Golf Fitness Best Practice: Understand the Evolving Country Club Dress Code

Caitlin Flaherty, AGM, is the Retail Operations Manager at Fiddlers Elbow Country Club in Bedminster, New Jersey.

Caitlin Flaherty on the importance of understanding the evolving country club dress code:

It’s a big surprise to me that athleisure has turned a corner and made such waves in the golf industry. I would have never pictured country club dress codes being altered to allow for items such as hoodies, joggers, leggings and more. When I first opened a lululemon account for our golf shop, members knew we were selling this new apparel category. They also understood that it wasn’t allowed on the golf course or in the clubhouse. Today, different rules apply. With the leading fashion brands in golf having jumped on board this trend, it’s trending high in shops all across the country. There is such a strong demand for a more casual and relaxed look that top designers in golf have upped the ante when it comes to athleisure and merchandise that’s suitable for on and off the course. It seems to me that even outside the country club, restaurants and social events that were previously more formal are now encouraging less formal attire, including athleisure wear. Businesses through the years transitioned to business casual, but with so many employees now working from home, athleisure has replaced business casual. The pros of this trend that I have observed at our club include comfort, versatility, style and affordability. Cons on the other hand involve challenges in altering a club’s dress code, a lack of formalness, a perceived lack of respect and a limited, though growing variety.

Caitlin Flaherty on the business impact of understanding the evolving country club dress code:

The main challenge I find when it comes to athleisure is how we control the attire members choose to wear. Are we confident that members will understand the difference between hoodies and a raggedy old college sweatshirt? As a buyer, I take pride in the offerings of our golf shop and make sure that we are staying ahead of the trends. This includes moving toward more casual attire and balancing tradition versus the new wave. We no longer even refer to ourselves as a country club. We have transitioned into a place where members can socialize and build community and lifelong memories made from unique experiences, and our golf shop needs to reflect this strategy. This is why it is so important to find appropriate brands that elevate the athleisure look, making it the right fit for products sold here in the shop. I am fortunate to have the best staff members who work tirelessly to make the golf shop look the way it does, and the feedback has been nothing short of incredible. Ultimately, whether to allow athleisure clothing at a country club depends on the specific club’s dress code and culture. I would suggest that understanding your members and their lifestyles should be the ultimate driver of what you offer in your shop.

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