Rules. Before we’re even old enough to talk, our lives begin to revolve around rules. Don’t pick your nose. Bedtime. Chores. No Cinemax after 10 p.m. Don’t put that in your mouth (a pretty good rule even when you’re a adult). The thing about rules is that most of them seem like they’re created to keep us from having any fun. That’s just how life is.
When we get older, we have to worry about more rules; and then we start playing golf. The only game known to man that requires a 581-page rule book (plus an appendix). We already have enough rules to follow. So when I sat down to write this, I decided on guidelines instead. Guidelines are much easier to swallow than rules. So, these are not strict “must do’s.” They’re a collection of insights that can help you not look like a fool out there.
In 1991, Eddie Vedder and Pearl Jam convinced every man in America that it was cool to not care how you looked, and since then, we’ve been treated to oversized flannels, baggy cargo pants and men just dressing like lazy slobs in general. Remember Tiger’s huge shirts and trousers that looked like parachute pants in the 90’s? Or the U.S. Ryder Cup Team’s shirts at Brookline that looked like Norman Rockwell had a few too many juleps and hurled on them? Ugh. Fortunately, there’s been a movement since around 2007. Men are starting to care again, and I love it.
For too long, we golfers had few viable options when it came to clothes for the course. Over the last few years, a wave of new companies has come to fix that. Linksoul, Travis Mathew, Devereux, and William Murray have become household golf names. But even the more established companies are stepping up their game, Puma and Ralph Lauren being two of the most notable. Some lesser known, but great lines are Q.E.D. and Rool Golf, as well as Black Clover. And you can never, EVER go wrong with anything from Arnold Palmer Apparel.
Disclaimer: I do not receive any monetary compensation from any of the companies that appear in this article. Just to make that clear.
Plenty of companies are offering modern options for you to look great, so there’s no reason to hit the course looking like you don’t belong… or you don’t respect where you are or the game you’re playing. Golf doesn’t need to be a stuffy dinner party, but it also shouldn’t look like a NASCAR tailgate party. Follow these guidelines, and you’ll never be accused of being ready for either.
1. Fit is (The) King
This should be common sense, but a lot of guys overlook it. The finest shirt in the world will look like absolute garbage on you if it doesn’t fit correctly. Look at the tag, and look for the terms “Athletic Fit”, “Slim Fit,” or “Tailored Fit.” These cuts won’t be boxy or “blousey” like Tiger’s shirts from the 90s. And they’ll make you look slimmer.
Check the sleeves and make sure they don’t pass below your elbows. Just below the bicep is perfect. In shorts, length is paramount. No disrespect to Nike, but their shorts belong in a skate park. Most companies make their shorts too long. Check out Original Penguin for examples of how shorts should fit a grown man, ending just above the knee.
2. Forget about “Tech Fibers”
The biggest problem with the shiny, moisture-wicking performance fibers designed for athletic performance is exactly that. They aren’t designed for anything else. As soon as you step off the course, you look out of place. You can’t toss a cardigan on or a blazer and head to the bar for cocktails and trash talk wearing one; it’s just wrong. Choose something with natural fibers, something that’s actually woven. There’s nothing wrong with a little tech, but if it can’t go from the course to the lounge and then to dinner, it doesn’t need to be in your closet.
3. Respect your Feet
Those clunky, chunky, cheap golf shoes you found in the clearance section? That’s disrespect in the highest order. The first things someone notices about a man is his watch and his shoes. They don’t need to be FootJoy Icons (even though it’s a fantastic choice), but there are plenty of high quality options.
Adidas is killing it with old school sneaker styles. And please, PLEASE throw your sandal-spikes in the trash immediately. It’s worse than wearing Crocs if you aren’t a chef. If you really want to pull of the casual look with some character, check out Canoos. Its boat shoes and canvas sneakers are the coolest thing around right now.
4. Accessorize, But at Your Own Risk
The days of big, gawdy belt buckles are over. Get something nice and slim, or even something with a check or stripe on it. Even the white belt at this point is getting a little blah. Andre 3000 said that every man should have one thing in his wardrobe that “blings.” Not four, just one. That’s a fantastic guideline. Whether it’s your watch, your socks, your belt, or a bracelet, let one thing you wear pop from everything else.
As for sunglasses, unless you’re a track star, a Formula 1 driver, or Henrik Stenson, you don’t need the ultra techy wrap-around sport shades. Stick to something cool. Something smooth. A pair of Persols should do nicely, but there are plenty of cheaper options like something Steve McQueen would’ve worn on the course. Actually, just use Steve McQueen every time you ask, “Should I wear this?” You’ll be just fine.
5. White Pants (When to Stop)
I have a few pair of white trousers. You have to have a couple, because they get dirty in a hurry. I love wearing them, and I love that I see a ton of Tour guys wearing them. They’re incredibly sharp… but there really does come a point in the season when it’s not OK to wear white pants. Fall is for darker colors, earthy tones, and thicker fabrics. It’s rain-pant weather. Fall isn’t for the white pants you wore when playing in San Diego a few months ago. The Labor Day rule no longer applies, but it has been expanded thanks to GQ’s Style Guy, Glenn O’Brien (Miss you Glenn). As a general guideline, once the MLB Playoffs start, put the white pants away and let them sit until spring.
