In this guide, we’re going to discuss golf attire and the staple pieces every golfer should have in his wardrobe.
History of Golf and Attire
Golf has been a sport enjoyed by men since the Middle Ages. Finding its way to America in the late 1800s, it erupted in popularity during the Roaring Twenties as a way for the well-to-do to engage in sport and socialize at the same time. With the birth of Ivy Style, Trad and Prepdom, it emerged as one of the most stylish sports for the modern gentleman.
Since golf had it’s beginnings in cool, rainy Scotland, the original attire for the sport was suited for its climate. Tweed suits with plus fours were paired with high, exposed woolen socks, thick-soled leather shoes and flat caps in a style that was often repurposed for other outdoor pursuits such as hunting. Heavy sweaters, knitted vests, and ties often completed the look. Such specialized clothing and the time needed to play rendered golf a purely upper-class sport. In the 20th century, golf attire evolved as it traveled to different countries and climates, and while it is still expensive, it is more accessible than ever.
Golf Attire Today
Golf attire has evolved a long way from its origins. Today, most golf clothing is designed first to be functional, the style elements being secondary. Original golf materials such as wool and tweed are almost never seen anymore and the once classic, earthy palette of colors and patterns has been replaced with high-tech blends and an anything-goes approach to color. Some golfers take it a step further and wear loud argyles and highlighter-bright tones that are a sad caricature of the original elegant attire golfers once wore.
Furthermore, golf is one of the few sports in which most men will encounter a dress code for appropriate attire. Most golf courses require more formal apparel than other sports, so for this sport it is important to blend style with functionality. Most courses will require men to wear collared shirts with short sleeves that are tucked into knee length shorts or trousers, as well as golf shoes. In this guide, we’re going to discuss how to elevate your style in a game where comfort, etiquette, and ease of movement are as important as how you look.
Tips for Choosing Classic Golf Attire
Your chosen golf attire will depend on your style, the weather, your budget, and your goal for the game. Is it to win a new client, make new friends in the sport, or focus intently on your game? Be cognizant of what you want to achieve and try to choose clothes that will further those goals. Loud golf clothes can look like a sad cry for attention. Before you begin to shop, here are a few tips on how to buy and build a classic golf wardrobe that will look as good as it functions:
- Wear only one garment per outfit in a bright color or a bold pattern
- Avoid non-traditional or splashy patterns that make you look like you’re mocking the game or don’t take it seriously
- Always pair golf pants and shorts with a belt that matches your shoes
- Avoid monotone combinations such as khaki-on-khaki; choose a contrasting combination instead
- For the most classic look, opt for leather golf shoes with a nice last in tones of white and brown with broguing; avoid black, which is too formal for sporting attire
- On chilly days, utilize traditional layers such as sweaters and sweater vests for a classic look
- Look for performance-enhancing features such as a rubberized waistband in pants that keep your shirt tucked in swing after swing
Staple Golf Clothing
Usually, we are strong advocates of using natural materials and traditional cuts to get the classic style look; however, golf is a physical sport and the industry has moved to embrace new techy materials and construction that are designed to enhance your game.
For a casual game on the links, there are a few basic items every avid golfer should have in his wardrobe, based on the time of day and the temperature he plans to play in.
Chilly, Windy & Rainy
If you’re golfing in Scotland, Canada and many parts of the Northeastern United States, chances are you’re familiar with dreary days. Not exactly a day the average gent looks forward to hitting the links, but if you are a competitive golfer, joining a scheduled group or participating in a tournament, sometimes you just don’t have a choice and you’ll need to dress for inclement weather. Our pro tip is to layer. More often than not, weather can change during a 4+ hour game of golf so having the ability to add on or take off a layer of clothing keeps you cool in the sun and warm in the shade.
Long Sleeve Sport Shirt
Think a classic button-down but with some sprezzatura. Made of cotton, the long sleeves provide a little protection from the elements, but it’s thin enough that if the weather changes for the better, you can still comfortably play in the sun.
Recommended Sports Shirt:
Plain Poplin Sports Shirt from Ralph Lauren – $98
Perfect for a day on the course, this classic cotton button-down shirt is non-iron for those who don’t want to deal with wrinkles before a game at dawn. Click here to get it.
