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GolfWRX gets trendy: The Ashworth Style Experience

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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.

Click here to see the photos.

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.”

Click here for more discussion in the “Golf style and fashion” forum.

Click here to see the photos.

You can follow Zak on Twitter @ZakKoz and GolfWRX on Twitter @GolfWRX

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Zak is the Editor-in-Chief of GolfWRX.com. He's been a part of the company since 2011, when he was hired to lead GolfWRX's Editorial Department. Zak developed GolfWRX's Featured Writer Program, which supports aspiring writers and golf industry professionals. He played college golf at the University of Richmond (Go Spiders!) and still likes to compete in tournaments. You can follow Zak on Twitter @ZakKoz, where he's happy to discuss his game and all the cool stuff that's part of his job.

4 Comments

4 Comments

  1. Truther

    Jun 23, 2012 at 8:37 pm

    M Hackel is allowed to offer an opinion. The problem is that many who are unable to think for themselves may end up taking his opinions as gospel, when his ideas are the furthest thing from it.

    If you were to listen to Hackel, then John Daly shouldn’t be allowed to wear anything stylish at all.

    My advice: wear whatever makes you feel comfortable.

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  4. oiler69

    May 30, 2012 at 2:19 am

    I have two things to say about this subject: 1.) Waaaay too much attention is paid to fashion, style in golf apparel. It has been my observation that the more effort and money one spends on the golf wardrobe the worse the player (and the more annoying the individual), and, 2.) Mr. Couples has better taste than Mr. Hackel.

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Let’s Retire Old Man Par: A Modest Proposal

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In 1729, Jonathan Swift wrote a satirical essay entitled “A modest proposal,” in which he suggested that the Irish eat their own children. As might be expected, the piece drew a great deal of discussion and controversy. He was of course not serious, but simply attempting to make a point. As you will read this piece contains “A Modest Proposal” as well, but it is not intended to be satirical. I am for the record dead serious.

The golf industry is wringing its hands, trying to find a way to bring new players into the game, while at the same time keeping those that are in the game from leaving. They have initiated any number of programs designed for this purpose. How successful have they been? I would venture that they have barely moved the needle.

Barriers to the game

What we do know is that today there are three major barriers that confront the industry. They are first, the time required to play the game; second the costs associated with playing the game; and third the difficulty of the game.

There are among those adults that start the game, three distinct different groups:

  1. Those who would like to start playing golf but for any number of reasons decided not to take up the game.
  2. Those who once played more frequently but have reduced the number of rounds that they play.
  3. Those who started to play the game but then after a short period decided to leave it.

Those who leave the game

Those in the golf industry, the hand-wringers, have developed any number of programs to bring new players to the game. I would ask the question, “What is the point, when almost an equal number of players that start playing the game each year, decide to give it up within a span of a few months.

Does it make any sense to continue to put water into a bucket when there is a hole in the bottom? Of course not, but that is effectively what is being done. The first question to be ask, why do these new players quit the playing after a short time? In my opinion, the number No. 1 reason is the method of scoring being used.

Were an exit poll to be conducted asking these people why they quit playing, I seriously doubt they would answer truthfully. Who would want to admit that they were discouraged by their inability to succeed at any endeavor? The two answers that would be given the most often would be 1) that golf is too expensive to play; or 2) that they simply didn’t have time.  In this case both answers serve to preserve the individual’s dignity. And who could blame them?

The concept of par

Why did these individuals find the game difficult? The short answer is that while golf is a hard game to learn, there  is a more compelling reason.  I would venture, that the underlying reason they quit the game is that it ceased to be fun because of how they viewed their performance. And for one central reason… the concept of par. The idea that an amateur golfer, especially a beginner, should measure their level of success against an imaginary set of numbers that represents what an expert player would score on each hole is on the surface ridiculous.

You might imagine a beginning player scoring an eight on a par-four hole after hitting six good shots and then two putting for an eight. In the context of their ability, they should be ecstatic — but of course they are not (because as their playing partner reminds them) they were four-over par on that hole. The time has come for Old Man Par to retire. And retire permanently. He is killing the game.

