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A new dress code body polices female golfers and we’re over it

'Our main objective is clear: play good golf.'

One of the biggest events in ladies’ professional golfing is taking place and none of the focus is on the incredible female athletes’ accomplishments. Instead, it’s on their bodies. The Ricoh Women’s British Open is currently underway and has been overshadowed by the new strict dress code enforced by Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA), which came into effect a few weeks ago. Ahead of the July US tournament, the LPGA revealed that athletic gear such as leggings and short skirts would now be banned – and understandably, professional female golfers had something to say about it.

According to Golf Digest, the LPGA President Vicki Goetze-Ackerman sent an email to its players detailing the new restrictive dress code in July. The new stipulations included:

– 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.
– Joggers are NOT allowed

If a player breaks the dress code, they can be reportedly fined up to USD$1000 (£761) for a first offence.

In comparison, the male PGA TOUR website’s dress code dictates that T-shirts, jeans or shorts are banned and elaborated ‘players shall present a neat appearance in both clothing and personal grooming. Clothing worn by players shall be consistent with currently accepted golf fashion’.

While the men’s dress code is all about ensuring players look smart, the LPGA’s standards seem obsessed with policing women’s bodies – targeting cleavages and skirt lengths. By focusing on ‘plunging necklines’ and a woman’s ‘bottom area’, professionalism takes a backseat. Instead these athletes’ bodies are being treated as sexual objects, implying that their breasts and legs somehow take away from their impressive athleticism.

female golfers

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As Ashley Mayo at Golf Digest pointed out, many of the banned items could actually look quite professional when styled the right way, asking, ‘Why not encourage a more professional look instead of banning such pieces altogether?’

American golfer Michelle Wie, who has just set a new women’s course record at the Ricoh Women’s British Open, delicately criticised the new ban in an interview with Bunkered.co.uk. She said, ‘I totally respect the LPGA’s decision and their wishes – it’s something that I have been slightly fighting with them for the whole year…Fashion is all about how we express ourselves and everyone has a different sense of fashion.’

Michelle Wie probably knows better than most, as she and Nike have collaborated on a female golf collection featuring short skirts that probably wouldn’t meet the LPGA’s tough standards. However, they wouldn’t be out of place on a tennis court at Wimbledon where female professionals like Venus Williams and Maria Sharapova have dominated the competition with short skirts offering them better ease of movement.

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Paige Spiranac, a professional golfer who has previously been targeted for her sports attire, wrote a particularly scathing piece for Fortune in which she said, ‘If professionalism in golf equals athleticism, then athleticism should be promoted and showcased, and that means allowing the clothes that promote it.’

‘By labelling women as looking ‘unprofessional’ when showing cleavage or shorts worn under a skirt, the LPGA is perpetrating the outdated stereotypes about the connection between what a woman wears and her morals, as well as insinuating that women do not have control over the perception of their bodies, but rather that they must bend to the every whim of the male gaze.’

I love golf. I love the golf swing. I love learning everything I can about the game. I love practicing. I don't love competing and that's a fight I've been dealing with the last few years. People think that "making it" is just about ability but there's so much more to it. Especially with golf, being mentally strong is 90% of the game. Last year I was beat up mentally and was dealing with more than anyone could imagine behind closed doors. It took a toll on me and I started to hate this game I love so dearly. I played around 20 tournaments, made money in all but 2 and got a win as my first year as a pro. However I hated every second of it and was having breakdowns because of all the harassment, death threats, and other problems I wish to keep private. This year I have taken some time off from competing to focus on myself and my passions which is being an ambassador for cyberbullying, doing clinics for young girls and boys, and creating fun videos to hopefully help grow the game. Within this time I've been grinding on my swing and fitness and it's by far the best my swing as felt ever. I appreciate all the support and thank you for following my journey! I always try to be as honest as possible about what I'm going through in hopes I can help others but also show that no matter how perfect or easy someone's life might appear on social media that we are all dealing with our own personal battles. Again thank you for following and always making my day better with every positive comment☺️😘❤️

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LPGA golfer Sandra Gal could understand the plunging neckline stipulations, but criticised the LPGA’s other bans: ‘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. 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?’

Others like LPGA golfer Lexi Thompson used humour to poke fun at the ban, posting an Instagram of herself in a Mary Poppins-esque getup with the caption ‘Got my new #LPGA dress code compliant outfit ready to go!’.

Some golfers actually agreed with the ban, such as Christina Kim who told Golf.com, ‘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? It’s not going to make your score better.’

The LPGA Tour has already faced massive backlash after July’s US Open was held at one of Donald Trump’s golf courses, Trump National. Many criticised the organisation for holding a female tournament there given many of Donald Trump’s quotes about women’s appearances, with three US senators naming his ‘pattern of degrading and dehumanising women’ a reason to move the tournament in a letter to the US Golf Association.

USA Today alleged that Trump actually threatened to sue the US Golf Association if they moved the venue. The tournament went ahead as planned at Trump National, with rookie Sung Hyun Park winning the title. 

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