This pro’s untucked shirt caused a minor stir. Was the fuss warranted?

jj spaun at TOC

J.J. Spaun during the second round of the Sentry Tournament of Champions last week.

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This past week’s Sentry Tournament of Champions on Maui brought a slate of familiar sights.

Humpbacks breaching. Palm trees swaying. A Tour pro playing in an untucked pattern shirt.

We’d seen the look before at Kapalua, from Rickie Fowler, in 2018. This time around, though, it was J.J. Spaun, whose fashion choice prompted this post-round question.

“There’s social media outrage about your untucked shirt,” a reporter asked. “What do you think about that?”

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Never mind that “social media outrage” is redundant (also, there was way more support for Spaun’s look than outrage). Still, here in the real world, where calm and reasoned discourse hold sway from time to time, it’s still a worthy topic of discussion. Golf has its own version of the “tuck rule.”

How strictly should it be followed and enforced?

The Etiquetteist has made it plain before that he finds most of the game’s dress codes to be either outmoded or absurd, or some combination of the two. Rationales for them are rarely anything but arbitrary.

But The Etiquetteist also recognizes that context matters. At public courses these days, how you wear your shirt is largely a non-issue. Few, if any, places, care, at least not enough to make a policy about it. Most golfers feel the same. “You do you,” the guiding ethos goes. Sure, some grump might grouse about your going untucked, but they will be the trapped-in-amber exception. And unless they own the joint, they’ve got no leverage to make you stuff your shirt tails inside your belt (assuming you’re wearing one of those as well).

At private clubs, though, it’s a different story. While many have evolved to more closely resemble the world the around them (translation: They’re okay with your going untucked), many others cling to time-worn dress codes. That’s their right. And because rules are rules, no matter how silly, when you show up at those places, it’s your responsibility to tuck your shirt in. Don’t like it? Play somewhere else.

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At the Plantation Course this past week, Spaun’s relaxed style broke no rules. It merely ruffled a few feathers.

“Outrage?” Spaun said, when asked about it post round. “It’s Hawaii.”

He sounded surprised, but he couldn’t have been shocked that he’d caught a bit of flack. His apparel sponsor, Puma, could not have been shocked, either, and must have been delighted by the social media buzz, which, in the grand scheme, only made the player and the brand look hip.

The thing about golf is that 40-plus years after Caddyshack, the Judge Smails of the world still haven’t learned: The more they huff and puff, the more the joke’s on them.

Josh Sens Contributor

A golf, food and travel writer, Josh Sens has been a GOLF Magazine contributor since 2004 and now contributes across all of GOLF’s platforms. His work has been anthologized in The Best American Sportswriting. He is also the co-author, with Sammy Hagar, of Are We Having Any Fun Yet: the Cooking and Partying Handbook.