-end courses have dress codes that you must adhere to.
In some cases, the dress code may forbid shorts. In many cases, the code forbids t-shirts and requires a collar shirt.
The dress code rule that is most likely to be enforced at any club involves footwear.
Golf shoes are favored. But generally speaking, today’s courses forbid the use of metal spikes on golf shoes. So, if you’re going to invest in golf shoes, buy a pair of soft-spike golf shoes.
If you’re not willing to spend the cash on shoes, double-check the dress code before you arrive at the course. Many courses will allow you to wear sneakers. Do not wear street shoes with a heel. They can damage the course.
The etiquette of men’s golf clothing
Beyond the hard-and-fast rules regarding footwear and shirt collars, the key to successful dressing for golf is to look upscale and classy. Preppy clothes are the norm.
Avoid anything that looks comically out of place (cowboy hats, silly sunglasses) or garish.
That’s not to say you don’t have room for a bit of personal expression, according to Melissa Slavick, a Taelor stylist.
And the place to start is with the most classic of golf clothes: the polo shirt.
At Taelor “we have a lot of golf polos,” Melissa said, noting that unlike other polo shirts “they don’t have huge prints or gaudy prints. We do have lots of fun colors. Golfers like to wear really bright, fun colors.”
Similarly, when selecting pants for golf, feel free to go with brighter colors. If shorts are allowed under the dress code, embrace Bermuda-length shorts in fun colors or subtle prints. But do not, under any circumstances, wear gym shorts, cut-off jeans or similarly informal shorts.
If you’re opting for long pants, a golf course is a place where you can reverse the standard color arrangement and wear bright-color pants with a darker shirt.
Dress for comfort when golfing
When choosing a golf polo or pants, Melissa said it’s essential to select items that allow for movement.
“You have to make sure that whatever you're playing in is breathable, is comfortable, because you’re using your whole body and all your muscles,” she said. “Choose shorts and pants made with stretch fabric. We have a lot of tech fabrics that you can wear that make it easier to play golf. They’re definitely more of the athleisure-type pants, but still crisp and clean and sharp.”
Scott Shapiro, another Taelor stylist, also urges his clients to embrace performance materials in golf clothes. But he cautions against clothes that look more like workout clothes than not.
“You want to look a bit more polished when you go to a golf course than when you go to a gym,” Scott said. “I think a polo shirt made with performance material is great for golf. And there are pants and shorts made with those materials too.”
In addition, Scott suggests looking for pants with lighter material and slightly wider legs that allow for more movement than do traditional slacks.
Office wear on the golf course and vice versa
If you’re new to the game and don’t have any golf clothes, there’s no reason to panic. You have options.
First and foremost, check the dress code where you intend to play. Even a public course may have rules about footwear. But if sneakers are allowed, feel free to wear them until you decide you love the game enough to invest in golf shoes.
Second, if you’re a Taelor client, reach out to your stylist and tell them where you’re playing and when. They can send you appropriate items that will leave you looking like a golf pro.
Third, you can probably get away with wearing some of your business casual attire on the golf course. There’s considerable overlap between business casual and golf clothes: a clean polo shirt is acceptable even when it’s not made from performance material. The same is true of chinos. Similarly, high-end golf clothes are “versatile enough to wear in a business casual office,” Melissa said. So you may want to get some tech-fabric polos and pants even if you’re not sure yet how you feel about golf.
Outerwear and accessories for golf
Choosing outwear for the golf course can seem a bit tricky. But there are some simple guidelines that you can follow.
Select jackets of lightweight material. Windbreakers are a good choice. Quirky and whimsical coats or hoodies may be fine for playing minigolf on a date, but they are not appropriate for playing actual golf with your boss.
And green blazers are for when you win the Masters Tournament, not before.
On the other hand, solid color sweaters can look great on the golf course. Legendary golfer Arnold Palmer was known to wear red cardigans. And sweater vests and argyle sweaters were common on golf courses for decades, so feel free to experiment with them when it’s too cool outside for just a polo.
But avoid sweaters that look bulky (Irish fisherman sweaters) or feature large, complicated patterns.
Want more ideas and tips on how to look professional and classic on the golf course?
Explore Taelor's Golf Collection page for outfit inspiration.
If you're already a Taelor customer, allow our experienced Taelor stylists to select the perfect golf attire for your game, regardless of location or time.
By Paul Conley