Golf fashions are often strictly regulated at most courses

Every sport has its uniform, but few are as dictated by the court or course on which it's played as is golf. Golf courses, public or private, all have some dress regulations, which are enforced in proportion to the prestige the club or course holds.

New golf courses are springing up across the country at the rate of about 75 a year to accommodate 14.3 million golfers, 3.7 million of whom are women. With the new courses will come more dress codes, indicating more emphasis on golf clothes in the fashion world.

Recently, a low handicapper in the women's group at her Eastern country club appeared on the first tee of a posh West Coast club, part of a foursome. She looked neat and natty in her brown gabardine Bermudas, tan shirt, and brown and tan knee socks. Standard attire on most courses. She didn't know that this particular club had a strictly enforced ''no shorts'' rule. Before she was allowed to tee off, she had to buy from the pro shop and don an ''approved'' golf skirt.

Not every club is as adamant as this one about fairway attire, but experienced golfers, playing a new course, ascertain the dress code before they begin.

An informal poll of East and West Coast clubs showed 95 percent have rules against short shorts, but Bermudas are acceptable in the majority of cases. Most have fairly strict rules against halter tops and tennis-type clothes, and a strong prejudice against denim in any form.

What then does that leave for fun and freedom on the fairways? A multitude of attractive, practical, and comfortable choices. Slacks for fall and winter and long shorts for summer are basics. Trim and cool cotton/polyester blend golf skirts that have built-in panties are summer favorites. These are often as short as Bermuda shorts.

A cotton jersey polo shirt, color-coordinated with skirt or shorts, and socks that match one or the other create a look as established as St. Andrews itself.

If you favor more fashion over the classic look, knickers and knee socks allow a little flare. Culottes are particularly feminine. With both these a polo or scoop-neck shirt, with or without sleeves in a color, is good.

Shoes with spikes are regulation. Tennis shoes are frowned on at some courses. White is the most popular shoe color because it goes with everything.

If your greatest participation in golf is as part of the gallery at a tournament, some of the above rules can be a guide for what to wear. High-heeled shoes, it should go without saying, are not welcome on greens and fairways. The more you can blend in with the golfers and club members, the more comfortable you'll be. Whether you're part of the gallery or playing the new course, look around the pro shop. It's the best place to buy golf clothes that are regulation.

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