Where did all the sun shades go? A scary new study shows.
Where did all the sun shades go? A scary new study shows.© Images AGN

I noticed it when I was watching Keith Mitchell play at Riviera a few weeks ago.

There was a lot to say about Mitchell’s game that week—he tied for fifth—but most of the talk was about how he played. Colt Knost, a CBS analyst, called him “Cashmere Keith” because of the way he dressed, and the high crown visor on top of his head got a lot of praise on Golf Twitter. He really did look great in it.

But it also made me wonder where all the visors on the PGA Tour went.

Surprisingly, there isn’t much hard economic data about PGA Tour headwear, so I decided to do my own data-wrangling for the betterment of the game.

Starting in 1987, I took a picture of the hats worn on January 1 of every fifth year of the Official World Golf Ranking (the first year data was available). Even though the data for the current headwear census isn’t complete, we’ve included the current year in the list below. Fortunately, visors still have a good reputation on the LPGA Tour, so the data only looks at the men’s game.

Donald Miralle

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Why every five years instead of every year? There are two:

First, because we’re more interested in finding and predicting the big trends in what the best golfers wear on their heads.

Second, general laziness.

The results aren’t very interesting. At the professional level for men, golf is in a deep slump that doesn’t look like it will end soon.

The results are partly due to the fact that fashion trends come and go in cycles. Though the fact that there has been a general decline over the last 38 years may point to something bigger.

No matter what, we can learn some interesting things from the data:

  • Visors were the most common type of headwear on the tour’s top players in the early 1990s. However, as corporate sponsorship grew, many golfers who used to go without headwear started wearing hats instead of visors.
  • Corey “Hat Pioneer” Pavin was the first golfer in the dataset to start the year in the OWGR Top 20 while wearing a hat all the time.
  • As hats became more popular in the early 2000s, a lot of people who wore visors became swing voters. David Toms, for example, won the 2001 PGA Championship while wearing a hat, even though he usually wore a visor every week. Davis Love III won the PGA Championship in 1997 while wearing a visor. He won the Players Championship in 2003 while wearing a hat. Phil Mickelson won both of these majors.
  • Visors became less popular in the middle of the 2000s, but Phil Mickelson and Vijay Singh were big fans of them at the time. Luke Donald would come along and become the last World No. 1 to wear a visor.

Sam Greenwood

  • In 2017, Bubba Watson was the last player with a visor to start the year in the top 20 of the OWGR. Oosthuizen, who was a swing vote for the visor, did this in 2022.
  • At the start of 2023, there were no visor loyalists in the top 20 of the OWGR. At 45th, Keith Mitchell is the best golfer right now.

Redington, Andrew

What’s going to happen next? It’s hard to say.

Personally, I love visors, and if nothing else, I hope that golfers will always remember the important role they played in the game’s history. There has been a movement to save the oldest golf courses, so maybe there should also be a movement to save the visor.

If that doesn’t happen, I worry that the visor, like the mashie niblick and the feathery, will become a thing of the past.

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