Recruitment drive as golf clubs urged to relax old dress codes

ONCE considered taboo in golfing circles, jeans are winning acceptance as the recession hits membership levels and forces clubs to rethink their rules.

A campaign called "Love Golf? Join the Club", aimed at filling 10,000 vacancies across Scotland, has been launched with an emphasis on customer service and a more relaxed dress code.

The scheme was announced at Hilton Park, near Glasgow, by Scottish Golf Union (SGU) officials wearing jeans and T-shirts.

In a bid to encourage young people and families to join the 300 clubs advertising vacancies, the SGU and the Scottish Ladies' Golfing Association have been promoting denim rather than blazer and flannels as appropriate attire for the 19th hole.

Other clubs are being encouraged to follow the innovative examples of Hilton Park and Swanston New Golf Club, in Edinburgh, which have both increased membership numbers through more family-friendly policies.

Lynn Kenny, 28, a professional on the Ladies' European Tour, said: "Everything at Hilton Park and Swanston is ticking the boxes for what I wish could have been done for me when I was growing up.

"I've been involved with the game for 20 years and anything that can be done to change attitudes within the sport and bring golf into the 21st century can only be a good thing."

Gordon Simpson, the general manager of Hilton Park, said his club had reaped the benefits of becoming a modern, equal- opportunity club.

"We wanted to create a warm and welcoming atmosphere for families," he said. "We relaxed the dress-code regulations and, if you're out on a Sunday in your jeans, you can now come into the clubhouse for a bite to eat or a drink, where previously you couldn't."

Michael Williamson, an Edinburgh golf consultant, believes flexibility is the key to increasing membership. "Most clubs have a variation of 'smart casual', and a lot are being ever more flexible on the issue," he said.

"I think it comes down to definition: I've seen golf clubs were the code is jacket and tie, and you have old guys with soup-stained ties and jackets with patches.

"I don't think it's exactly what you specify, it's all to do with attitude. Tiger Woods wears a collarless T-shirt and he's the best golfer in the world, so why shouldn't people be allowed into golf clubs wearing that?"

However, Loch Lomond Golf Club, which forbids jeans on the course, said it was unlikely to change its policy.

A spokeswoman said: "We are a bit different from a typical club, but it's about maintaining standards that our members expect. It's an exclusive club, a special place, and the members like to dress for it, and they expect others to do the same. I don't think jeans will ever be allowed to be worn on the course."

She said smart jeans were allowed in the Spike Bar, but in the formal dining area jacket and tie were still required.

Andy Salmon, development manager for the SGU, said: "We are not suggesting that many clubs are likely to start allowing members or guests to turn up in T-shirt and jeans, but the purpose of this event was to invite them to think differently about how they promote themselves to a wider market, specifically targeting the nomadic golfer."