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Words by Mr Dan Davies

First-time viewers who tuned into The Masters from Augusta expecting to see an ambling procession of lardy, middle-aged men in voluminous pleated pants and obnoxious sweaters will have been given cause to revise their preconceptions. Why? Because golf's first major championship of the 2011 season signalled a changing of the guard - and a changing of its wardrobe.

A 26-year-old South African (Mr Charl Schwartzel) won the tournament after a 21-year-old Northern Irishman (Mr Rory McIlroy) had dominated proceedings for the first three days. Among those who just missed out on the chance to slip into the winner's green jacket were two young Australians (Mr Adam Scott and Mr Jason Day) and an equally fresh-faced Englishman (Mr Luke Donald). Youth, irreverence and verve were everywhere to be seen at Augusta National Golf Club.

Other than their tender years, these golfers also shared a penchant for tight-fitting polo shirts that showed off washboard stomachs and guns capable of firing the ball over 300 yards; a willingness to wear tight white pants (never the easiest thing to carry off, especially in the heat of battle); and the desire to engage with their legions of fans on Twitter.

Factor in the flowing locks, gym physiques and teen-idol good looks of other youthful contenders such as Mr Ryo Ishikawa, Mr Rickie Fowler and Mr Camilo Villegas (current world number two Mr Martin Kaymer only lacks

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Mr Nick Faldo
There are few justifications for wearing a pair of bright red slacks and a diamond-patterned sweater all at once. It's just a retro nod too far for our liking. Sadly for the six-time major winner, this sort of fashion faux pas was all too common when he was in the pomp in the Eighties and Nineties
MR Craig Stadler
Nicknamed "The Walrus", Mr Stadler was a legendary putter with an infamously short fuse. In fairness, he was never the right build for tight-fitting performance wear and his win at the 1982 Masters tournament presented the organisers with a problem: how to find a green jacket big enough to fit him
MR John Daly
A one-man assault on the notion of sartorial elegance, this good ole boy from Arkansas has experienced some big ups and downs in his golf career, personal life and weight. He now designs his own range of clothing, which judging by this ensemble, is something he does primarily in the dark
Mr Colin Montgomerie
Members of the European Ryder Cup team must have cursed when the Scot was made captain for the 2010 matches - but only because the skipper gets to decide the team's outfits. His frequent black moods on the course might have had something to do with his signature look: shapeless golf shirts and amorphous slacks
MR Johnny Miller
The low-scoring American was the poster boy for golf's worst excesses in the mid-Seventies, invariably matching flared pants in a frightening array of primary hues and garish plaids with all manner of loud shirts, tank tops and sweaters - ironically a look that's being reinvented for golf's new generation of stars

the long hair), and you can see why golf is now attracting hipsters like Mr Justin Timberlake, and the sort of fan base that comes with him.

But for those who agree with Mr Mark Twain's assertion that golf is "a good walk spoiled" and dismiss the game as an elitist playground for rich businessmen, middle-aged WASPs and retired colonels who welcome women in the members' bar as warmly as foreign armies on home soil, the sport's status as a style graveyard is no longer a happy bonus.

Golf earned its unfortunate, and some might say unfair, reputation for wardrobe malfunction during the mid-1970s, a period in which the world's leading players strode from the clubhouse in garish plaids, loud knitwear and shirt collars big enough to send their owners involuntarily airborne in windy conditions. Now, nearly 40 years on, fairway fashions have come full circle but rather than ridicule, golf is suddenly attracting plaudits for its vibrant, young and trend-conscious clientele.

Fashion flowered like Augusta's famed azaleas at this year's Masters, although the seeds were planted some time ago. England's Mr Ian Poulter is one of those who has flown - and, on occasion, worn - the flag: in 2004, he rocked up to the Open Championship, the oldest and most traditional of the sport's four majors, in a pair of Union Jack trousers designed by British tailor Mr William Hunt and inspired by the Spice Girls.

The following year the blazered brigade was again sputtering into its port when he stepped onto the first tee in a pair of disco strides, the

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tournament's famous Claret Jug trophy picked out in sequins. Mr Poulter now runs a successful clothing label, IJP Design, with its own range of signature tartans, and is recognised as one of the sharpest dressers in the game.

There have been plenty of other notable slick swingers down the years, as Mr Poulter points out: "The old-school guys - Arnie Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player, Doug Sanders - they had style." Indeed, golf has not been the wilderness of good taste that its detractors have made it out to be.

In the inter-war years, Mr Walter Hagen cut a dash in bespoke plus fours, silk shirts and handmade two-tone shoes, arriving at tournaments in a limousine, often with another limo following behind carrying his trunk of Savile Row-made outfits.

In the Forties and Fifties, his fellow Americans Mr Tommy Bolt and Mr Jimmy Demaret also dressed with panache, taking to the course in custom-tailored garments in bright colours and exotic fabrics. Meanwhile, Mr Ben Hogan scaled the heights in immaculately-tailored trousers and cardigans in sober cashmere.

Of course, there have been plenty of fashion disasters along the way, too. Mr Rodney Dangerfield's character in Caddyshack looked like he got dressed in the dark yet those same big collars, tight-fitting trousers and bold diamond-cut sweaters surely inspired the distinctive golf range created by J Lindeberg, founded by Mr Johan Lindeberg in 1997 and championed by the Swedish pro Mr Jesper Parnevik.

Skinny retro, it seems, is back, and being hailed as a new age of golf cool. A word of warning, however: this is only because the modern players are young, fit and good-looking enough to carry them off.