The past two weekends we’ve watched golf’s biggest stars wearing shorts while playing televised charity matches.
It’s a strangely comfortable thing, almost a common-man touch among players whose games are anything but common. In the same way we’ve seen celebrities dressed down during their quarantine communications, it’s somehow reassuring that they’re just like the rest of us, favoring T-shirts and baggy pants when they’re just hanging out.
Seeing Tiger Woods in shorts and watching Phil Mickelson flash his famous calves has led to suggestions that the PGA Tour should relax its dress code and allow players to wear shorts in competition.
Just stop right there.
Shorts are fine for practice rounds and pro-ams but not for tournament play.
It’s the whole thing about being a professional. Players should look the part and long pants are a part of that.
I know it’s hot in the summertime and anyone who saw Robert Garrigus sweating through his trousers a few years ago at Memphis may never fully shake that image. But as the game increasingly relaxes what is and isn’t acceptable – music, golf scooters and White Claws are now on the popular list – let’s keep the professionals looking like professionals. Maybe that’s an old-school idea (and I’m not going to suggest what Hogan might have thought about pros wearing shorts in competition) but long pants not only look right, they feel right.
One long-pants exception would be those joggers Rickie Fowler tried to make popular. Coaches shorts would have been a better idea.
It’s the whole thing about being a professional. Players should look the part and long pants are a part of that. It’s not like anyone is asking them to wear long-sleeve shirts and neckties like Walter Hagen did, though Ryan Moore did try the look for a time a few years ago.
Maybe it’s a generational thing and I’m of a generation that grew up watching Ward Cleaver reading his newspaper before dinner while still wearing his full suit in his living room while his wife, June, was doing the cooking wearing a dress and a string of pearls.
I’ll admit that was a little much, though it allowed the recently deceased Eddie Haskell plenty of material for dishing out his smarmy compliments. (As a quick aside, a friend once got actor Ken Osmond’s autograph at a show and Osmond signed his photo, “My, Mr. Talbert, that’s a nice-looking suit you’re wearing”).
Golf fashion, if you want to call it that, has evolved through the years. Thankfully, plus fours have gone the way of gutta-percha, though there are a handful of guys who wear them from time to time, oblivious to how silly they look. The Sansabelt era of the 1970s fit the times and, to borrow a line from Forrest Gump, that’s all I have to say about that.
To be fair, this is not a golden age for golf fashion either. There are exceptions – Justin Thomas is the best dressed guy on Tour – but skin-tight shirts and those clingy, stretchy slacks that fit like yoga pants aren’t flattering.
To be fair, if I had biceps like Brooks Koepka, I might wear an air-brushed Myrtle Beach tank top when I play. Truth is, I still lean toward the Hal Sutton style, preferring sleeves to reach my elbow at least. As for those glorified T-shirts Tiger Woods wears, if you can’t say something nice …
I get that times have changed. Today’s players are the most athletic group ever. They’ve traded bars for barbells, and they ride Pelotons, which sounds like a golf-ball brand from days gone by. “Are you playing a Peloton 3?” sounds like something that was said a generation or two ago.
It’s funny that when I see tour players during practice days in their shorts, it still takes a minute to recognize them. It’s not like the way Payne Stewart transformed into someone else when he put on jeans and took his cap off. But it’s different.
I’m open to change. Rangefinders should be allowed in tour events. The whole world uses them, including the people who make the rules, so why not let the pros do it if it saves caddies having to triangulate yardage after every wayward tee shot.
I like the piped-in music around the first tee at the Ryder Cup as much as anyone and I’m sure I could learn to love hybrids if I could ever learn to hit one consistently.
As for shorts on the golf course, they’re fine for the rest of us. But professional golfers should wear the pants in golf’s family.
Phil Mickelson gets in his work on a practice green. Photo: David Cannon, Getty Images
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