The Hooded Golfer – should it be allowed?

Editor: Harry McInley

On the opening day of the Valspar Championship, Tony Finau rocked out a pretty bold piece of Nike gear for the last few holes – a hoody.

Unsurprisingly, it got a bit of a marmite reaction, and I can see where both viewpoints are coming from.

On the one hand, it’s only a hood, and what’s to stop an exciting up-and-comer wearing whatever he feels comfortable in?

On the other, there are unspoken traditions within golf and the PGA which dictate what’s OK and what’s not. A hoody, a piece of clothing which has its own connotations in itself, has so rarely been associated with golf in the past that most traditionalists literally wouldn’t know what their eyes are seeing, and it can be seen as disrespectful.

Personally, I don’t think either viewpoint is wrong. What is important, however, is that what golfers wear has to fit the CONTEXT in which they’re rocking it…

 

I don’t blame the players.

I don’t know whether the players themselves feel the same way, but it depresses me whenever I turn on the TV to watch golf, to see each and every player wearing almost exactly the same thing with just a slight variation on the logo, colour of trousers, baseball cap or polo neck. Yes, there are the exceptions – those lucky few – who can seemingly where just a slight variation of what everyone else wears and make it completely their own. (Tiger and Rickie Fowler being the only two that spring to mind.)

Don’t get me wrong, come Augusta, I’m not worried about seeing daring clothing and I’d expect everyone to be kitted out in their best polo and slacks. Because it’s the Masters. Or the US Open. Or the British open, or any other tournament with a great deal of tradition and history that surrounds it to the extent that the player’s gear should honour that.

The problem is, it seems that there is far too much of this ‘old paradigm’, ‘traditionalist’ context for this era, with little opportunity for players to be a bit “different”.

 

I don’t blame the brands. 

From following the big brands closely over the last few years, it’s very clear that they are really trying to push the boundaries around golf clothing, and they’re having a tough time getting anywhere because of these boundaries that block them.

Nike are a great example. You only have to walk into the Nike store on Regent Street and check out the various other sports that the company provides clothing for skateboarding, basketball, football and surfing, to name a few. In all of these, there are almost no boundaries, and the brand takes pride in brandishing some of the most daring, modern and rebellious looks. Next to the DJ banging out the tunes on the second floor, stands the somewhat isolated Golf section brandishing similarly daring looks. No-collar shirts, all white SnapBacks, high-top golf shoes and yes – hoodies. Something about doesn’t quite sit right, it’s almost like the designers have never set foot into the golf courses that lie just a few miles away on the outskirts of London. Quite frankly, you’d look a pillock.

My point is not that the gear is not nice, far from it, but it seems that these brands are struggling to find the context to fit their modern fashion trends into Golf.

 

I blame the lack of context. 

It is of course difficult for the whole golf industry to be everything for everyone. Golf has a huge older and more traditional audience who are indifferent to the designer trends and how we can evolve the sport. That’s fine, and it’s important to respect that.

However, there is also now a big need to break down these barriers, and create environments in which players, fans and consumers can be a lot more laid back and daring in their approach.

Kudos to The European Tour, who have backed up their efforts last year by announcing another, refined new format to take place in August at Gleneagles which will feature both men and women playing together – which I think is a great idea – in a new format event. It is at these kinds of players that the likes of Finau should relish. It’s a chance to play in a modern event where the traditionalists guards are lowered and a players’ personality can truly be reflected in what they wear – whatever that may be.

Similarly, it’s the responsibility of Golf Clubs and golf event organisers at the grassroots level to create environments where more stylish, riské gear is not looked upon with a furrowed brow.

We have seen examples of the success when clothing does find the right context. Again, it was Rickie who pulled it off, but who could forget the unbuttoned #aloha he rocked during the Pro Am of the Kapalua Invitational in Hawaii.

PUMA then impressed me again, when they released a recyclable SnapBack cap just after the Waste Management Open, known for its daring, exciting, iconic 16th hole. Because the context was right, it worked, and PUMA are quite rightly leading the way on innovations as a result of them.

