Many recreational players unknowingly sabotage their golf vacations by a lack of proper planning.  I am not speaking of making sure their stay-and-play itinerary is booked, or that they packed an extra sleeve (or two) of golf balls. Or that they remembered their deodorant and toothbrush — for everyone’s sake let’s hope they did.  Those things matter, but so does what you wear. By and large, vacationing golfers commit some astonishing fashion atrocities when they step foot on the golf course.

Once all the shredded wrapping paper has been discarded and the Christmas tree has been put to the curb, vacation planning heats up again. Use that time to not only plan your escape, but make sure you look good making your getaway.  Possibly the worst thing a golfer can do is stuff their suitcase with whatever clean polo shirts and khakis happen to be lying around the house.  The only time this is ever remotely appropriate is when planning a huge golf buddies trip. If you’re on the road with friends, at least you have strength in numbers. Odds are, everyone in your group will more or less dress the same, or worse, wear matching outfits — just in case locals have trouble spotting the interlopers.

On the opposite end are those golfers trying too hard to pull off the pro-circuit look. Sometimes a dose of modesty can go a long way, but how much often depends on the individual. A vibrant-colored polo or a pair of trousers that have been raided from Ian Poulter’s closet can be successfully carried off if you and your golf game have plenty of ammo in the confidence department.  In that case, knock yourself out (and take your playing partner’s lunch money while you’re at it). If this does not describe you, then you probably have more in common with the sad sap who lugs the blades around (and the backups, too). Seriously.

Even the most fashion-challenged golfer can “go low” in the dress up department with some research and a little imagination, beginning with your destination. As a point of reference, let’s use Bermuda and Charleston, which are among my favorite places to visit.  They have a number of things in common, not the least of which are great weather, a rich golfing tradition and a fashion-forward attitude that draws inspiration from the high seas.

Both Bermuda and Charleston are steeped in maritime history and it goes without saying that an appreciation of all things nautical can give a tired, drab outfit the shot in the arm it needs.  Just keep in mind, as Harvey Penick said originally about golf tips, “[they] are like aspirin. One may do you good, but if you swallow the whole bottle you will be lucky to survive.” In our case, you don’t want to show up to the course and be mistaken for Popeye.

Here are a few pointers that will help you pick the right clothes:

  • Choose light fabrics that are made primarily with cotton.  This will give your clothes a soft, tailored look that are noticeably absent from the off-the-rack sports shirts and pants that sell at big-box retailers. And speaking of tailoring, always make sure your shirts and pants fit your height and build.
  • Don’t be afraid to add some color. Matching a white polo with navy slacks might be a commendable homage to Seve, but it’s also safe and predictable. Colors like pink, turquoise or marigold will help you stand out without worrying about blinding anyone within a 150-yard radius.
  • Golf clothes have to function on the course, but there’s nothing dictating that they can’t or shouldn’t look presentable off the course.  Stick to shirts and pants that don’t advertise billboard-sized logos of the brand. If your golf outfit is capable of being worn to dinner after a round at Port Royal or the Ocean Course, that’s a few less articles of clothing you have to pack. Your suitcase will thank you.
  • Try to accessorize your golf outfit. For example, pair your traditional golf shirt and pants with a non-traditional belt.  That extra 10 percent you put into your business attire can also work wonders for your golf gear.

If you are still skeptical about the benefits of paying greater attention to your appearance, consider the whole purpose behind a vacation.  You arrive somewhere new, leaving behind the routine and mundane.  Vacations are a great opportunity for you to be someone else.  Clothes help make that illusion look believable.  Unfortunately, the illusion doesn’t extend to how well we perform on the golf course.  If that were the case, hardly anyone would ever need fashion advice.

– – – – – – – –

Below are four looks (two male, two female) that will grab the attention of your playing partners.  Perhaps someone will even ask you how long you’ve been a club member.

In Figure: M1 – McSupert Trousers by Kartel; Golf Gingham Shirt by Tommy Hilfiger; Striped D Ring Belt by Lyle & Scott; Seamaster Diver 300M commemorative James Bond watch by Omega. If you happen to score a tee time at Bermuda’s exclusive Mid Ocean Club, you get bonus points for wearing the watch. Ian Fleming mentions the club in his James Bond short story Quantum of Solace, describing the course as a “fine links where all the quality play and get together at the club afterwards for gossip and drinks”.

In Figure: F1 – Stretch Cotton Slim Pivot Pant (navy) by Ralph Lauren; Ribbed Polo (sheer lemon) by Ralph Lauren; Golf Cable Knit Sweater by Tommy Hilfiger; Geo Fish Belt (night sky) by Vineyard Vines.

In Figure: M2 – Yarn-Dyed Green Greens Short by Ralph Lauren; Malone polo (navy) by Kartel; Webster belt (white) by Kartel; Rope Bracelet by Kiel James Patrick.

In Figure: F2 – Merrick Skort (white) by Ralph Lauren; Kita Shirt (Hammond Blue) by Ralph Lauren; Fonsbelle 2 leather belt by Hermes; Aquamarine Earrings and Pendant Set by Swarovski.

 Click here for more discussion in the “Golf Style” forum. 

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Rusty Cage is a contributing writer for GolfWRX, one of the leading publications online for news, information and resources for the connected golfer. His articles have covered a broad spectrum of topics - equipment and apparel reviews, interviews with industry leaders, analysis of the pro game, and everything in between.

Rusty's path into golf has been an unusual one. He took up the game in his late thirties, as suggested by his wife, who thought it might be a good way for her husband to grow closer to her father. The plan worked out a little too well. As his attraction to the game grew, so did his desire to take up writing again after what amounted to 15-year hiatus from sports journalism dating back to college. In spite of spending over a dozen years working in the technology sector as a backend programmer in New York City, Rusty saw an opportunity with GolfWRX and ran with it.

A graduate from Boston University with a Bachelor's in journalism, Rusty's long term aspirations are to become one of the game's leading writers, rising to the standard set by modern-day legends like George Peper, Mark Frost and Dan Jenkins.

GolfWRX Writer of the Month: August 2014

Fairway Executive Podcast Interview
(During this interview I discuss how golf industry professionals can leverage emerging technologies to connect with their audience.)


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