The stately grounds of the Mississaugua Golf and Country Club have been a playground for golfers for over 100 years, a picturesque and traditional setting in which its inhabitants seemingly would be resistant to change.
There is still a dress code in effect at this venerable private facility in Mississauga, Ont., but that doesn’t mean that fashion forward lines or new technical fabrics are banned from its fairways.
“We have changed over the years,” said head professional Gar Hamilton. “When I came, we had a long time with the sock issue because we were knee socks with shorts. Then, we allowed ankle socks.”
Golf may have lost a lot of younger fashion plates these days if they were still forced to wear knee socks with shorts, but it appears that golf courses across the country are opening their minds and relaxing dress codes somewhat these days.
According to the latest GNN Poll, 67 per cent of respondents say they allow edgy, fashion forward lines within reason, while 33 per cent say they have not relaxed their dress codes in recent years.
“There’s a natural evolution with fashion,” said Hamilton, adding that some of the technical fabrics have increased the comfort level for golfers. “They’re really comfortable in the very, very hot weather as compared to some of the old cottons,” he said.
“The biggest problem we run into at Mississaugua, we do not allow commercial logos that are not golf logos,” he said, adding that some cargo shorts that have been popular in recent years just won’t do either.
Somewhere between edgy and conservative, the minds have opened on the country club side, while those perceived as edgy recognized the importance of golf’s traditions.
Geoff Tait of Quagmire Golf, which is now in its fourth season of operation, has noticed a change in attitude as the company became more established.
Tait and co-owner Bobby Pasternak, on the surface, are party dudes, both blessed with a great sense of humour that makes a stop at their buying show booth a unique experience, but they are serious businessmen who have quickly made Quagmire a recognizable brand.
“I found that, in year one, we got a lot of no — `What are you guys doing? What are you guys thinking? Golf is traditional and golf is traditional and golf is for the old school and this isn’t the traditional dress code’ and this and that,” said Tait of the edgy line.
“By year four, there are so many doors open and there are so many more people with open minds,” he added.
Like any other business, it’s a matter of earning trust and credibility and Tait said having some well-known golf clubs, such as the Hamilton Golf and Country Club in Ancaster, Ont., come on board with Quagmire hastened the progress.
“I think it just took one or two pioneers to accept different styles and different fashions,” he said. “They’ve noticed that this is okay because it is a revenue-builder and it’s not the same old golf shirt on the shelf that they’ve had for 20 years.”
Tait says the company knew from the beginning that it would have to walk a fine line by being respectful of golf’s traditions, while still maintaining an edginess to its product.
“It’s up to (individual clubs) whether or not the young people have to tuck their shirts in or not. If that’s the dress code, our shirts are easily tucked in,” said Tait, adding that there were some bumps in the road to meeting golf’s traditional standards.
“There were a few times in our line our first year that we actually had to say, `Okay, we can’t sell these because the shorts were way too short.’
“When we made those shorts in the first place, we were thinking about the beer cart girls and we were thinking about younger teenagers that would wear those shorts.
“We realized that’s not a huge market and it’s also not accepted, so we just lengthened those shorts a little bit more, but we kept the style,” said Tait, adding that Quagmire also discovered it needed to add more skorts to fill out its women’s line.
So, a more form-fitting silhouette or a colourful shirt is appropriate as long as people use common sense in the length of their shorts or the logos they want to wear, according to Hamilton.
Tait goes right along with that, adding that such fashions will likely become more prominent as times goes on and younger professional and buyers become the decision makers in golf.
“At the end of the day, it’s all about staying in business and how can we be refreshing and how can things evolve?” said Tait.
“I think some (professionals) are looking for it because they realize they have retail space right there that they can actually make some money for the club or for themselves if they own the shop and they need to keep it fresh,” he said.
“Why not sell something fresh and new, rather than that same navy shirt that everyone has six or 10 of already?”
There’s still time to comment on your dress code by wandering over to the GNN Poll on the home page.