6. Okay, Maybe a Couple Rules
I can’t list these as merely guidelines. It’s 2017, and certain things just should not be a part of your wardrobe. And to be honest, they never should have been in the first place:
- Jean Shorts: Burn them. Burn. Every. Single. Pair. Now.
- Ditch the Pleats: Are you smuggling two pigeons in your pants? No, you’re not.
- Long White or Black Socks (with shorts): Either go for something like Stance Socks or stick with no-shows or ankle socks. If you’re going to show some sock game, better make sure it’s on fleek.
- Dress Code Disrespect: There are plenty of courses I play that allow T-shirts, and I love playing in a T-shirt and shorts. But if a course has a dress code, just please respect it. Don’t be the guy who shows up in jeans and tries to get away with it by claiming he didn’t know. Don’t be that guy.
Most of us have office jobs or jobs that require wearing some type of uniform. The golf course is one of the remaining outlets for us to express our individual style. So have fun with it and enjoy it. It’s OK to put some thought into what you wear to the course, guys. Don’t let Grunge win.
Jason Day’s performance coach, Jason Goldsmith, joins the 19th hole
In this episode of the 19th Hole, Jason Goldsmith of FocusBand talks about how the breakthrough technology has helped PGA Tour stars Jason Day and Justin Rose to major wins. Also, host Michael Williams gives his take on Tiger Woods’ return to golf.
Ari’s Course Reviews: Oakmont Country Club
Editor’s Note: Ari Techner is a well-traveled, golf-course connoisseur who’s setting out to review the best golf courses in the world. The views and opinions expressed in these reviews are his own.
Oakmont Country Club. The name alone strikes fear into the heart of any mortal golfer. Oakmont has a reputation for difficulty unmatched in the golf world; it’s fear forged in the public’s eye while watching best players in the world struggle during the U.S. Open every 10-plus years or so. There is a notion that Oakmont could hold a U.S. Open just about any day of the year. This is not a course that needs to be tweaked from its daily setup to test the best in the world.
All that said, a close look at the course reveals that there is so much more to Oakmont than just difficulty. Since around 1950, MANY courses have been built with the dilebrate intention of holding a U.S. Open. Most, if not all, of these courses are filled with water hazards, extremely long holes and very little variety. Oakmont is the exact opposite of that, and this is what is at the core of its greatness.
Oakmont Country Club first opened in 1903 and was designed by Henry Fownes, who built it because he felt the other courses around Pittsburgh were not difficult enough. The course was constantly tweaked in the early years by Fownes and his son William. Both Fownes were accomplished players with William winning the U.S. Amateur in 1910 and serving as the playing captain of the first U.S. Walker Cup team in 1922.
Trees, or no trees?
The course was extremely influential in the development of early golf courses in America. It was equally influential in future years by setting trends that have changed the way many other courses have evolved. When Oakmont opened, it was built in an open field and had no trees on the course, adding to the links-like flavor that Fownes wanted from his visits overseas. In the 1950s (after all the Fownes had left the club) Oakmont added thousands of non-native trees to line the corridors of the holes, a look that was a heavy trend of the time. This work was mostly done by Robert Trent Jones, who also modified the bunkers to fit more of his style of the time.
The course continued to evolve over the years with the bunkers being restored by Tom Fazio… but the trees remained. In preparation for the 2008 U.S. Open, Oakmont cut down thousands of trees, returning the course to its open, windswept origins. This was very controversial among the members, and much of the work was done in the middle of the night in the off-season so as not to cause a big stir. After 2008, thousands more trees have been cut down, opening all of the amazing long views across the property. You can see almost every hole on the property from just about every spot on the course. Oakmont was the first course to embrace this massive tree removal and it has turned into a trend with hundreds of classic courses removing their non-native trees and going back to their more open original layouts.
Oakmont is the only course that Fownes designed and I believe that contributes greatly to its uniqueness. Fownes’ version of difficulty did not include artificial water hazards, out of bounds or excessive bunkering fronting greens, and it did not rely simply on longer-than-average holes to challenge the golfer. Instead, it has an amazingly varied mix of holes that challenge the golfer in a variety of ways both mentally and physically. Overall, the course requires you to be a straight driver of the ball, a good iron player and to have a deft short game and putting touch. You also need to be able to think your way around the course while you execute the shots you choose at a high level.
A good variety
Oakmont has its share of length with long par 4s, such as hole Nos. 1, 10, 15 and 18, the monster par-5 12th and long par 3s such as Nos. 8 and 16. What sets the course apart to me, however, are the short holes and the holes that require strategic decision-making off the tee. These include short par 4s such Nos. 2, 11 and 17 and mid-length par 4s including Nos. 5 and 14. These holes can be just as difficult as the long ones, and they require a completely different skill set. The short par-3 13th and short par-5 9th (plays as a par 4 for the U.S. Open) round out what is an amazing set of shorter holes.
