Save the visor
Where have all the visors gone? Alarming new study reveals
It was a few weeks ago, when I was watching Keith Mitchell contend at Riviera, that I noticed it.
There was plenty to talk about Mitchell's game that week—he finished T-5—but his style captured a ton of the conversation. CBS analyst Colt Knost gave him the nickname Cashmere Keith for his outerwear selection, and Golf Twitter gave a series of glowing reviews about the high crown visor atop his head. Indeed, he looked fantastic in it.
But it also begged the question: Where have all the visors gone on the PGA Tour?
Shockingly, there's not a lot of hard economic data on the subject of PGA Tour headwear, so I decided to embark on a data-wrangling journey of my own for the greater good of the game.
My methodology was to take a snapshot of the headwear choices on Jan. 1 every five years of the Official World Golf Ranking, starting in 1987 (the first year data was available). We've included the current year in the findings below, though data for the current headwear census isn't complete. Thankfully, visors' standing is still strong on the LPGA Tour, so the data only takes into account the men's game.
Why every five years, and not every year? Two reasons:
First, because we're more focused on identifying and forecasting the macro trends in headwear selections among golf's elite.
Second, general laziness.
The results don't make for pretty reading. Golf, at the men’s professional level, is mired in a deep visor recession, with no immediate end in sight.
Fashion trends are cyclical, which partly explains the results. Though a general decline over the 38-year period perhaps suggests something broader.
Regardless, there are a few interesting findings we can glean from the data:
- Visors hit their high point in popularity among the tour's elite in the early 90s, vastly outnumbering all other forms of headwear.
- Interestingly, as the rise of corporate sponsorship persuaded golfers to don logoed headwear, many golfers who previously opted for no headwear counterintuitively gravitated toward hats rather than visors.
- Corey 'Hat Pioneer' Pavin was the dataset's first golfer to start the year inside the OWGR Top 20 as a full-time hat wearer.
Jamie Squire/AllSport/Getty Images
- As hats began rising in popularity in the early 2000s, many visor-wearers became swing votes. David Toms, for instance, won the 2001 PGA Championship in a hat though tended to be more of a visor-wearer week-in and week-out. Davis Love III won the 1997 PGA Championship in a visor but the 2003 Players Championship in a hat. Phil Mickelson won majors in both.
- Though visors dwindled in numbers in the mid 2000s, Phil Mickelson and Vijay Singh were champions of the headwear at the time. Luke Donald would later emerge, and become the last visor-wearing World No. 1.
- Bubba Watson was the last visor purist to start the year inside the OWGR top 20, in 2017. Oosthuizen, counted as a visor swing vote, accomplished that feat in 2022.
- There were no visor loyalists inside the top 20 of the OWGR to start the year in 2023. Keith Mitchell is currently the highest-ranked golfer at 45th.
As for what happens next? It's hard to say.
Personally, I love a visor, and if nothing else, hope there's at least an enduring appreciation among the wider golf world for the role they played in golf's tradition. Just as there has been a push to preserve golf's oldest courses, maybe there should be a movement for the visor, too.
If not, I fear the visor—like the mashie niblick or the feathery—might be consigned to little more than a relic from a bygone era.