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.