Reader Mailbag: Golf Clothing for a Newbie

golf clothing for a newbie2017 Update: Links have been updated below on this post about golf clothing for a newbie; you can also check out our latest discussion of what to wear to a work-related golf event.

The summer golf outing thrown by your company or firm can be one of the trickiest for women professionals. Are they still great networking opportunities for young women? You betcha. Here’s the request from someone desperate for golf clothing for a newbie:

Would love to hear suggestions on what a young female associate who has never stepped foot on a golf course should wear to a corporate or firm golf event.

Okay, here’s an admission: we are totally wimps when it comes to golf. Thus, we had to call in a girlfriend who’s a golfer, a fashionista, and an MBA to boot. At our friend’s request, we asked for more information, and it turns out our intrepid reader is attending a golf scramble. (Our friend’s initial response: She has no prior experience and she’s in a scramble? This has humiliation written all over it.) Below, our friend’s advice in blue. (Picture at left: Grand Cayman Golf, originally uploaded to Flickr by Fevi in Cayman.)

First, I’d recommend some time with a golf pro. Try calling the club or a driving range to find such a pro — group lessons are always cheaper, but a good price range to expect to pay is about $100/hour. Take a few lessons to get comfortable with the clubs, golf terminology and etiquette (very important). You will probably rent or borrow clubs; sharing with another player is frowned upon. If your lessons get you hooked on golf, by all means discuss investing in a set of your own with the pro, he will have some sound advice. In addition, a beginner set will not set you back too much. You’ll also need to select some balls and tees (buy extra – they are easily lost).

Accessory Advice for a Golf Newbie

You will definitely need to buy a nicely fitting golf glove for your non-dominant hand. (Don’t try to borrow — they get gross. Besides, they only cost $10-$20.) Personally, I prefer to wear gloves on both hands because I seldom play and 18 holes can take a surprising toll on one’s hands. Wear comfortable socks. The low ones are very cute, but sometimes, I find they creep down into my shoe, which is distracting and ultimately painful. I prefer the ankle socks, even though they look a little funny. You are probably going to have to invest in some golf shoes. If you intend to become a regular player, by all means pick the top of the line. However, if this is a one time event, try to borrow a pair from a friend, or find a pair at an outlet store – I’ve had great luck with outlet golf shoes. (I’ve found some for $25.)

Attire: The Best Golf Clothing for a Newbie

As this is a professional event, be conservative. Short skirts are out of the question, and banned at many clubs. The thought of shorts in front of business colleagues also makes me a bit uncomfortable. The best solution is the amazing Capri pant. If you’d like to, consider shopping Nike golf or Polo golf for a suitable pair, otherwise pull a pair of your own out of the closet and roll with it.
Capris are perfect for golf, but longer khakis definitely work as well. Pockets are very important.) Consider pairing them up with a polo or button down shirt with a sweater vest if the weather is cool. Keep in mind as you pull your ensemble together that your apparel should allow for freedom of movement and maximum comfort. Depending on the club, you may wish to pack something more formal for dinner (often clubs require men to wear jackets), call ahead to be sure.

Rules & Etiquette: What To Know as a New Woman Golfer

Golf is a traditional game with an illustrious heritage. Make sure that you are familiar with the basic rules of the game prior to your lesson. Have the pro explain anything that you find confusing. Please do your research on course etiquette as well. The nuances are subtle, but as in life, etiquette can be your point of differentiation, irrespective of you golf skills. Always keep a cool head (no tantrums), win or lose graciously, and defer to those who are more knowledgeable or experienced. Never talk during another golfers’ swing, and never call your boss a cheater.

One More Point: Don’t Be a Slow and Chatty Golfer

The people who complain about “women golfers” are really complaining about the speed of play. This is NOT exclusive to women, there are plenty of slow chatty male golfers. Always try to keep things moving, and if the group behind you is moving quickly, let them play through.We asked our friend some follow-up questions:

Any reading suggestions for newbies who don’t want private lessons? The Illustrated Golf Rules Dictionary is a great book, and pretty easy to understand. Women on Course is really fun as well. Are there any particular brands that women should look for? Nike makes great golf apparel, Polo is pretty good, Lilly Pulitzer is good as well.


