Saturday, June 16, 2007

Ace in the Hole: Adorably Cheap Golf Attire

Okay, I have a confession to make: I am a sucker for old-school, preppy, unabashedly girly looks, especially when doing old-school, preppy activities. My friend called me up recently and asked if I wanted to play golf. She had just purchased a new "girly" set of clubs and wanted to test them out. As it turned out, I had purchased a set a couple of years ago and had even gone so far as to take lessons. Unfortunately, life got in the way. First, buying and renovating a new house, then moving, then wedding planning, then crazy work schedules. Before I knew it, two years had passed since I held a club in my hand, and alas, I had forgotten everything.

I explained to my friend that I was as good as tree to just stand there and watch. But, she contended, we could just go to the driving range to get back into the "swing" of things. The weather, after all, had taken a pleasant cool break, giving us a breezy 75-degree day instead of a sweltering 95-degree one. Perfect weather to spend time on the green. Besides, she insisted, she had just bought not only fashionable pink golf clubs, but also some chic outfits to go along. Hardly being one to reject an opportunity to dress up in adorable sportswear, I took her up on it. I mean, c'mon, more than half the reason I took up golf in the first place was to dress up in attire normally reserved for upper-crust private school girls while spending time outdoors.

That weekend, she arrived to pick me up dressed in a very sporty yet feminine, decidedly modern golf outfit. She wore a fetching "skort", which looked like a white jersey tennis skirt adorned with pink and brown embroidery, but was actually shorts underneath. With it she matched an athletic brown polo shirt made of a blended breathable mesh material. Her tennies were brown with a pink logo, and she topped it all off with a white terry visor with pink embroidered flowers, plus an enormous pair of white sunglasses. Tragically chic, yet supremely sporty. I, on the other hand, opted for a white stiffly-pleated tennis skirt with a green striped skinny belt, a kelly green pique polo short, white laceless sneakers, and the requisite pearl stud earrings. Classic prep-school tennis team uniform. I was trying to decide between that and my pink, white, and green plaid cuffed bermuda shorts with a hot-pink polo shirt and hot-pink leather slip-on tennies, but I figured since we weren't actually going to play, why not wear the skirt?

Both of our ensembles did the trick. Halfway through our practice swings, we realized we weren't getting anywhere on skill alone. Luckily, a fairly handsome, middle-aged instructor came to our aid. He showed us the correct posture, stance, and grip, which we adopted quickly, thus practicing the second half of our session with more success. Afterwards, he introduced himself and welcomed us to the club, offering to give us lessons in the future.

As we were leaving, a much older, much-less-handsome man asked us out, refusing to take our persistent "no" for an answer. I kept pointing out that I was married and diplomatically excused myself with the feeble alibi that I had some friends in town, which had the regrettable effect of pushing the buffoon onto my poor friend. She, being more honest about the whole thing, just kept repeating that she was simply not interested in going to dinner or anywhere else with him. He wouldn't take the hint, so we made a beeline for the exit, stuffing our clubs into our bags as quickly as possible. A shame, too, because there were plenty of eligible young gentlemen around to meet and greet. Oh well, we sighed, we could always come back next week. At least we got some solid golf instruction for free.

After we got in the car, I suggested that perhaps my friend should obtain a faux wedding ring in case she was accosted by an undesirable type in the future, which she could easily slip on the other hand if the situation happened to reverse itself. Either that, or she might want to reconsider wearing such darned cute outfits when she went to this particular venue. Shocked that I would even suggest the latter, my friend sniffed that she would certainly not come to the golf course dressed less than smashing. What was the fun of coming at all if you couldn't get dressed up for the occasion? True, I concurred. It wouldn't be the same without the over-the-top preppy getups. Where else would we be able to wear pink-and-green plaid pants with obnoxiously logo-adorned polo shirts tucked under argyle tennis sweaters with pink tennies and visors without looking like oversized 12-year-old schoolgirls or snooty country club ladies? Maybe at the tennis court or while playing croquet. But certainly not to work and probably not to a dinner on the town. It's just so flipping fun to dress like a privileged, pampered society wife who spends her days sipping planter's punch at the clubhouse.

So we made plans to come back, vowing not to be deterred by one slightly unsavory experience. And, my friend resolved to buy even more modern-chic golf gear at the same online retailer where she had purchased the previous outfit. After all, the golf course is a marvelous place to meet charming, handsome fellows (even if some of them were lecherous old goats).

Inspired by her moxy, I decided to add to my own collection and maybe even break out of my de rigeur Ralph Lauren mantra. Lilly Pulitzer always knows how to please, if you favor old-school resort style with plenty of white, pink, green, and yellow tones. There's also a modern urban-sport hybrid, blending athletic-inspired gear with a bold city vibe, topped with a zest of playful femininity. Or, you could opt for something different altogether, a sexy approach with short hemlines and cleavage-bearing tops. Today's female golfer (or wannabe) has so much more to choose from than 50 or even 15 years ago! Unfortunately, a quick trip through any sporting goods store or golf pro-shop leaves a lot to be desired for the stylishly inclined. The paltry selection will make you look more like a matronly phys-ed teacher than a cosmopolitan glamour girl. The right outfit can mean the difference between channeling a vogue Michelle Wie or Erica Blasberg and pulling a dowdy Reilley Rankin or Lorena Ochoa. Think Maria Sharapova vs. Martina Navratilova. It's really a no-brainer.

Honestly, ladies, is it that hard to make a little effort to look appealing to your audience? It's not like you're playing golf with your buddies. You're playing in front of millions of people, often on national television, and you enjoy the crowds. Can you give your fans a little more appreciation? Dressing fashionably will not make you less serious of a player, we promise. Does anyone have doubts about Venus and Serena Williams' athletic ability? I don't think so.

Trouble is, anyone who has ever played golf (or just sat at the clubhouse) knows that it takes a little bit of cash to support this rather expensive habit. Between the membership fees, game fees, equipment purchases, and refreshments, you can rack up quite a bill. Therefore, it is essential to save dough on the uniforms. Fortunately, you don't have to shell out for pricey Lacoste or snobby St. John to be a hit. It's entirely possible to rock the greenway while saving plenty of green. Here are some numbers that will get you noticed -- hopefully by the right types. And with these prices, you'll still have some allowance left for an icy-cold frappucino at the clubhouse.

L.L. Bean Stretch Double L Cap Sleeve Dress, Sale-$24.95

Victoria's Secret Snap-Front Polo T-Shirt Dress, Sale-$29

Forever 21 Madras Plaid Cotton Shorts, $19.80

Forever 21 Jazmin Plaid Shorts, $17.80

Target Mossimo Supply Co. Striped Jersey Polo, $9.99

Kohl's Dockers® Metro Bermuda Plaid Shorts, Sale-$17.99

Aeropostale Striped Jersey Polo, Sale-$9.99

Kohl's N.Y.L.® Side-Striped Scooter (skirt with shorts underneath), Sale-$19.60

Forever 21 Knit Cardigan, $20

Delia's McKenzie Skirt, $34.50

Saucony Women's Jazz Low Pro Sneaker, Sale-$35.99

Gravity Visor® Terry Cotton Visor, $7.99

Payless Champion Arch Athletic Shoes, $19.99