Column: LPGA Fashion Police Out OF ControlJuly 27, 2017

Column: LPGA Fashion Police Out OF Control “I know it when I see it…” U.S. Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart,
struggling to define pornography in Jacobellis v. Ohio.

Beware! The fashion police are coming to a golf course near you.

The LPGA announced a new dress code that went into effect prior to last week’s Marathon Classic. Reaction from the media and touring professionals was mixed. Some pros supported their organization, others panned it for being sexist and out of touch with the times.

LPGA Chief Communications & Tour Operations Officer Heather Daly-Donofrio said the negative media comments are "much to do about nothing." She added, "There was not meant to be, nor will there be, a discernible difference to what players are currently wearing out on Tour.” Golfer Lydia Ko was among the touring professionals who agreed with Daly-Donofrio. “(I) view the updated dress code as more of a refresher than an all-out change."

Christina Kim was even more emphatic than Ko in her support of the new dress code. “I think players should look professional. Do you really need ventilation for your side-boob? It's not going to make your score better.”

Other pros weren’t as supportive. Sandra Gal spoke for a number of her fellow golfers when she said, “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?” Former LPGA pro Anya Alvarez, writing for The Guardian, said “because golf is already a sport under scrutiny for its conservative and old-fashion nature, the story only helps the critics who believe golf is hopelessly out of touch.”

The controversy was initiated on July 2 when LPGA player president Vicki Goetze-Ackerman sent an email to female golfers on tour. The message spelled out new wardrobe restrictions, effective on July 17. Among the new rules:

• 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.
• Appropriate attire should be worn to pro-am parties. Dressy jeans are allowed, but cut-offs or jeans with holes are NOT allowed.
• Workout gear and jeans (all colors) NOT allowed inside the ropes.
• Joggers are NOT allowed.

Goetze-Ackerman included the caps for emphasis and also added this warning: failure to abide by the new guidelines would result in a $1,000 fine for the first offense, which will double with each successive offense.

No mention was made of how the LPGA plans to police their new policy. More problematic, the rules seem both specific and subjective. What constitutes a “plunging neckline?” Earth to LPGA: Women have different body sizes and shapes. What looks revealing on one player may not look so on another. Will tour officials carry tape measures on the course to quantify the exact degree of plunge? What is the definition of “bottom area?” You can see how the new code could quickly descend into absurdity.

What is clear is this is no longer your mother’s LPGA. Gone are the days of Laura Baugh, the pin-up model better known as a sex symbol than a golfer. Baugh was the richest golfer on the tour, but the majority of her earnings were from commercials and endorsements. Although she brought much needed attention to women’s golf, Baugh never won an LPGA tournament.

The LPGA isn’t the first organization to stumble over the implementation of a dress code and it won’t be the last. The concept of “appropriate” dress is vague, fraught with uncertainty and subject to interpretation. And who should decide, LPGA executives or the golfers themselves? In the case of Jacobellis v. Ohio, it was Justice Stewart, whose comments reminded us all how difficult the task. Good luck to the LPGA as it embarks down a perpetually slippery slope.