Oulton Hall’s junior golf coach has hit out at golf club officials who are ‘stuck in the 19th century’, after being criticised on social media for allowing his students to play in tracksuit bottoms and hoodies.
Thomas Devine, the director of Oulton Hall’s FUEL golf (FUture ELite) programme, proudly posted a picture on Twitter of some of his young students practising their putting, with the words ‘Do you let children play in hoodies and tracksuit bottoms? Yeah, we do. It’s the playing that’s important.’
The coach was amazed by the response it received, with nearly 400,000 views and many comments – but not all in favour.
He did, however, gain support on the social media site from former Ladies European Tour star-turned-TV presenter Henni Zuel, who retweeted the picture and added: ‘I fully support this and am a firm believer in getting rid of dress codes. Full stop. Not an amendment or softening, just no dress code.’
Devine came under fire from some traditionalists for ignoring the sport’s dress code, but he maintains there is a need to make young children feel at ease when teaching them the rudiments of the game.
He said: “It’s important when these youngsters are six, seven, eight, that any barriers to them feeling interested in or enthused about golf are removed – and that involves the way they dress. If they feel comfortable in trainers and a hoodie then that’s the way we should allow them to dress.
“We still teach them manners, respect and the etiquette of the game – that doesn’t come out of a glossy apparel catalogue. At that age they just want to play. What’s more, I believe we should remove the barrier of cost by allowing children to wear their everyday clothing. We are coaching 21st-century children – we are not stuck in the 19th century and only accepting the offspring of the privileged classes.
“As they get older they will, inevitably, want to dress like their idols, so they end up buying what McIlroy or Fowler wears. But when they start out, the priority is enjoyment, not conformity. We teach them the things they want to be taught.”
Devine regularly teaches more than 170 juniors, aged between five and 16, each week, and has never had any complaints about the relaxed dress code.
He added: “The irony of these people using a 21st-century technology to criticise those of us who are moving with the times, and embracing change, appears lost on them. We will continue to allow the youngsters to wear what they’re comfortable in, whether it’s trackie bottoms and a T-shirt, or tailored golf trousers and a £60 branded polo.”
Oulton Hall, near Leeds, features 27 holes designed by leading golf course architect Dave Thomas and outstanding practice facilities, boasting the north of England’s leading golf performance centre.