Caitlin Flaherty, AGM, is the Retail Operations Manager at Fiddler’s Elbow Country Club in Bedminster, New Jersey.
It is certainly a big surprise to me that athleisure has turned a corner and made its debut in the golf industry. Never in my wildest dreams would I have 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 becoming more popular in shops across the country. Top designers in golf have upped the ante when it comes to athleisure and merchandise that’s suitable for on and off the course. There is such a strong desire for a more casual and relaxed look. 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.
Here are some pros and cons that I have observed at our club:
• Comfortable: Athleisure clothing is designed for maximum comfort, so you’ll feel relaxed and at ease in your clothes.
• Versatile: You can easily transition from a workout to a social event without having to change clothes.
• Stylish: Many athleisure pieces are fashionable and trendy.
• Affordable: Athleisure clothing is often less expensive than traditional country club attire, so you can save money while still looking good.
• Dress Code: We are evolving, but it can be a challenge to define where and when athleisure attire is acceptable.
• Lack of Formalness: Athleisure clothing may not be considered appropriate for formal occasions or events.
• Perceived Lack of Respect: Some members may view athleisure clothing as disrespectful or inappropriate for the environment.
• Limited Variety: While athleisure clothing is versatile, there may be limited options when it comes to style and color compared to traditional country club attire.
The main challenge I find when it comes to athleisure is the way in which we control the attire members choose to wear. Is it appropriate verbiage to say “non-collegiate?” Do we feel confident that members will understand the difference between Peter Millar 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’ve 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 membership and their lifestyles should be the ultimate driver of what you offer in your shop.