So come April when I settle down to watch the masters and I see a hoody, I’ll be after their head, but if I see hundreds of variations of the same polo shirt at European Tour’s new event in August, I’ll be equally disappointed.

Tune in to Sky Sports Golf tonight at 7PM to see Tiger looking to claim his first PGA Tour win in 5 years.

 

Waste Management: The good, the bad & the future.

written by Harry McInley

This year was the first year I watched a good amount of the Waste Management Phoenix Open in Arizona. It’s one of the better known events on the PGA Tour because of the iconic Par 3 16th hole which is completely surrounded by a stadium. Generally, I was very impressed with the event and the viewing experience had me gripped. In saying that, it still could have been better – so whilst this is a positive sign for golf I still the the sport misses opportunities to double down on what it’s doing right.

THE GOOD

The Stadium Hole (see cover photo) – This is just an awesome addition to any tournament. To have the players come through a tunnel and be greeted by a raucous stadium brings out the best and worst of the characters in golf. I think this is what people want to see more – how they react when the pressure and the atmosphere is cranked up a notch. We’ve seen what it does to certain players during the Ryder Cup but why shouldn’t there be more party-like atmospheres at other events? I’d like to see this concept being used at other golf events.

Noise Levels – There were several occasions where players encouraged the thousands of fans to keep the noise levels up as they hit their shots on 16. We’ve learnt from this and the Ryder Cup that professionals can still hit shots when it’s not stone cold silence. Of course, at many golf tournaments this isn’t going to happen and shouldn’t happen, but really, does there need to be complete silence every time someone takes a shot?

The Attendance – There was a record attendance of 719,000 across the whole week and 216,000 on the Sunday which is amazing numbers for a PGA Tour event. The positives of these numbers don’t really need to be spelt out, and this was on Superbowl Sunday too.

Protracers – More and more pro tracers are being used now both on tee shots and shots from fairways which makes watching each shot 10x better. In fact, once you’ve seen a few any shot which doesn’t have a pro tracer seems ridiculous – you can’t see anything. I’d like to see graphics of where the hole is so you can see where the players are aiming and more insight into the shot shapes from commentators. I don’t think it will be long before every televised shot has one.

This putt by John Rahm:

THE BAD

The Playoff was on 18 – It seemed stupid to me that the big feature of the whole week was the par 3 16th, and yet the playoff between Gary Woodland and Chez Reavie was still played on 18. Traditionalists will say that a playoff hole shouldn’t be played on a Par 4, but a playoff on the stadium-encapsulated 16th would have made for great viewing. This is an example where golf isn’t willing to double down and take a bit of a risk.

BBC Sport – I refreshed the BBC Sport feed a few times on Sunday evening to check the leader board. Not only was the golf nowhere to be seen on the main feed, when I chose ‘golf’ as the sport there wasn’t even a live leader board, only an article from the standings from the previous day. This is not helping any new audiences hear about a cool golf event.

The Commentary – Boring, old, dull commentators on Sky Sports really took the shine off what was a very forward-thinking event. It was topped off when Rickie Fowler hit it on the water from his tee shot on 15 – a huge moment – only to be greeted with 10 seconds of silence and then a single line of ‘that’s a mishap from Rickie’… I’d like to see younger, more exuberant characters taking up the mic and why not give the players a mic so we can get some insight into their psyche?

Lack of Music – I really think you can double down on the electric atmosphere created on the 16th hole. I like the idea of entrance tunes for certain players (maybe not in an individual event) or DJs playing as the players walk from tee to green.

The Field – Whilst there was Rickie, Phil and Rahm, there were several big names missing who I think should all be present at this tournament.

THE FUTURE

There are certain golf tournaments that should always stay the way they are. We’re talking the majors, and some events that are steeped in history. The quiet fairways and the respectful galleries are all part of what makes them so great. For me, however, there are far too many ‘boring’ tournaments that don’t stand out due to a lack of creativity and unwillingness to change. The Waste Management Phoenix Open is clearly run by a group of people that are willing to think a bit differently and I think they are paving the way for more event and tournament organisers to create more attractive atmospheres around the sport. This will only help audience levels, participation levels, sponsorship interest and a general evolution of the game.