The course uses the natural movement of the site very well and has a tight, extremely walkable routing despite being bisected by the Pennsylvania Turnpike at the bottom of the hill in the middle of the property. I particularly love the fallaway greens at 1, 10, 12, and to a lesser degree 3 and 15 where the front of the green is higher than the back. This is a unique look that you do not see in the USA very often. Without the little backboard that a back-to-front sloping green provides, you must hit the ball solid or execute a well played run-up shot to hold the green. The short par 4s temp the long hitter just enough to make them think about hitting driver, but wayward shots are punished enough to make most think twice. The 17th, at a little under 300 yards, could be the hardest hole on the course, and yet it is definitely drivable for the right player who hits a great drive. The small and extremely narrow green requires a short shot be hit the perfect distance if you decide to lay up to the right down the fairway. Hit it even a little short and you end up in the aptly named “Big Mouth” bunker which is extremely deep. Hit it a hair long or with not enough spin to hold the green and you end up rolling over the green into one of a few smaller bunkers. Carry the bunkers on the left side off the tee into the sliver of fairway up by the green and you have a short, open shot from a much better angle into the fatter part of the green. Such risk/reward and great use of angles is paramount to Oakmont’s genius.
Green complexes are…complex
Oakmont also sports one of the best sets of greens anywhere in the world. They are all heavily contoured and very challenging, yet playable. You can certainly make putts out there if you are putting well, but get on the wrong side of the hole and you are left with an extremely difficult, but rarely impossible 2 putt. They are also very unique due to Fownes only designing one course, as they do not look like any other classic course; they have a feel all their own. They are mostly open in front, coming from the correct angle, and they have many squarish edges. They also cut the tight fringe far back into the fairway, which aids in run-up shots; it also gives a great look where the green and the fairway blend together seamlessly.
The bunkering is also very unique and very special… and they are true hazards. Find yourself in a fairway bunker off the tee, and you are likely wedging out without much of any chance of reaching the greens. The green-side bunkers are fearsome, very deep and difficult. The construction of the bunkers is unique too — most of them have very steep and tall faces that were built up in the line of play. Oakmont is also home to one of the most famous bunkers in golf; the “Church Pews” bunkers — a large, long rectangular bunker between the fairways of holes 3 and 4 with strips of grass in the middle like the pews in a church. There is also a smaller “Church Pews” bunker left of the fairway off the tee on hole 15. Hit it into one of these two bunkers and good luck finding a descent lie.
Ari’s last word
All-in-all, along with being one of the hardest courses in the world, Oakmont is also one of the best courses in the world. It is hard enough to challenge even the best players in the world day-in and day-out, but it can easily be played by a 15-handicap without losing a ball. It is extremely unique and varied and requires you to use every club in your bag along with your brain to be successful. Add that to a club that has as much history as any other in the county, and Oakmont is one of golf’s incredibly special places.
Coming Up: A Big Golf Adventure
My name is Jacob Sjöman, and I’m a 35-year-old golf photographer who also enjoys the game we all love. I will be sharing some experiences here on a big golf trip that we are doing. With me I’ve got my friend Johan. I will introduce him properly later, but he is quite a funny character. According to Johan, he is the best golf photo assistant in the world, and we will see about that since this is probably his biggest test yet doing this trip. Previously on our trips, Johan almost got us killed in Dubai with a lack of driving skills. He also missed a recent evening photo shoot in Bulgaria while having a few beers too many… and that’s not all.
Anyway, the last couple of days I’ve been packing my bags over and over. I came home from the Canary Islands this Sunday and I’ve been constantly checking and rechecking that we’ve got all the required equipment, batteries, and that the cameras are 100 percent functional and good to go for this golf trip. I’m still not sure, but in a couple of minutes I will be sitting in a taxi to the airport and there will be no turning back.
Where are we going then? We are going to visit some of the very best golf courses in New Zealand and Australia. There will be breathtaking golf on cliffsides, jaw-dropping scenic courses, and some hidden gems. And probably a big amount of lost balls with a lot of material produced in the end.
I couldn’t be more excited for a golf journey like this one. Flying around the globe to these special golf courses I’ve only dreamed about visiting before gives me a big kick and I feel almost feel like a Indiana Jones. The only thing we’ve got in common, though, is that we don’t like snakes. Australia seems to be one of the worst destinations to visit in that purpose, but all the upsides are massive in this.
First, we will take off from a cold Stockholm (it’s raining heavily outside at the moment) and then we will do our first stop at Doha in Quatar. Then after two more hours, we are finally heading off to Auckland on the north island of New Zealand, a mega-flight of 16 hours. I believe that could very well be one of the longest flights available for a ordinary airplane. I need to check that.
Flights for me usually mean work, editing photos from different golf courses I’ve visited, writing some texts, editing some films, and planning for the future. Last time, though, I finally managed to sleep a little, which is a welcome progress for a guy that was deadly scared of flying until 2008.
Now, I am perfectly fine with flying. A few rocky flights over the Atlantic Sea to Detroit helped me a lot, and my motto is now, “If those flights got me down on the ground safely, it takes a lot of failures to bring down a plane.”
Anyway, I hope you will join me on this golf trip. Stay tuned!
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