Two weekends ago when Tyrrell Hatton stormed to victory at the BMW PGA Championship, the bulk of comments he inspired had little to do with the Englishman fulfilling a childhood dream by winning the event he often attended as a young lad.
Somehow secondary was Hatton ascending to No. 10 in the world, ahead of Brooks Koepka, on the strength of three wins in his past 13 worldwide starts. The normal chatter surrounding Hatton’s emotionally charged style of play and how quickly he’s risen on the list of players we want to watch also died down to a whisper.
Forget about his play. Everyone just wanted to talk about his hoodie.
Hatton (above) donned one all four days of the event, a clothing choice deemed controversial by the golf Twitterverse. He isn’t the first notable player to wear a hoodie in competition – Justin Thomas, Danielle Kang, Erik van Rooyen, Ryan Moore and others have worn one multiple times – but doing so on consecutive days of an important tournament got deep under the skin of some golf purists.
One course in England, Wearside Golf Club, spoke for those purists when it used the social media brouhaha to reinforce its draconian dress code policy.
“In light of Tyrrell Hatton’s recent success and fashion statement and following discussions on this, can I draw your attention to the Club’s dress code and re-emphasize that ‘hoodies’ are not acceptable golf attire for Wearside Golf Club, no more so in fact than designer ripped jeans,” the club said in a message to its members.
They must have shuddered when Hatton intentionally pulled the hood over his head and cradled the trophy in his arms, daring to be comfortable and a world-class golfer all at once. A week later when a hoodie-less Hatton opened with a 7-under 65 in Las Vegas and still had to answer questions of his attire from the previous week, he couldn’t understand why the embers of this ridiculous argument continued to burn.
“It’s crazy the amount of people that obviously don’t agree with it,” Hatton said. “If it looks smart and you’re comfortable to play in it, then I really don’t see what the issue is.”
There is no issue, Tyrrell. Hoodies are perfectly acceptable attire for a golf course.
In fact, as we all deal with a year that has accosted us with profound and troubling questions outside of golf, I’ll suggest that it makes 2020 an ideal time to mercifully retire golf’s dress code, or at least the condescending and inflexible version of it. You know, the one where a golfer shows up to play with black shoes and black socks but is forced to buy white socks in order to play – something that happened just last week to Australian golf broadcaster Ewan Porter.
It’s time for the game to move forward from this silliness.
Golf is, at its heart, an escape from reality. During the pandemic, everyone from novices to hardcore players have taken shelter in our game – just look at the month of August, which saw a 20-percent increase in rounds played in the United States compared to the same month a year ago. Golf equipment sales totaled roughly $331 million in August, extending a record-setting summer on the retail side of the industry.
People of all genders, races, ages and financial backgrounds are begging to play. This is their time to be free of worrying about whether they can keep their job or how best to maneuver their families through the many coronavirus-related challenges we’re all facing.
Golf is a refuge, and times like these remind us of that.
So does it really matter if someone shows up to the first tee in cargo shorts and a T-shirt? And if someone were to watch Hatton and want to wear a hoodie like his – if I didn’t live in the swamps of Florida, I’d be first in line for one – how is that a disservice to the game?
I understand many in golf see clothing as a sign of respect. The etiquette that comes from tucking in your shirt or having a proper collar is intended to set a standard of behavior. And of course, clubs like Wearside have the right to enforce their policies and traditionalists have the right to scoff at those who don’t follow them.
If the game wants to be inclusive and accessible, it needs to encourage people to come as they are rather than what golf thinks they should aspire to be.
But for those willing to listen, understand that this definition of attire equaling respect for others is long overdue to be amended. Yes, there should be basic rules of decency when it comes to clothing, and overall integrity on the course should always be a hallmark of the game.
Just don’t assume that someone who wants to play golf in a flat-brimmed hat and joggers is doing so out of disrespect to those around him or her. It’s likely not the iconoclastic statement you may think it is.
Golf fashion has always evolved as more people, and different types of people, come into the game. Fashion outside of golf is the same way. There was a time not that long ago in our history when only the rich could afford air travel, so the expected attire on airplanes was suits and dresses. As barriers to flying lessened, the attire changed. We eventually realized that not everyone was comfortable wearing a suit on a six-hour flight from New York to Los Angeles.
And not everyone wants to play golf wearing a collared shirt, pants and a belt.
If the game wants to be inclusive and accessible, it needs to encourage people to come as they are rather than what golf thinks they should aspire to be. John Ashworth, the founder of the Linksoul apparel company and a man who knows golf fashion better than most, said it best on a recent episode of The Fire Pit podcast.
“I honestly wish golf in general would just say, ‘There is no more dress code,’ ” Ashworth said. “I don’t care what you wear, just be comfortable and enjoy yourself. It’s your recreational time. It would change golf in such a positive way. When you go skiing, they don’t go, ‘Oh, you’re wearing jeans, you can’t wear jeans.’ Why should someone tell someone what to wear when they are going to go have fun?”
One day we’ll get there. And when we do, it will be a good thing for everyone in the game.