Rain is rarely an issue as most courses will close down in the event of anything more than a brief and mild shower. However, often it’s a cross breeze in the open fairways that cause the bones to chill, and shivering is never fun while trying to perfect a putt from the edge of the green. The next step in layering is with a comfortable sweater designed for golf.
Cotton Half-Zip Sweater from Brooks Brothers – $108
From classic colors like light blue and navy to a bolder and more vibrant yellow and light pink, this Supima cotton pullover is a perfect sweater to layer year-round and one that will meet just about any dress code enforced by your club. Click here to get it.
Having a windbreaker on hand is essential when the gusts begin whipping rain at you. A sweater is great to have on hand, but once it’s wet, you’re not having fun anymore.
Water-Resistant Pullover Windbreaker from RLX Golf – $145
RLX is Ralph Lauren’s other golf line and the official clothing provider of the U.S. Open. Of course, that shouldn’t be a selling point since paid brand sponsorships are not an indicator of quality. However, we have golfed in a number of the RLX Golf products and believe that they are some of the best products on the market because they do the job and they’re also reasonably priced for a well-made product. The pullover has a water-resistant shell and still allows for significant movement, as the material stretches and then immediately reverts to its original shape after each swing. This product can also be worn as a pullover sweater, although it’s warmer and less breathable than cotton. Click here to buy one.
Santee Rain-Slick by Southern Tide – $195
Designed for fishing by prep-brand Southern Tide, this bright yellow windbreaker is intended to keep you dry. When unexpected rain hits, rest assured your layers underneath will remain dry. Southern Tide sealed the seams in this jacket, added Velcro adjustable cuffs and interior drawcords so you can hunker down and wait out the rain. Click here to get it.
Shorts are great in the heat, but ideally, a gentleman wants to wear trousers on the course. There are many styles one can choose from, but during a windy game with the chance of rain, you want something that can hold up against the inclement weather.
Wind Resistant Trousers
Nike Weatherized 2.0 Dri-Fit Water Repellent Trousers
If you’re sure it’s going to be a rough day of weather on the course, these are the pair we suggest going with. These simple trousers will keep you dry and somewhat warm. Made specifically for golfing in bad weather, Nike designed them with dress codes in mind. When practicality is the most important need, these are a great option. Buy them here.
Golf umbrellas are a standard accessory every gentleman should have in his bag. However, most are incredibly over-branded with massive logos strewn across the canopy.
Swaine Adeney Brigg Golf Umbrella
Traditional craftsmanship with golf styling is what you get from Brigg. Available in many colors and patterns, with a metal frame and a solid polished chestnut crook handle or golf-style straight handle with the standard stainless steel collar. There is also the ability to choose their bespoke service, which allows you to custom design your own golf umbrella. The best part is that there won’t be any large logos visible on the canopy and your umbrella from England will certainly outlast any other umbrella on the course, even in the most torrential downpours.
Warm, Hot or Humid Days
The perfect day of golf is warm and sunny with a light breeze to keep you comfortable. The style options are vast, and there are many stylish golf items you can choose from. Still, you get days where it feels like you’re trekking through the desert with no water in sight. Since you can’t go naked on the course, finding clothing that feels light and still protects you is a must. Here are our recommended items:
Although most men tend to wear shorts on the links, the more traditional gent will generally prefer to wear trousers. There are many brands of trousers available at any golf store, but most will not meet the style requirements we seek. This is because most golf stores stock brands like Nike, Adidas, FootJoy, Callaway, UnderArmour and other sports-related brands we normally wouldn’t be caught dead wearing. To elevate your style on the course, we suggest focusing on golf sub-brands from various preppy haberdashers like Ralph Lauren and Brooks Brothers. We don’t suggest going with the more expensive bespoke clothiers we typically recommend, as golf is a sport and therefore you run the risk of ruining more expensive garments walking through the grass on the fairway, the rough, the sand traps and the occasional water hazard. Combine that with risks of rain, sweat and dirt and it’s a recipe for disaster. Therefore, it’s best to stick with brands that make a more stylish trouser but that are still designed with golf in mind.