  1. Another book: Ben Hogan’s Fundamentals of Golf. Great, illustrated break down of the basics.

    Also note that your shirt should definitely have a collar. Most clubs require it (and even if this one doesn’t, most people will wear them because it is such a common rule). The article suggested collared shirts, but I think it’s worth noting.

  2. i don’t know the first thing about golf, but attended my firm’s attorney golf outing as a summer associate this past summer. they had a driving range with a pro instructor set up, i was pretty comfortable and felt appropriate wearing a bright terry visor, nike gloves, white pants, flats, and a bright modest top that was almost sleeveless, but not. most people wore khakis, shorts, capris & polo tops.

    the visor was key, sunglasses would probably slip around too much, and don’t forget the spf protection!

  3. Collared shirts are almost always required. Sleeveless blouses can work, if sleevless is permited. I strongly recommend a hat. I wear a straw hat with a bow. It keeps the sun off of my face and neck.

  4. Anonymous :

    I wanted to emphasize that most courses REQUIRE shirts with a collar. In addition, jeans, short shorts, t-shirts and tank tops are usually prohibited, but the dress code may vary depending on the club.

    You can’t go wrong with a pair of khakis or capris, and a golf shirt or polo shirt. Wear golf shoes or sneakers.

  5. Also, be advised that what you consider “not a short skirt” or “not short-shorts” is likely quite different than what a golf club considers too short. My family’s club does not allow ANY female attire that does not hit mid-knee. That’s pretty long for shorts or a skirt that allows freedom of movement. This, of course, is a policy generally designed to prevent the fogeys from any untoward exposure to varicose veins. It also prevents any females from sporting any attire not purchased at Talbots.

    Bottom line: capris ARE best! (caveat: if you have cankles, go for full pants!)

    The etiquette portion cannot be overstated…there are a myriad of rules for who hits first, walking in someone’s lie, tending the stick, raking traps, when to drop your ball…you should know the basics. No need to be up to pro-level etiquette.

    And do try to opt out of a scramble if you are a complete beginner!

    –From an MBA and avid golfer!

  6. Anonymous :

    Women’s shirts don’t have to have collars, as men’s do.

  7. Anonymous :

    The article is crazy! I did a golf scramble last summer. It was a little embarrassing as I’d never golfed, but no one expects anything. If I hit the ball, they were pleased. I would NOT spend money on golf lessons unless you really want to. You’d also be crazy to go buy golf clothes — shoes, gloves, etc. Wear a polo (or any shirt with a collar) and reasonable length shorts. A hat/sunglasses/visor are good suggestions too. Sunscreen is a must. No one expects you to know any golf etiquette. Just sort of follow along with what everyone else does and if you look confused I’m sure someone will help you.

  8. Anonymous :

    This post positively horrified me! I was really hoping that the necessity to golf in a law firm had died out. Is it appropriate to opt out of the event altogether, or do they come up too frequently? I can do tennis…does that ever help? (My 2L summer is coming up).

  9. You want horrifying? My law firm in Silicon Valley does a “let’s go surfing together” day. Nothing is more mortifying than facing down your new summer classmates in a bathing suit. Perfect example of a cool idea on the face of it, and terrible idea in reality!

    Golf is relaxing, even if you’re terrible. You get to be outside in fresh air, hang out with colleagues and goof off. And ladies, it’s necessary to “play the game” to play the game. Sad but true.

  10. It’s not necessary to golf in a law firm. Tennis can accomplish the same thing if you join a club and go regularly and try to get to know people there.

    But golf can be beneficial and more companies/firms host golf tournaments than tennis ones. One of the female real estate partners is a killer player and you better believe she uses golf to get business from developers who might otherwise go with a bigger firm or a male attorney. Also, our firm hosts a golf tournament for clients and referral sources every year. I always wish I could play but I’ve also managed to just go to the happy hour afterwards.

