Golf needs its knickers again — and someone to fill them. Knickers worn by just a few good men in the pro ranks would be flat-out fun and youthful. And a knickers movement would remind golf of its accomplished-yet-colorful roots embodied by Bobby Jones, Walter Hagen, Gene Sarazen and Byron Nelson. These Hall of Famers were of a free-wheeling era that eschewed the all-business, corporate look of long pants and donned the duds that said: "Don't take yourself so seriously, lad; this is a game."
Gene Sarazen (left) and Bobby Jones in their heyday.
Heck, the cut of shorts today — worn by everyone but the pro men — is long enough to be knickers, which hang just below the knees and more or less flat against the leg, compared with the loosely draped look of the plus fours. Plus fours are made four inches longer than knickers and are tucked under in order to achieve that baggy look that — accented by some sporty argyle socks — brings some sass, style and freedom of movement to the tee box.
Byron Nelson, sporting plus fours, playing in the 1937 Ryder Cup.
Push for Plus Fours
So I guess I'm making a push for plus fours. The pro men aren't going to wear shorts, even if you call them knickers, but they will wear knickers — even if they are actually plus fours. Last weekend at the Quicken Loans National, Fredrik Jacobson showed up on Saturday and Sunday sporting some plus fours.
Fredrik Jacobson turned heads last weekend at the Quicken Loans National.
At the 2014 U.S. Open, Ricky Fowler paid tribute to Payne Stewart by wearing plus fours (see video). Stewart who won three majors and the hearts of golf fans by dropping the pants look and making his distinctive and flamboyant mark with pants that were a hybrid of knickers and plus fours.
Payne Stewart, three-time majors winner, had the swing to match his style.
As the British Open approaches, we need a male pro or two to champion plus fours, which have always been worn more commonly in Europe than in the United States. The problem is the pants tend to overshadow the player, and fans who have forgotten how good a golfer Steward was tend to think of the plus-four player as a dandy, a showboat who gets attention more because of what he wears and less because of how well he plays.
"Sass, style and freedom of movement."
Ian Poultier comes to mine as a possible plus-four standard bearer because he's known for his wild pants already, and certainly Fowler is a fit. But to be most effective, the standard bearer must have at least one major championship to his name. Tiger Woods, probably the best dressed male pro, would be the ideal man because his classy-and-sometimes-sassy attire will never outshine his game and his record.
Rickie Fowler, honoring Payne Stewart at the 2014 U.S. Open, would be a natural as the standard bearer in a knickers/plus-four movement.
However, I'm guessing Woods probably won't do it, so these two guys are would be my choice as the most effective Prince of Plus Fours:
- Phil Mickelson. He gave the thumbs up to the plus-four Fowler on the opening day of the 2014 U.S. Open, and he has that strong connection to Stewart; Stewart beat Mickelson at the 1999 U.S. Open by holing a 15-foot putt on the final hole and winning by one. Phil certainly has a Hall-of-Fame game (five wins in majors) and a what-the-heck, grin-and-go-for-it approach that would make him perfect as the playful-yet-powerful Prince of Plus Fours.
- Bubba Watson. He has two wins in majors and will probably be in the Hall of Fame. Also, I don't care if he's wearing just his birthday suit below the waist when he tees it up, nothing is going to be more impressive than his monstrous drives. Finally, he already has a pink driver, so a pair of against-the-grain plus fours would make perfect sense for Bubba.