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Golf shirt vs polo shirt – 5 similarities and differences to help golfers choose the right fit

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There are many different outfits, and they all have their specific purpose. From the golf shoes to funny golf hats, the amount of golf attire is endless. However, the most commonly used attire for men and women worldwide on the golf course is the polo shirt, or is it a golf shirt? This article will dive into how you can tell the difference between a golf shirt vs polo shirt.

What is the difference between golf shirts and polo shirts?

The difference between golf shirts and polo shirts depends on 5 categories:

  • The material the shirts are made from
  • The overall design of the shirt
  • The collar of the shirt
  • The breast pocket of the shirt
  • The cuffs of the shirt

Choosing the right outfit to wear while golfing can be an intimidating experience. But it’s essential to think about what activity you’ll be doing most while playing golf, and then find an outfit that will complement that and fit most comfortably.

The Material of the Golf Shirt vs Polo Shirt

Golf shirts are worn by golfers but are not always made from the same materials. These fabrics blend cotton and other artificial materials to make the golf shirt more durable and resistant to the wear and tear it might see on the golf course. Golf shirts are usually designed to be more flowing and moisture-wicking. The materials are meant to be light and promote ease of movement.

Polo shirts are made from a wide range of materials; however, the most common fabrics are cotton and polyester. With the shirt being primarily cotton-based, they tend to be a little more rigid and restricting in their feel. While this may not impact the performance of a play, it could cause skin irritations or cause the feeling of tightness during different parts of the golf swing. A golf shirt is typically made from fabrics that allow for plenty of movement in many different directions. Polos are snugger and firmer in their feeling. The baby’s shirt in the picture shows an example of what a polo shirt will do. 

golf shirt material difference between me and my son
The material of my son's shirt holds much more sweat than mine

The Overall Design of the Golf Shirt vs Polo Shirt

Golf shirts are one of the more business casual types you can wear with any type of golf visors for men. This is because they typically come with a much longer tail and more elaborate collars. The extended bottom of the shirt allows them to remain tucked in during physical movements. They are designed for golfers to maintain their formality even during sporting events.

Polo shirts also have shorter sleeves than you would find on a golf shirt. Polos sleeves fall evenly between the elbow and shoulder, whereas golf shirt sleeves land closer to the elbow. Sometimes the difference is unnoticeable to a standard golfer, but it is very apparent to anyone that designs the shirt. Unlike golf shirts, most polos are made in solid colors or with minimal pattern options. Polos tend to be slightly more formal than golf shirts in most cases; however, golf shirts have made huge jumps in this regard over the past decade or so.

The Collar of the Golf Shirt vs Polo Shirt

An example of two different types of golf shirts

The history of collars on shirts is long and complex, so that we will dive into that in this article. The precise origins of the collar can be traced to around 800 AD when Byzantine noblemen wore a piece of clothing that resembled a shirt. Even though we do not need to talk about Byzantine noblemen and their fancy collars, there is a difference between a collar on a golf shirt and a polo.

The collar has been a staple in fashion for quite some time, and the difference between a golf shirt vs polo shirt is a tell-tale sign of what you are wearing.

Polo shirts are long and narrow and sometimes accompanied by a button on the shirt to hold it in place. In comparison, the golf shirt has a much larger collar overall. The golf shirt, unlike the polo, was designed to lay flat when worn. Polos with a shorter and stouter collar allow them to be stood up, or “popped,” to help block the sun on the neck of the person wearing it. So, if you have ever attempted to pop the collar on your shirt as a fashion statement only to find it floppy around and look odd, chances are that you are not wearing a polo.

The Breast Pocket on the golf shirt vs polo shirt

The breast pocket is one of the most common features of a shirt. The pocket is a remnant from the days when people wore their shirts with tails and full buttons, giving them a place to store spare buttons.

The difference here is one gives away the shirt style in most cases. For polo shirts, the most common placement of the breast pocket is to the right, while a golf shirt will likely have the pocket on the left. The pocket placement was generally associated with functionality within the sport they were used for. Whether the player was swinging a mallet or a golf club, the pocket was intended not to interfere with play.

While the shirt pocket differentiates the two, the breast pocket is becoming less and less included with newer golf shirts or polos. The need for the pocket has fallen to the wayside and, over time, has become less fashionable.

The Cuffs on golf shirt vs polo shirt

Generally, this is not something many people would pay attention to when looking to purchase a collared shirt, but it can certainly impact your comfort during play. As we have covered early in the article, not only is the material used differ from a polo to a golf shirt, but the arm cuffs also change. The polo shirt with generally shorter sleeves also has a slightly more constricting arm with a thicker cuff. The idea is for the sleeve to hug the arm more, as the shirt is meant to be more form-fitting.

The golf shirt has looser cuffs that allow ease of movement and flexibility. That movement allows the shirt to flow more during the swing with minimal resistance. Having that ease of movement is something that some golfers need as it offers little thought during the swing.

golf shirt cuffs example
An example of the cuffs on a golf shirt

Long Bombs Golf Final Say:

While there is no option that is better than the other, as it is whatever works for the player, golfers tend to lean towards the newer golf shirts instead of polos. They are designed with comfort and function in mind, specifically for the sport of golf. When looking to buy any men’s golf attire, I strongly suggest trying it on and taking a couple of exaggerated practice swings. You will likely want to do this while staying in the dressing room, so you are not in the middle of a clothing store performing the adult version of an air guitar. But now, when you are on the golf course, you can make some additional small talk about whether your playing mates are wearing a golf shirt or a polo. Some people enjoy the cotton feel, and others like the feel of the golf shirt. At the end of the day, it is purely based on what feels best for you and your body type.


About the Author


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How I got on hole 16 (The Stadium hole) at the Waste Management Phoenix Open with little to no wait!! I also have tips and tricks on what to do once you are inside the gate and inside the stadium hole. Check this out if you ever plan to make a trip out! If you ever have the chance, it is definitely worth the trip.

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