Perceived failure

In another scenario, the beginning player scores sixty for nine holes, which is an excellent score given the short amount of time they might have spent playing the game. And yet their nine-hole score was 24-over par. How would that make you feel? Would you be encouraged or discouraged? You might imagine yourself back in school and regardless of the amount of work that you put into a given class you always receive an “F.” At some point, would you give up?

Why should every golfer be judged by the same standard when there is such inequality in their ability? The equivalent would be placing a high school freshman in a graduate-level college course, expecting that they could perform at the same level as the other graduate students. The disparity in knowledge, based on age and experience, is precisely the reason why there are different grades in school. The same disparity exists among golfers. In this case, the difference being the ability to perform on the golf course as opposed to the classroom.

What about the second group of players that now plays less than they did in the past? Could it be that they are no longer having fun playing the game?And then there is the third group, those that consider playing the game but abandon it for another sport. Could it be that they are intimidated by the scoring system, knowing that as a beginner par is an absolute impossibility?

Old man par 

The legendary Bobby Jones was the first to coin, perhaps with the help of his friend O.B. Keillor, the phrase “Old Man Par.” Jones was, of course, the greatest amateur to have ever played the game. He won the Grand Slam in 1930, retiring then at the age of 28.

The time has come to retire “Old Man Par” and devise a new system for measuring a golfer’s progress in the game. I know that those in the USGA. would reject the concept immediately for fear of, and here is a $10 word used primarily by attorneys, “bifurcate” the game. What that word essentially means in this context in having more than one standard. The USGA is responsible for preserving the nature of the game, but at the same time it should be equally concerned with preserving the future of the game.

Personal par

What I would suggest is a system based on the principle of what might be termed “personal par.” This was essentially the system that was used to groom a young Tiger Woods. As a young child, he was not capable of reaching the longer holes in regulation, making par a virtual impossibility. Consequently, his coach wisely devised a system in which par was adjusted upward based on his ability at a given point in time. This served to keep the young child feeling good about his performance and subsequent progress.

This is the type of system that needs to be devised for the health of the game. The system would begin at a nine-hole level using a par of thirty-six as a basis. The actual numbers are not as important as the basic concept. There would be within the nine-hole and the eighteen-hole groups five different levels as follows with assigned par for each hole and eighteen holes roughly equal with the player’s ability.

As players improved, they would graduate from one level to another based on their total score. The handicap system would work in similar fashion as it does now with a single modification. The strokes give from one player to another would depend on the level in which they fall and the par assigned to that level.

The personal par handicap system would not be as exacting as it is presently used, but it would be sufficient to allow players to be reasonable competitive without any significant sacrifice. There would then be two scoring systems then, allowing players to choose which one they wanted to use. Or a recommendation might be given that until they reach a given scoring threshold that they use the personal par scoring system.

There would, of course, be the usual concern with something new being injected into the system, but the proposed change would be no greater than when the system of equitable scoring was introduced or when courses were first assigned a course rating number.

A few years ago, when life-long teacher and educator Dr. Gary Wiren was inducted into the Golf Teacher’s Hall of Fame, he wanted to pass along a single piece of advice to those teachers in the room. “Gentleman,” he started and then paused for emphasis. “We must find a way to make the game more fun for our students.”

I’m in full agreement with Dr. Wiren. The question is, “What is the best way to accomplish that goal?” I believe that that the first step in that direction is to change the scoring system so that golfers experience more satisfaction and accomplishment. That is what makes learning fun.

And so, I would have you consider “The Modest Proposal” that I have put forward. And rather than attempting to find reasons why a revised scoring system couldn’t never work, for the benefit of the game, look for the same number of reason why it could work. The time has come for Old Man Par, as we know him, to retire. He has served us well, but he has become an anarchism. He is as obsolete as the horse and buggy. Let’s hand him his gold watch and let him enjoy his golden years in peace.

And at the same time, let’s welcome the “new kid on the block” who will pave the way for the next generation of golfers pioneering a scoring system that promises to make the game more “fun.”

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