Golf history was made in South Africa on Thursday as male competitors at the Alfred Dunhill Championship on the European Tour were for the first time allowed to wear shorts.
Organisers said they were thinking primarily about the competitors’ health when they made their radical concession – one which broke more than a century and a half of custom rules, and etiquette.
Temperatures reached 38C in yesterday’s first round and are expected to peak at 40C in the third and fourth rounds on the weekend.
“A lot of players were concerned about the possibility of extreme temperatures,” said David Williams, the tournament director. “In this heat it can be pretty unbearable out there in trousers.”
Yet the reaction indicated that this was, indeed, a giant, barelegged, stride for the ancient game.
The traditionalists were not happy with the revolution taking place at the Leopard Creek Country Club, on the border of the Kruger National Park.
As the competitors took to the spectacular greens, with rhinos in the background, one observer vented his anger on Twitter, saying that the participants resembled a “stag do in Portugal”.
Others, however, welcomed the move.
“Golf has been moving in this direction and because of the extreme heat we need to make it as comfortable for the players as we can,” said Thomas Bjorn, the former Ryder Cup captain.
“There are traditions in golf that will always be upheld, but we also need to try and make it easier for kids to get involved in the game and move with the times.”
The Tour insists that the fashion change is a “one-off”, but it is understood that the issue is on the agenda for the Players Committee meeting at the start of next year.
Ultimately, it will be the golfers who decide and with the demographic changing in the locker rooms most expect the change to go through permanently soon.
Ernie Els, the four-time major champion, said he supports the move.
“It’s been talked about for so long on all of the tours around the world,” the South African said.
“I think this could be a game-changer for golf, which could end up enhancing the product.”
Rory McIlroy said: “It makes the guys a lot more comfortable. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with professional golfers showing the lower half of their leg.”
As the sport desperately struggles to maintain participation levels, the need to attract young people to the game has never been stronger.
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The female Tours have long allowed their members to play in shorts, although the US Tour caused a storm in 2017 when it told its players to avoid plunging necklines, and skirts or shorts that expose part of the “bottom area”.
However, until now, the men’s circuits have steadfastly refused to update their dress-codes, only relaxing their regulations for practice rounds three years ago.
The Tours have even been playing catch-up with some of the UK’s most notoriously stuffy clubs.
Muirfield allowed shorts to be worn – albeit, so long as the socks are “full-length and white and dark-coloured”- before it accepted women as members.
Some members of the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers were angered when shorts were permitted, pointing to the erosion of standards.
Spaniard Pablo Larrazábal appeared to agree with them, saying he would not be taking advantage of the relaxing of rules.
“I don’t feel I’m ready to go in shorts,” he said. “It’s ok when I chill out with with my friends, but for a competitive round it just doesn’t feel right.”