By Zak Kozuchowski
GolfWRX Managing Editor
Golf clothes are like swing tips. No matter how many a golfer has, they always seem to need new ones.
But sometimes, new swing tips are no better than old swing tips. Old patterns return, despite a golfer’s best effort to change them. The same is true of golf fashion. Golfers tend become comfortable with their style, even if it’s limiting their look. And for the sake of comfort, they often make similar mistakes when deciding on new apparel from their local golf retailer.
That’s why Ashworth decided to send four GolfWRX contest winners on an all-expenses-paid trip to the United Kingdom that they dubbed the “Ashworth Style Experience.” The premise – receive a golf fashion makeover from golf’s leading fashion authority, “Mr. Style” Marty Hackel. Other perks included three nights at the Pennyhill Park Hotel, a five-star resort and spa, a round of golf, tickets to Tuesday’s practice round of the BMW Championship at Wentworth, a tour of the TaylorMade’s European Tour Van and the best food and drink Surrey, England, had to offer.
Ashworth is best known as the clothing sponsor of Freddy Couples, who brought attention to the brand when he was at his golfing peak in the early 1990s. TaylorMade-Adidas golf purchased Ashworth in 2008, and has since worked to revitalize the brand. Ashworth’s latest line has its sights set on 35-to-55 year olds, but thanks to its revamped cuts, fabrics, patterns and color options, Ashworth should please a wider audience.
The contest winners ranged in age from 34 to 42. Each was from a different part of the United States and had different tastes in fashion. Yet with the help of Mr. Hackel, they all left the UK with a fall wardrobe that suited their lifestyles and body types.
On Monday, the contest winners set out for North Hants Golf Club, the club where Justin Rose honed his world-class game as a teenager. They played 18 holes of golf, which was followed with a party that welcomed Rose as the lead ambassador of the Ashworth brand. The guys had a few pints, English-style fish and chips, and some one-on-one time with Rose himself.
At the event, Rose said that he was excited with the modern elements of Ashworth’s new line, such as the slimmer fitting shirt he wore at the event, a red dual-front pocket design that is much different that the oversized shirts that Couples popularized years ago.
“I think there’s some really clean looks to [the Ashworth line],” Rose said. “It’s also still very classic … I think it can transfer both on and on the golf course. I’d be very comfortable wearing this shirt with a pair of jeans.”
During the style makeover on Tuesday morning, Hackel echoed the importance of versatility in a golfer’s wardrobe. Darrin, a contest winner from New York who works in the medical field, is forced to play much of his golf after he leaves the office. For him, Hackel recommended self-collar polos, a shirt that employs the same material in the collar as it does in the body of the shirt. Hackel said that self-collar shirts are dressier, and more appropriate in an office or restaurant setting. A knit collar, which uses a different material in the collar than in the body of the shirt, provides a golfer with fewer options, Hackel said.
“With knit collars, you’re pretty much limited to the golf course,” Hackel said. “We want you to spend your money on things that give you more versatility.”
Casey, a banker from Tennessee, had been a fan of Ashworth clothing for years. But his shorter stature was a problem for him when buying shirts. Hackel recommended that Casey pay special attention to where the seams of his golf shirts rested on his shoulder. If the seam rested below hs shoulder, not only would his golf shirts appear too large, but they would also inhibit his shoulder movement during the swing.
“A lot of golfers think they need a fuller garment to be able to swing,” Hackel said. “But exactly the opposite is true. With bigger armholes, the entire shirt tends to move, which does not make the shirt more comfortable. They higher [and smaller] the armhole, the easier your arm can move without the product moving.”
Chas, the tallest of the contest winners with the broadest shoulders, learned from Hackel that it was not just the cut of a golf shirt that was important. Color plays a role as well. Hackel advised Chas not to go too dark in his shirt color choices, as it has a tendency to throw off the proportion of his upper and lower body. By dressing in light-colored shirts and darker-colored pants, Chas could streamline his physique and better accentuate his long torso.
Hackel had a recommendation for Chas’ pants as well. Because of Chas’ 12.5 shoe size, he was often conscious of how large his feet looked when he wore slimmer-fitting pants. Marty steered Chaz away from pants that he said he would have bought. He told him that he needed at least a 17-inch cuff [European-styled pants often have a cuff as narrow as 15 inches], which would make his feet look proportionate with the rest of his body.
Jim, a Michigander who specializes in graphic design for an advertising agency, was in violation of Hackel’s 34-inch rule, which deals with white belts.
“We think the white belt is gone,” Hackel said. “The 34-inch rule means that if your waist is larger than 34 inches, you can only wear a white belt if it’s attached to a badge or a holster.”
Jim said that because of his larger waist size, he stayed away from brown and black belts with light-colored pants because he said they drew attention to his midsection. He felt that a white belt limited this contrast, and made him look slimmer. Hackel said that a white belt has nearly the same effect as black and brown belts. According to Hackel, the only way to truly draw attention away from Jim’s midsection was to opt for a belt that matched the color of his pants as closely as possible. For Jim, he recommended khacki-colored belts, especially those made of cloth, which would help keep him cool during the hot Michigan summers.
Jim, who studied art as an undergraduate, preferred to wear clothing with louder patterns, which was another habit from which Hackel steered him away. Hackel wanted Jim to dress with as little contrast as possible, a scheme that would provide a silhouetting effect.
It was clear, however, that Jim wanted to have some fun with his outfits, and Hackel embraced that. He urged Jim to show off his personality through accessories, such as bold socks, shoes and watches.
An area of fashion that Hackel has welcomed has been hybrid golf shoes, such as the Ashworth Cardiff model that Justin Rose will wear this weekend at Wentworth. Each shoe has a strong accent color on its rubber outsole, which a golfer can highlight with a matching pair of laces.
“We want golfers to stay in their comfort zone, but we also want them to show off their personality,” Hackel said. “That’s why Rickie Fowler gets a pass with his orange outfits and white belts. That’s his personality. But it’s not for everyone. You can’t worry about what you’re wearing. If you stop by a window or a mirror and look at what you’re wearing for more then 10 seconds, go back and change. You’re not going to feel comfortable in it.”
You can follow Zak on Twitter @ZakKoz and GolfWRX on Twitter @GolfWRX