Calling BS: The LPGA’s new dress code

Paige Spiranac
It's probably a good thing golfer Paige Spiranac hasn't made the LPGA Tour, because her clothes would be a rules violation.

Golfer Paige Spiranac does not even play on the women’s pro tour, yet she’s become the poster child for a new set of rules governing the dress of athletes in the LPGA.

That’s because Spirinac, a 24-year-old native Coloradan who helped San Diego State win the Mountain Women’s Golf Championship in 2015, is among a cadre of younger female golfers who eschew the traditional fashion of the game in favor of yoga pants, tank tops and short skirts. And she has 1.1 million Instagram followers, more than any woman or man in pro golf, who appreciate the persona she’s crafted for herself.

The LPGA fashion police have banned leggings, unless they’re under a skirt, no skirts or shorts that don’t cover the “bottom area,” as well as racerback shirts unless they have a collar, and “plunging necklines.” And no jeans.

It’s not exactly unprecedented — golf is a game with a dress code, at least at private country clubs. And the men on the PGA Tour have a dress code to follow too, though it’s not quite as restricting: “Players shall present a neat appearance in both clothing and personal grooming. Clothing worn by players shall be consistent with currently accepted golf fashion.” Also, no shorts and T-shirts. And no jeans.

But these new rules on the LPGA Tour seem directed at just a few players, and it looks an awful lot like body-shaming. There’s nothing in the men’s rules about tight slacks or form-fitting shirts, just the suggestion to be fashionable. The women seem to be targeted with the opposite directive.

It’s odd because the LPGA is the most successful and longest-running women’s professional sports league, at the forefront of the women’s game since it was founded in 1950 — back when they used to wear dresses, long skirts and Bermuda shorts on the course. Only tennis players — along with MMA fighter Ronda Rousey and NASCAR driver Danica Patrick — make more money and have more fans.

But the new dress code curtails sponsorship opportunities, a key source of any pro golfer’s income, and the type of personal branding that every professional sport, up until now, has encouraged.

Golf already has a problem with being perceived as stuffy, and, particularly in the women’s game, it’s having problems attracting the next generation of athletes and fans.

Giving up its old-fashioned misogyny might help.