Ralph Lauren RLX Golf Cypress Pant
For the more conservative gent who still wants to remain stylish, this Cheshire purple pant designed for the 2015 U.S. Open has the fit of a chino with the comfort of athletic apparel. It is designed for the back swing and retains its shape while keeping you cool and comfortable. Buy it here.
Go to Hell (GTH) Pants
Made from cotton by the brand that brought us Go to Hell pants, this is the style made so famous by men like JFK — and a style still regularly seen on the most distinguished courses in America. Not for the shy gentleman, this classic prep pant is breathable and fun but needs to be paired appropriately, so it doesn’t come across as garish. Be sure to read all about these pants in our designated go to hell pants Guide.
A standard rule of thumb for the gentleman is to wear shorts only at the beach. However, there are exceptions to every rule and when you’re on the course under the sun, sometimes having bare legs is a blessing that’s just not worth following style rules for. If you are going to wear a pair of shorts on the course, be sure they fall to the knee and adhere to your club’s dress code.
Brooks Brothers St Andrews Links Pleat-Front Golf Shorts
Brooks Brothers is the official clothier for the world famous St. Andrews Links in Scotland, and these shorts are the ones sold in their clubhouse. Traditional and as refined as shorts get, they are perfect for the course that permits shorts and are also quite comfortable to wear in the backyard at home. Take our word for it. Click here to get them.
The most common attire found on the course is, of course, the polo shirt. Traditional and yet perfect for summer athletics, a polo is one style of summer shirts every man should own. It is our top recommended piece of attire for golfing. Learn all about it in our detailed polo shirt guide.
Or checkout our list here:
|Brand Name||Recommended Sport||Price|
|UnderArmour||Golf and Tennis||$50+|
|Reebok||Golf and Tennis||$40+|
|Adidas||Golf and Tennis||$15+|
|Travis Mathew||Golf and Tennis||$50+|
|Oakley||Golf and Tennis||$25+|
|New Balance||Golf and Tennis||$25+|
|Wilson||Golf and Tennis||$30+|
|Aasics||Golf and Tennis||$45+|
A hat is a must on the course to protect you not only from the UV rays but also to keep the sun out of your eyes during the game. Typical golf hats include open-weave straw hats and baseball caps. Choose a light straw-colored hat with a wide brim on hot days and a waterproof baseball hat on misty days. If the weather is cooler, a flat cap is a fun but traditional alternative to other hats. Check out a selection of golf hats here.
Golf shoes are a requirement for the course and they serve a practical purpose to improve your game and protect the greens. They are probably the most important component of your ensemble since you will spend the day on your feet. They should be comfortable, durable, and suit your style. Unlike most other sports, golf shoes can look like regular leather shoes, most typically as a brogue or a saddle shoe. Golf shoes are also modeled after trainers, street sneakers and even boat shoes these days, though we would recommend choosing a classic last for a formal but sporty look.
Contrary to what you might hear, leather is actually an excellent material choice for all kinds of weather. It’s comfortable, breathable, and it can be waterproofed. They are even more durable in the long run since they can be cleaned or polished and they will conform to the shape of your foot, which synthetic materials will not do.
Redan Golf Shoes from Allen Edmonds – $295
A traditional saddle-style golf shoe, made in America, the Redan features a full leather lining, five eyelet saddle Balmoral styling with a Butyl water-resistant leather sole and 11 CHAMP helix plastic spikes that are accepted at most golf courses in North America and Europe. They come in four color combinations: white grain with green, black or blue plus black grain and brown. They are also re-craftable since they’re made using Goodyear Welted construction. Take a look here for a selection of stylish quality golf shoes.
As far as socks go, there are many options, and we recommend a pair specifically designed for playing golf as they will help to wick moisture and also be reinforced for significant walking and the movements made by your foot during the back swing.
Socks With Shorts
If you’re wearing shorts, we suggest going with a pair that hides under your shoe and isn’t visible. Callaway makes a fairly good sports sock that is a no-show and wicks moisture in the hottest weather. Click here to buy them.
Do you enjoy golfing? What clothing do you wear on the course? Do you have any recommendations? Please share them in the comments.