The opening tournament of the 2019-’20 European Tour season became notable for something other than being merely the opening tournament of the 2019-’20 season. For the first time in tour history, players were allowed to wear shorts during competition.
With temperatures forecasted to reach triple digits all week at the Alfred Dunhill Championship in South Africa, players and tournament officials discussed options to beat the heat. Ultimately, all sides agreed that lifting the requirement that golfers wear long pants during the competition was in everybody’s best interest.
“We felt that in this situation it was good move,” said tournament director Davie Williams. “The temperatures will increase as the week goes on, which is uncomfortable and could be a health issue for the players. A lot of players were concerned about it. In these temperatures it can be pretty uncomfortable out there in trousers.”
The relaxation of the pants rule applies to this tournament only, according to officials, although so long as there are no issues at Leopard Creek Country Club, it’s easy to see the precedent becoming an unwritten rule at other extreme heat venues the tour visits.
“It’s been talked about for so long on all the tours around the world,” noted Ernie Els, who shot two-over 74 in the first round on Thursday. “I think this could be a game-changer for golf, which could end up enhancing the product.”
The European Tour has allowed players to wear shorts for practice round and pro-ams since 2016. The PGA Tour adopted that same policy this year.
France’s Wil Besseling shot an seven-under 65 to take the Day 1 lead.
While this is the first time in European Tour history that shorts have been wore in competition, there have been instances on the PGA Tour where players have worn them. Curt Sampson in a story for Golf Digest discovered that Fred Haas Jr., won the 1945 Memphis Open wearing shorts.