Private Golf Clubs Need a Dress Code Wake Up Call

Last week I came home to find that my Golf Digest magazine had arrived – time for me and my golfguy to play tug of war to see who can read it first. For the first time in many months, I won the battle and immediately sat down to figure out ‘why I can’t putt’. Seems putting is the theme of this month’s issue. But before I could get to that, I stumbled on the letter from the editor on the “The Case for Change at Private Clubs.”

I agreed with most of what he said about private clubs needing to get into the 21st century. And that got me thinking about this year’s CN Women’s Open and how most of the women on that tour would never be allowed to play at most private clubs in North America. They couldn’t get past the dress code police.

To give you a perspective in this, check out the dress code policy at St. Charles Country Club, the home of this year’s CN Women’s Open…

LADIES/GIRLS – Golf shirts, with collars or sleeves, slacks, pants and shorts with pockets sewn closely to garment, sweaters, jackets, skirts, and rain suits. Shorts, skirts and skorts must be of conservative length being no shorter than mid thigh. Golf shirts must be worn inside the waist unless tailored to be worn outside the waist.

I spoke to one of the St. Charles board members about their dress code and was happy to hear that their BOD is very aware they need to change and are surveying their members on what they’d like to see. He did say, however, that it wasn’t all that long ago that the women members had to kneel in front of the Starter prior to their round to prove their shorts were the proper length. Oh my!

Now check out these outfits and tell me if you think they’d pass muster…

Michelle Wie comes up short.

Anna Rawson wouldn’t pass the kneeling test either…

Ai Miyazato would be asked to tuck it in…

Canada’s Big Breaker, Seema “Vegas” Sadekar’s bling wouldn’t be welcome…

And of course, Christina Kim just might be walked to the door or asked to change hats…

Now, don’t get me wrong. I love what all these ladies are wearing.  Each one brings her own style to the game of golf and it’s fun, fashionable, flirty and sometimes funky. And although I’m not a big fan of tummy tanning while swinging, I do think it’s time for private clubs to take a look at what’s happening outside of their garden walls and realize that the times, they are a changing.

When looking at the average age at many private clubs,you’d probably think you’re looking at retirement homes, not sports clubs.

And most young people aren’t interested in joining fuddy duddy clubs where their parents and grandparents hang out. And for good reason – they don’t feel welcome.

I decided to browse around and see what dress codes were like at other clubs in Canada and the US. I was not surprised to learn that many still ban the following:
• Anything denim
• Tank or halter tops
• Caps and clothing with commercial logos not related to golf or tennis
• Un-tucked shirts
• Cargo pants or shorts
• Shorts, skirts, and dresses more than X inches above the knee (where X = 4”, 6” or 8”). At Oakmont country club where the LPGA played this year’s US Open, it’s only 1 inch.
• Hats worn backwards

• Bandannas or headbands (Sorry Kim Welch and Pelle Edberg!)
• Socks more than 2” above the shoe (unless they are knee socks)
• Golf sandals

What kills me about these rules is that the pro shops are selling the same clothing and shoes that they ban on their own courses. My girlfriend bought 3 pairs of shorts at her club’s pro shop this summer, only to discover that she wasn’t allowed to wear them 10 feet outside the change room.

Another woman who was a guest of one of the golf pros at a private club in town, was wearing shorts the Starter didn’t think were appropriate. The golf pro thought the guest’s outfit was perfectly acceptable and said so. But the Starter wouldn’t let them play unless the woman put on a pair of men’s black rain pants that they pulled out of the lost and found. It was 90+ degrees outside and she was expected to wear black rain pants previously worn by a much larger man. Eeeew! Needless to say, the guest took a pass on playing. I don’t blame her.

I know we’ve come a long way in golf in some respects (women can play at most private courses if they’re willing to play in non-prime time) and I haven’t seen anyone kneel in front of a Starter in the past few years. But there’s no question…we’ve still got a long way to go.

This week I was asked to join the membership committee at our club. I thought the timing was quite coincidental, given my recent grumblings around membership rules and regulations. Although I have no idea where I’ll get the time for this, I decided I had to join. I can’t just keep ranting and raving about issues like this. It’s time for me to put my time and effort where my mouth is. Wish me luck!


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  1. Well said. I couldn’t agree more. I think some golf courses have some of these antiquated rules in purely to make them appear exclusive.


    Excellent post Gayle and certainly timely giving the economic state of the private country clubs. In upcoming years they will be begging people to come to their property and wear whatever you like… It’s a new world with new rules and in typical fashion the golf industry hangs onto its traditions (some times even elitist values) way too long for my liking. While I like many of the traditions, customs and rules of golf, I think the game must change and evolve as the world around it does… i.e. any of the women above are welcome at my club (if I had one!)

