ABU DHABI (Reuters) – The European Tour took a stride towards a less formal future on Wednesday by allowing players to practice in shorts for the first time at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf championship.
“The players have embraced it,” said the tour’s chief executive, Keith Pelley, before the opening tournament of the ‘Desert Swing’ through Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Qatar.
“Shorts are a natural evolution to help modernise the game. It puts our players first.
“The fashion of golf is something that the youth adopt,” he added. “We will have strong rules, but there will be some fashion statements, and it’s a great start.”
Few sports are as traditional as golf or as hidebound by unwritten rules dictating what players can wear. Some members-only courses have strict no-shorts rules. Some that allow shorts dictate the height of the socks to be worn with the shorts.
Former world number one Rory McIlroy was one who welcomed the change, in one of the world’s more socially conservative regions.
“I think it’s a good idea to let guys wear shorts in practice rounds. I probably just need a couple more weeks in the sun to get my legs out in public,” McIlroy told reporters to laughter. “Irish skin doesn’t go so well … .
“I don’t think it should be too big a deal. You look at every other sport and people are allowed to expose their legs, so I don’t see why we’re not allowed to do that either.”
Other players took to social media to approve the decision. England’s Matt Ford said he felt like a naughty schoolboy for turning up in shorts.
“Great decision by the @EuropeanTour to allow shorts in practice and pro-am days! Golf will look more and more like a modern sport!,” Italian Edoardo Molinari said on Twitter.
“It’s 2016, not 1990. Get rid of the stuffy old rules that hold golf back. Make it more fun everyone,” former world number five Ian Poulter said on his Twitter feed.
Players will still have to tee off in long trousers in tournaments, although even that may change one day.
“Why not?” said McIlroy. “It really depends if guys are comfortable or not. I don’t think it takes anything away from the tradition of the game or etiquette how guys look on the course.
“Obviously we are not going to go out in shorts at the British Open or The Open Championship if it’s 10 degrees and raining.
“But at the same time, if we’re playing in a hot country and it’s more comfortable for guys to wear shorts, then there’s no reason why they shouldn’t be able to.”
(Reporting by Alan Baldwin in London, editing by Larry King)