  11. First, dress code is completely set by the golf course. Find out where the golf scramble is held, and follow their rules. Some do require women to wear collared shirts with sleeves or shorts below the knee; some don’t care at all. Public courses are less likely to care. The firm country club may be stodgier. Some also require certain kinds of spikes on golf shoes, or don’t allow “tennis-shoe” style golf shoes; check that before investing in golf shoes.
    Second, if you can’t opt out of the scramble, at least try and get yourself in a foursome with golfers who are relaxed about golfing etiquette or are good teachers; better yet, get in a foursome with non-golfers who are more likely to chat and skip holes altogether.
    Also – make sure to eat before going out. Golfing is often synonymous with drinking outdoors, and there’s nothing worse than hitting the tenth tee in hot sunshine with three beers and no food in your stomach. I always bring along a small snack or some money for the concession cart just in case.

  12. A couple of comments….

    Golf isn’t exactly a sport that you would want to play with colleagues/clients for your first try. Even one lesson isn’t going to advance your skill far enough to keep you from embarrassing yourself (unless perhaps you have field hockey or ice hockey experience, which might help). Don’t commit to playing golf if you don’t know how– get some lessons (more than a few!) and make sure you can hit the ball when you swing and that it goes in a predictable direction.

    Knowing golf etiquette is a must. People are sensitive about where you stand, where you walk, when to move and stay still, and the order of play. It is courteous to help other players search for a lost ball unless you are far away from them; you should let faster groups play through; you should pick up if you’re 8 strokes into a hole or are otherwise hopeless. Don’t step too close to the hole, don’t walk on someone else’s putting line….

    I definitely don’t agree with the capri pant advice. Capri pants look great if you have the right build for it, but they look dowdy on lots of people. Consider instead a golf skort by Nike or Adidas — they make some knee length versions if you’re worried about that (I have played at least 40 different private clubs/resorts in the “standard” (shorter) length Adidas skort and have never been advised that my skirt is too short). If you’re worried, call the pro shop in advance and ask about their dress code.

    To the person who said “no one expects you to know any golf etiquette”: Sorry, but that’s just wrong. Some parts of golf etiquette are about taking care of the golf course, and your hosts will care about that (replacing/filling divots, no taking chunks out of the green, fixing ball marks, etc.)

  13. Anonymous :

    My firm does golf scrambles for summer associates, knowing that its probably their first time playing. It would look poorly to opt out of such an event. The event is meant to be an opportunity for young associates to interact with partners, and is a fun way for someone to experience a golf course for the first time. All/most of the attorneys who participate know that its meant to be fun and friendly and NOT serious or competitive. I’m surprised by the commentors who seem offended by the idea of golfing — the firm also takes summer associates sailing and bowling, none of it is meant to embarass anyone, they are just social events.

  14. fullnelson :

    As someone who believes the road to partnership lies beyond the 18th green, I strongly advise the following:
    1. Do not pass up the opportunity to play golf! You have lots of time in the cart or waiting around to talk, and for the other players to get to know you. Not true with tennis! Learn the game.
    2. Dress for the occasion. The best part of my game was my outfit until I learned to play well. Look like a pro–go to a good golf shop (even a discount one), and get some good gold shoes, a great outfit, and a good sports bra. Look the part and the rest will come.
    3. In a scramble, you don’t have to hit a great ball every time. Learn enough to get the ball in the air, and practice putting. You can be a value to your team by either hitting a short, straight shot from the ladies’ tee, or by putting accurately. Practice! Try to be competitive, and your teammates will appreciate your efforts.
    4. Have at least a rudimentary understanding of the basics and the Rules of the Game. Try; even good golfers have bad days, but you get nowhere if you don’t even try.
    5. Have fun, be relaxed, and be a good sport. It really can be fun, even if you’re not a great golfer. Enjoy the good company, the sunshine, and a cold beer. Use the occasion to let your companions know you’re game–that you’re trying. Making an effort COUNTS.

  15. Thanks for this post! I’ve recently started a new job and have a company golf outing (a “hack fest”) coming up and I’m kind of clueless. Luckily, it seems pretty laid back. But I definitely want to make a good impression and be prepared!

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