Earlier this year, Ian Poulter hopped on Twitter and pleaded, “Get rid of the stuffy old rules that hold golf back. Make it more fun everyone!” The European Tour listened.
Well, they listened a little bit.
2016 marks the first year ever that Tour pros have been allowed to wear shorts during practice rounds at the EurAsia Cup. While it’s a small step, it might be the start of a much younger, more relaxed golf environment.
Half of the currently ranked top 10 golfers in the world are under the age of thirty, bringing a fresh young approach to golf.
Rickie Fowler has become famous for moving the fashion needle. Back in January he created quite the social media buzz when he was spotted in Puma high-tops at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions. This past month at the Players Championship, he was photographed in these very loud pink and yellow TITAN TOUR IGNITEs. While Rickie Fowler has been making bold fashion statements his entire career, it was a little surprising to see Rory McIlroy competing in joggers that could have been pulled directly from Fowler’s closet.
Today’s golf fashion is a far cry from traditional visors and pastel polos but the break from tradition is extending far beyond shoes, shorts and the occasional jogger pant. Young golfers are much more relaxed about broadcasting their personal lives.
Everyone was glued to #SB2K16. For anyone not on SnapChat, this was the live documentation of four young top Tour pros hitting up courses over an alcohol induced spring break vacation. Their shirtless golf game, barefoot swings, golf cart antics and epic hangovers were broadcast to fans across the world.
While traditional golfers might scoff at the adolescent nonsense, the truth of the matter is that younger fans ate it up.
Much of this comes from younger players growing up in a social media world. It’s not strange for them to get the news on Twitter before it’s released to mainstream TV. There’s no difference between what they share on the internet and how they act in everyday life.
And for that reason, the lines between work and play become blurred. Millennial job entrants are willing to sacrifice the pension plan providing nine-to-five corporate jobs, for grueling startups that give you work flexibility, free lunch and a casual work environment. It isn’t uncommon to see the CEO of a multi-billion-dollar business in flip flops and a graphic tee. Everything about their life has become more casual and they aren’t waiting around for companies that resist.
The movie rental business Blockbuster has morphed into on-demand services like Netflix. Books written by Mark Twain can now be read on digital devices such as Kindles. People haven’t stopped watching movies, television or reading books but the way they chose to consume and interact with them has.
Young fans still love golf. They are in awe of Nicklaus’ comeback in ’86, won’t forget when Tiger became the tournament’s youngest Masters champion and will continue to pay upwards of $4000 to walk through Augusta’s gates.
The history and traditions of the game still underpin its identity, now people just want to be able to play and relate to it on their terms; fitting with their modern lifestyle.
The golf industry might not be ready to completely throw out the rule book like Poulter suggests but it’s probably time we rip out a few pages - this means meeting the millennial generation half way.
It's time we undo our top buttons and loosen the dress code a little. The history and traditions that are important will remain intact.
… casual Friday is being successfully adopted in the most traditional suit and tie industries, why not in golf?