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How to Look Younger on the Golf Course

By: Nancy Berkley


In a previous Cybergolf article, “Women's Golf Fashions – Almost Anything Goes,” I reported that the fastest-growing segment of women golfers are young women ages 18 to 29. These young women represent almost 25% of all women golfers, but, generally, they play golf only a few times a year.

According to the National Golf Foundation, women who play the most golf are, in fact, much older. The average age of women who play between eight and 24 rounds per year is 50. And those who play 25 or more rounds have an average age of 56.

Women in their 50s and 60s are probably the golf industry's best customers. Because they play more golf, they are more likely to invest in golf apparel. And what is important to these age 50-plus women golfers next to breaking 100. My answer is: "It's looking younger!"

As the trend in golf fashions continues to be fueled by LPGA professionals in their teens and 20s, the question is: Can a 50-year old woman – now a few pounds heavier and thicker in the middle – look young and stylish in this season's apparel<.I>? My answer is: "Yes! If you follow these guidelines."

For Bottoms – Shorter is Younger, Unless . . .

If you wear golf shorts, skirts or skorts, make sure they are short enough. "Shorter" equals "younger." (A skort looks like a skirt, but it has a pair of shorts underneath.)

(It's more than a little confusing: Short is good unless you are wearing the new long short and then they have to be long enough – just to the top of your knees. More about that below.)

What is important to know about shorts – and all bottoms – made by golf apparel manufacturers is that the length is usually the same in all sizes. In other words, the length of a size-4 short is about the same as a size 14. That means if you wear larger sizes and are not very tall, most skirts or shorts off the rack will be too long.

Did something happen? Yes. Until a few years ago, the standard length of a golf skirt was 19 inches long. This was the "outseam" – measured from the waist to the bottom of the hem. If you wear that length today, that skirt or short will not only look like an old style, but also make you look older as well. You will also notice that your old skirts had pleats in the front. The new styles almost always have flat fronts.

To look "with-it," look for bottoms that have a 15 or 16 inch outseam. Even then, if you wear a larger size and are not very tall, you may want to have that 16-inch skirt shortened by a dress-maker. The converse – being skinny and tall – seems to present no problems. Nothing seems too short this year unless you are playing golf at a very tradition-bound golf course.

Nike, in fact, now markets the "Shortie Short" – with a 14.5-inch outseam. And many other golf manufacturers are adding a short -short (or skort) to their line. (For more details, send for “Drive.” This new spring women’s apparel catalog of Golfsmith – at www.drive.golfsmith.com - has the full range of skirts, shorts and skorts.)

Remember, however, that it is no longer necessary to buy a "golf" skirt or short at a "golf shop." For better or for worse, women can find the right bottom at many retail department stores, specialty sporting stores and fashion boutiques.

If you like the longer short – now called a "Bermuda" short by some manufactures such as IZOD, the outseam should be at least 20 inches. Also, the pant leg on that long short should look narrow rather than flared and have no pleats at the waist.

And waist-bands are lower. You probably have already discovered that your belts from last season are too small for this-season’s fashions. All bottoms are designed to sit a couple of inches lower than they used to. And that’s a good reason to buy some of the new ribbon belts that are completely adjustable.

The good news is that Capri pants (the length varies from above the ankle to a few inches below the knee) are more popular than ever. And long pants are still around and haven’t changed much – if at all.

For Tops—Shorter is Younger

If your top has a sleeve, make sure the sleeve is short enough. It’s the same rule: "shorter" equals "younger." Put away your old golf shirts with 8-inch sleeves. Today’s shirts – whether you buy them at a golf shop or at the Gap – should have sleeves that are 5 or 6 inches long. This is a much younger look.

And rethink your golf shirts that have contrasting bands at the bottom of the sleeve. That was the golf look a decade ago, and it’s fading away. You will not see many new shirts with bands of color around the sleeve edge unless it’s on a short or cap-sleeve.

Another younger look is a shorter top. But beware. The length of most golf shirts varies with the size. A "large" shirt is much longer than a "small" shirt.

