Should Golf Shorts be Allowed on Tour?
This week, Tiger Woods wore shorts on a golf course. It turned out to be such big news that Golf Digest wrote an article about it.
Really, seeing Tiger in shorts shouldn't be that surprising. The sun was shining and the temperature was a balmy 75. What's more Woods has an endless access to short pants, thanks to his logo being splashed all over Nike's range.
However, shorts still carry a strange taboo in the male golfing world. Caddies have been permitted to wear shorts on the PGA Tour since 1999, when Garland Dempsey collapsed in humid conditions. But male golfers are still confined to dress codes preventing them from baring their legs to the public.
This week, Tiger was able to take advantage the European Tour's lenient short policy. After the EurAsia Cup last year, players complained to officials due to the extreme humidity that characterizes Kuala Lumpur in January. Since then, the European Tour has permitted shorts during practice days and pro-ams, but tournament days still remain committed to a long pant.
"shorts and skorts are perfectly acceptable on the LPGA and LET so why are we still so offended by the men showing some skin? "
The usual argument centers around long pants being an indicator of the professional nature of golf.
Steve Flesch, 4-time PGA tour winner said in 2012: "I think it looks ... very unprofessional. That’s your work environment. As a golfer you’re a professional; act like one, dress like one. That’s our workplace and it looks out of place to me. "
Michael Shamburger wrote for the Big Lead that he doesn't see the need. "The pace of play doesn’t require that legs be free like in soccer or basketball. Guys aren’t racing to their ball or running to the tee box and the pants worn are generally dri-fit stuff that is extremely breezy. "
The rebuttal, presented by the likes of Rory McIlroy and Jordan Spieth, centers around the point that it is 2017, and that we really shouldn't feel too upset about having to look at men's legs. In fact, shorts and skorts are perfectly acceptable on the LPGA and LET so why are we still so offended by the men showing some skin?
As trivial as it might seem, every time this debate rears its head, a certain demographic roll their eyes and make moves to avoid the course. Young people — millennials, if you will — don't really like rules. And they especially don't like rules that they feel have little point.
At least those are the findings of a 2015 report by the National Golf Foundation (NGF). It found that millennials, more than any other generation, feel that golf is 'stuffy', 'elitist' and an 'old man's sport.' Trivial debates about whether or not shorts are acceptable, do not help this perception.
"It seems apparent that the quicker golf can persuade millennials that it isn't stuffy or boring, the better. "
The same NGF report also predicts that there are 12 million young people with either the time or the money to take up golf. The current participation rate for 18-34 year olds is around 6 million, bringing approximately $5bn a year to the golf economy. Another 12 million would mean more rounds played, more clubs bought, more golf clothes bought, more golf holidays booked. Yep, simply put, it would mean much more money.
So why not take the shorts issue off the table? It seems apparent that the quicker golf can persuade millennials that it isn't stuffy or boring, the better. And despite many clubs relaxing their dress codes in recent years, the Tour seems to hold a vital position in influencing opinion.
Millennials like choice and they resist rules that they think don't make sense. And to them, this one doesn't make sense. As one interviewee for the NGF report stated:
"No one wants to have to worry about being told they are dressed inappropriately to play a game or being judged for how they look versus how they play (what do you all have against cargo shorts???). You never see anyone being refused a lift ticket for wearing the wrong thing while skiing. "
Whatever the Tour does or doesn't decide to do, each time a new article is written about the 'shorts debate' or a point is made about a golfer photographed in short pants, golf slips a little bit further away from the 12 million potential new clients. And for those worried about seeing a bit of leg, let's just take a moment to remember that you probably won't ever see as much skin as Gary Woodland showed when he stripped down to his underwear at the 2016 Honda Classic!