    Keep up the great work and we’ll keep reading it.

  3. Thanks Ballman! 😉

    I’ll keep writing if you keep building great clubs. I hit a beautiful shot 165 yards with my sweet spot 4 hybrid today at Sagebrush and landed on the green 10 ft from the pin. It was “sweet” in more ways than one 😉

  4. Hey Aussie Golfer! I totally agree with you. The sad part is, “they are all the same” There is nothing elitist about them – just old farts who won’t move into the 21st century. They call it tradition – I call it archaic!

  5. We have a “4-inch” rule at our club that I have challenged on the course and on my blog.

    Same thing in our proshop. Some clothes don’t meet the rule. Just bizarre.

    Apparently our recent “reminder” about the 4-inch rule was brought on by a VERY influential woman at the club. It was a huge bummer for me to find out another woman was behind the revived policy. She actually went through our proshop with a ruler!

    Even though she may not wear some of the styles that doesn’t mean she should ban them for others. I would never take away her right to wear her masculine shorts and pants. ;o)

    BTW why is a starter having final say over a pro? That’s also crazy, IMHO.

  6. Hi Heather!
    Thanks so much for your comment. There is a word for women like that – but this is a “family-friendly” blog 😉

    Unbelievable! No wonder we have trouble getting women and youth to take up golf. Sigh..

    Yes, the starter story shocked me too. It’s like clubs are living in the 1800’s.

  7. Gayle, thanks for the post.

    Many clubs are desperate for golfers and most new golfers are women and yet they expect us to run in and sign up. No thanks if those are the rules.

    Seems a paradigm shift is needed, quickly.

  8. Hey Elizabeth. Thanks for your comment. Sounds like we are on the same page. In fact, I just visited your website and really liked it. Definitely had to it to my “Sites Worth Visiting” list.


  9. It it shocking how dated some of these places are! Yet, the pro shops they have are modern… I think that is just silly. I wonder when the policies will be updated.

  10. Hey GolfGirlJunior! Welcome to my blog. Nice to meet you.

    Yes, it is shocking how dated some clubs are.

    In terms of policies changes, it is the youth that can make the difference. They need to get involved in their club committees and represent the next generation. It’s the only way things will change quickly.


  11. In an interesting study commissioned by Golf with Women, results showed that women were not only concerned with clothing in, but with play options (time and cost), course setup (tee positioning and directional signage), food & beverage (healthier choices), and child care. And I agree with you, if we know what we want, it’s up to us to be involved on a membership committee in order to persuade the decisionmakers!

  12. Hi Yvette.

    Thanks so much for your comment.
    I’d love to get a copy of that study. Is it online?


  13. Hi Golfgal. Good job for tackling this topic. Definitely, women’s dress codes should be looked into.Changes are not always met with open arms but I do hope that the clubs realize this one is a need.

    • I’m reading this post from 2010 in 2022 and find the same problems! Our club is looking to rewrite our dress code policy in order to be more up to date with current fashions. However, we are struggling to define an appropriate skirt length. We have high school girls whose skirts show more than they should in the front, and when they tee up their balls, they show everything in the back. We understand fashion trends and the items available to purchase are short short short, but we feel that when many members are talking about how much is being shown these days, something has to be done.
      Measuring from the knee up doesn’t work, as we have a 4’8” woman whose thigh’s are probably only 14” from knee to crotch, yet another girl who is 5’10” and her thighs are nearly 18” or more. A 6” from knee would make for a very long, and out of fashion skort length for the tall girl and a very very short one for the shorter one.

      Any other thoughts? Finger tips length?
      How do we nicely say, long enough so your nu nu doesn’t show in the front and your butt doesn’t show in the back!!

  14. Thanks SwingAngel. One step at a time is all we need, as long as it is in the forward direction 🙂

    Thanks so much for our comment!

  15. Hi Golfgal,

    I wish i could disagree with you and say that the dress codes are a lot more relaxed in England, but this just isn’t the case. If anything, the british stiff upper lip is in full force here. We’re trying to introduce a middle ground; fashionable clothes that still conform to general course dress code, and having great success, but at the same time, in a constantly evolving sport, it’s still sad that more people are being dissuaded to take up the game because of uptight dress codes.

  16. Some pro golf events are organized for charity causes and have a strict dress code and this blog really shows the collection of perfect and really amazing materials for golf.

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