The Ladies Professional Golf Association is telling players to either start covering up or get ready to pay up with its updated dress code.
The tighter rules went into effect on Monday, tamping down on recent, less traditional athletic wear trends that have popped up on the courses, including racerback tank tops, leggings, joggers, “plunging necklines,” and players’ “bottom area.” Players who do not adhere to the new code will face penalties of $1,000 for the first offense and “it will double with each offense,” according to an email sent to players by LPGA player president Vicki Goetze-Ackerman and acquired by Golf Digest’s Ashley Mayo.
Players were first notified of the new policy on July 2, and it was set to go into effect during the 2017 Marathon Classic in Toledo, Ohio. Mayo published the email featuring the eight-item list of clothing and styles that will no longer be tolerated on the tour last week. The new restrictions say:
Racerback with a mock or regular collar are allowed (no collar = no racerback)
Plunging necklines are NOT allowed.
Leggings, unless under a skort or shorts, are NOT allowed
Length of skirt, skort, and shorts MUST be long enough to not see your bottom area (even if covered by under shorts) at any time, standing or bent over.
Appropriate attire should be worn to pro-am parties. You should be dressing yourself to present a professional image. Unless otherwise told “no,” golf clothes are acceptable. Dressy jeans are allowed, but cut-offs or jeans with holes are NOT allowed.
Workout gear and jeans (all colors) NOT allowed inside the ropes
Joggers are NOT allowed
In addition to sharing the new dress code and recourse for violations, Goetze-Ackerman told players that they are “responsible for letting their sponsors know about the new policy.” This is particularly important for players who have clothing sponsorships, which can be so influential that the color and design of their outfits are planned ahead of time for maximum marketing opportunity.
Representatives from the LPGA confirmed that the policy changes had been a topic of discussion for a while, and weren’t the result of a top-down crackdown but were put forth by players.
“While we typically evaluate our policies at the end of the year, based on input from our players, we recently made some minor adjustments to the policy to address some changing fashion trends,” Heather Daly-Donofrio, LPGA's chief communications and tour operations officer, told Golf Digest in a statement.
Still, some of the email’s language is raising questions about whether the LPGA is policing women’s bodies, as does the mixed response from current and former LPGA players.
Pro players share their mixed feelings about the new guidelines
The email was published around the US Women’s Open, giving pro golfers the chance to respond and revealing how divided players are over the new regulations.
“The only point I agree with is that there should not be low-cut tops, but I've never really seen that be an issue,” Sandra Gal, an LPGA player who has worn less conservative styles on the course, told Golf.com’s Alan Shipnuck. “Our main objective is clear: play good golf. But part of being a woman, and especially a female-athlete, is looking attractive and sporty and fit, and that's what women's tennis does so well. Why shouldn't we?”
Christina Kim, another LPGA player known for bringing some flair to her own outfits, felt different. “I may sound like an old fuddy-duddy, but this is our place of business and I think players should look professional. Do you really need ventilation for your side-boob?”
In a blog post for the Guardian, former LPGA pro Anya Alvarez discusses her own experiences with trying to follow the uniform guidelines as an athlete with “strong legs and a behind that make clothes look different on me than someone who is tall and slender.” Alvarez attributes part of the modern attire shift to players passing on regulation golf skorts that they say are too long. Instead, Alvarez says she opted for tennis skorts, which are “shorter than their golf counterparts” but fit better.
While Alvarez says the new rules “read like they were written for a middle schooler,” she doesn’t find the dress code “outrageous.” Instead, she wonders how the LPGA plans to enforce its policy. “What is a ‘plunging neckline’ anyway?” she writes. “Will there be an official handy with a tape measure to quantify the exact degree of plunge? What is the scientific definition of the ‘bottom area?’ Do they have a expert for that?”
While it’s currently unclear how strictly the LPGA plans to enforce its new dress code policy, it is clear that this is not the first nor will it be the last instance of dress code tension for women in sports. Meanwhile, golf’s overall evolving style — from the introduction of brighter colors and floral prints to Nike’s collarless polos and PGA tour winner Rickie Fowler’s joggers and high-tops — seemed to indicate the sport was getting a little less stuffy. But with the LPGA’s new guidelines, perhaps the dress code policy will remain par for the course with the sport’s historically conservative attitudes.