Given that on average older women wear larger sizes, length is a problem – especially because many shirts are now designed to be worn with shirt-tails out. A size medium or large shirt – if worn out – may look too long on many women unless they are tall. A few manufacturers (Polo is a good example) are cutting their golf tops shorter.

Another alternative if you want to wear your shirts out and are finding those in the store too long, is to look for petite-size tops. Finally, until golf-apparel manufacturers figure out shirt lengths, consider taking your golf shirts that you want to wear shirt-tails-out to the dressmaker and simply have a couple of inches taken off the bottom.

One of the disappointments for me is that golf apparel designers have not paid much attention to shirt tails. Only a few designers – Greg Norman is one – have really put some good design into the shirt tail. My prediction is that we will see more design – perhaps contrasting trim or even a ruffle – on the shirt tail.

Fabrics have a young look, too. There is still lots of cotton (which needs ironing), but there are also many microfibers and performance fabrics with stretch that are easy to care for. A problem is that the stretch shirts are tighter fitting. For many older women, that may take some getting used to – even when you get a larger size. But try it. It’s all part of a more natural look that is increasingly common in all fashions and for all ages.

If you are a little frustrated by how outdated your last-year’s golf wardrobe looks, you have lots of company. The styles have changed quickly. And there is more change on the way. My next article about women’s golf fashions will feature an interview with Cathy Le, the founder of Pink Caddy (www.pinkcaddi.com) for a preview of her golf dresses and down-swing skirts and a few new accessories.

One last thought. Regardless of trends, good taste is always in fashion. Shorter is younger, but that skinny little shirt with a bare midriff over a shortie-short might not be your best look on the golf course. Try out the new fashions and find your own comfort zone. Look younger, have fun and play well.    

Nancy Berkley is an expert on women’s golf. Her book, “Women Welcome Here! A Guide to Growing Women’s Golf,” published in 2003 by the National Golf Foundation, is the industry reference on how-to attract and retain women golfers. She updates her research and best practices on her website www.nancyberkley.com.

Nancy consults with facilities on how they can increase participation and revenues from women golfers and is a frequent speaker at industry events. Nancy also reviews courses for “The Golf Insider,” an international golf and travel newsletter, and “Ladies Golf Journey,” a golf publication for women. She’s contributed articles to “Golf For Women” magazine and is the author of the 2004 PGA Magazine cover story about women golfers.

A respected resource in the golf industry, Nancy participates in Golf 20/20, the annual strategic invitation-only conference sponsored by the PGA Tour, the PGA, the LPGA, and the World Golf Foundation. At the November 2004 Conference, she moderated the panel discussions on player development with a focus on women golfers. She has addressed the National Golf Course Owner’s Association at their National Conference as well as at numerous marketing seminars for the PGA and LPGA professionals. Nancy serves as a consultant to the Golden Links Advisory Board of Corporate Meetings & Incentives, a PRIMEDIA Business Publication. Nancy is an experienced golfer and has competed on the Metropolitan Women’s Golf Association (N.J., N.Y., Conn.) interclub matches. She’s served on the Board and Golf Committees of her golf clubs in Florida and New Jersey.

In 1998, Nancy founded Berkley Consulting and The Woman’s Only Guide® to Golf to share her long-time passion for golf and to help grow the game. Prior to working in the golf industry, Nancy was an attorney for a Wall Street firm and then held a number of senior executive positions with Prudential Financial, including Assistant General Counsel and Vice President of Corporate Marketing & Business Integration. Nancy began her professional career as a high school teacher.

Nancy holds a bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Minnesota; a master’s degree in teaching from Harvard University Graduate School of Education; and a law degree from Rutgers University School of Law, where she was a member of the Law Review. She is a graduate of the Program for Management Development at Harvard Business School.

Nancy describes herself as a bogey golfer and plays on her home courses in Florida and New Jersey. To contact her, write, call or email Nancy at: Nancy Berkley, Berkley Consulting, 242 Eagleton Estates Blvd, Palm Beach Gardens, FL 561-776-7243 or at info@nancyberkley.com.