Why join a country club and what to wear

Family-friendly country clubs offer something for all ages

Family-friendly country clubs offer something for all ages
Image: Dasha Petrenko

Confused about what you should wear to comply with a country club dress code? You’re not alone – today’s country club scene encompasses everything from the ultra-exclusive preserve of business leaders and politicians, to city venues where urbanites mingle, network and work out. 

If you’re an aspiring country club man who wants to enjoy the social life, great family atmosphere and sports facilities of your local country club, here’s what you need to wear to fit right in…

What are country clubs?

An immaculate country club golf course in Los Angeles

An immaculate country club golf course 
Image: TierneyMJ

Unlike the British aristocracy who lived on enormous country estates with hunting, shooting and fishing on the doorstep, their newly wealthy American counterparts were, for the most part, financiers, industrialists, and merchants. The upper echelons of American society comprised of city folk.

Rich Americans keen to practise country pursuits needed to find somewhere outside the city to do it. The country club was the answer – groups of individuals “clubbed” together to buy or build country houses with the sort of acreage you’d need to ride horses, do a spot of rowing, or play golf.

Many of those old school clubs are still around today – you’re talking names like The Country Club in Brookline, Massachusetts – established in 1882; the Charles River Country Club in Newton Centre; or the Myopia Hunt Club outside Boston – so called because all the original members happened to be short-sighted!

You can’t ask to join these clubs – you wait to be invited – and the initial fee is as eye-watering as the yearly dues. These clubs are strictly for the elite – you probably needn’t worry about the dress code as it’s unlikely you’ll ever make it past the guy in the gatehouse. That said, if you do get an invitation, your typical ensemble is likely to be along the lines of those enforced at the exclusive Los Angeles Country Club:

  • Men’s shirts must have sleeves and collars, and must be worn inside one’s trousers.
  • Men’s slacks must be of a tailored nature.
  • Golf attire is acceptable at all times in the Locker Room, Grill Room, Bar and their adjacent patios.
  • After 6:00 p.m., gentlemen are required to wear a jacket in all other areas of the Clubhouse unless otherwise specified for an event.
  • Outside of the Clubhouse and adjacent patios, caps are allowed and may only be worn with the bill facing forward.

Benefits of joining a country club

Country clubs aren’t just about sport

Country clubs aren’t just about sport
Image: LightField Studios

Unlike sports clubs in Great Britain that are focused on sport (if you join a tennis club, it’s because you want to play tennis), here in America, the focus is on the social – on creating a positive family environment in which everyone can have fun, relax and form the sorts of friendships that last a lifetime. We asked some of the best Country Clubs why people still aspire to join. Here’s what they said:

  1. You will have opportunities to develop lasting friendships in a friendly community where everyone knows your name – The Preserve at Ironhorse, Florida
  2. Are you a budding socialite looking to engage with other like-minded people? Maybe you want to network a bit and make a few business connections. Perhaps you just like to party. Regardless, joining a country club is a great way to address these questions – Northampton Valley Country Club, Philadelphia
  3. Whether it’s the bartender who remembers just how to mix your martini or the valet who calls you by name, the staff at a country club works hard to keep their members happy – Boulder Ridge Country Club, Illinois
  4. You have a voice. Bothered by the limbs of a tree that obstruct a shot from the fairway to the 15th green? You can complain at a public course but it might not do you any good. But at a private club there is a greens committee of members that will pay attention to your complaint, even if they wind up disagreeing with you – Seattle Times
  5. Throughout the year, members can stay busy at the country club. You may find activities for men, women, couples, kids or the whole family. The events may feature entertainment, food and drinks, friendly competitions, and opportunities to get to know other members. Those who enjoy planning events may be able to put their talents to good use by joining the club’s social committee, which takes responsibility for organizing events – St George’s Golf and Country Club, Long Island
  6. Country clubs typically draw people from the nearby community for maximum convenience, helping you connect with your neighbors and form new friendships. With clubs and groups for a wide variety of interests, you’ll be able to find an activity that matches your personality, striking up new friendships with ease – Blackstone Country Club at Vistancia, Arizona
  7. Conditions. Most private country clubs keep their [golf] course in pristine condition. Playing a course that is in good condition improves your golfing skills, too, as you are playing the way golf was meant to be played, on lush fairways and greens – Sierra View Country Club, California
  8. Members’ children have a wide array of activities available to them throughout the year. Junior Golf, Junior Tennis and ‘Crocs Swim Team’ are only a few of the many activities tailored to our junior members – Hawthorn Woods Country Club, Illinois

How to dress country club casual

Samuel Windsor jacket, chinos and boat shoes

A collared shirt and jacket are a safe bet for formal dining areas in the evening
Image: Samuel Windsor jacket, chinos and boat shoes

Country clubs are also about holding to a standard – moral, physical, and aesthetic. If you’re lucky enough to be proposed for membership of a club, you need to look the part. And while this aspect of club life oftentimes provokes considerable anxiety in the uninitiated, chances are, if others think your face fits, you’ve already acquired the right kind of wardrobe.

Take the Hidden Valley Country Club, Sandy, Utah. Established in 1959 this 27-hole golf course with 44,000 feet of clubhouse, pool, and cabanas really is a worthy retreat for the whole family. Like many clubs, the dress code is strictly applied, but is actually easy and comfortable to wear. The purpose isn’t to make people feel awkward; it’s to set and maintain a standard with which everyone feels comfortable.

So what constitutes ‘country club casual’ at Hidden Valley?

  • Collared shifts, polo shirts, knit shirts, turtleneck or mock turtleneck shirts and Hawaiian style or Tommy Bahama shirts. Shirts are to be tucked in.
  • Bermuda style shorts (Shorts are to be no higher than mid-thigh)
  • Hemmed pants must fit and be worn at the waist. (No Denim is allowed on the Golf Course including practice facilities)

In recent decades, the private sector has become increasingly involved in the management of members’ clubs, professionalising the scene in a way that increases the efficiency and viability of clubs without changing the original ethos.

Clubcorp, a major player in the sector continues to hold to the time honoured traditions – check out their dress code for Clubcorp members at The Golf Club at Indigo Run. Here, as is often the case, you’ll find different dress codes for more or less formal areas of the clubhouse and grounds. They say:

Shorts of Bermuda length or a style made for and designed for golf may be worn in the Grille Room during lunch hours, Friday Pub Night, and following Couples’ Golf and similar events.

But if members wish to access the dining areas, gentlemen need to change into “slacks and collared shirts.” There are no hats allowed in the clubhouse and shoes must be worn.

Country Clubs may have evolved to reflect the times we live in, but it seems that conforming to a high standard of dress and etiquette is not an aspect of country club life that members are keen to change. Long may it continue.

Posted in Men's Style Guides.

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