According to fusty old documents of yore – and, no, we’re not taking about last week’s column – Acanthus the Lacedaemonian was the first man to run about in the scuddy during the primitive Olympic Games.

Allegedly, the whole notion of democracy was formed in the muttering aftermath of a particularly robust diaulos race when scunnered, grumbling onlookers decided they had see enough of Acanthus let alone his Lacedaemonian and voted in the loin cloth to cover his, shall we say, sporting prowess.

Apparently, a naked Acanthus was so outraged by this sartorial stooshie he went to the highest powers of the Athenian Parliament to, ahem, table his amendments. We may, of course, be making all this up.

One can only wonder what the bold Acanthus would have made of European Tour golfers being allowed to flash a bit of leg during last week’s Alfred Dunhill Championship in South Africa which was played out in temperatures so hot, even the mercury in the thermometer had to strip off.

For the first time in the circuit’s history, players were allowed to wear shorts during competition days which, in the historically fuddy-duddy environment that golf exists in, was something of a radical concession from the top brass.

The National:

Of course, in the wider world of sport, or general existence for that matter, the relaxing of the laws regarding shorts is hardly revolutionary but the coverage this fairly modest bare-legged leap commanded, and the levels of pious harrumphing it generated on social media, merely highlighted golf’s long-standing image problem.

For some of the more staid, tut-tutting observers, the sight, for instance, of Eddie Pepperell’s peely-wally legs as he ambled down the fifth led to such levels of high prudery, it was akin to some strait-laced, Victorian patriarch spluttering his derision at his wife after she had the indecency to remove her bonnet during an afternoon boating trip on the Serpentine.

Hamstrung by the perception that golf and those involved with it are stuffier than a taxidermist with a respiratory infection, the situation of the shorts in South Africa, and the fact it was such a newsworthy event, will remain mystifying to many casual onlookers.

READ MORE: Tiger changes his stripes, 10 years on

It’s a bit like the trumpeting that greets the unveiling of a woman captain at a club. It shouldn’t really be news in 2019 but it’s made into some earth-shuddering event. In some ways, it does golf no favours.

To a younger generation thinking about dabbling in the game, meanwhile, the hoopla over something as humdrum as an item of clothing must leave them asking “just what the heck are we getting ourselves in to?”.

We are constantly being told that golfers these days are “professional athletes”. And what do most professional athletes wear? Yes, shorts.

The National:

The late Brian Barnes, the flamboyant Scot who was always rubbing golfing officialdom up the wrong way with various antics during his eccentric, mischievous pomp, would no doubt have welcomed the decision.

Barnes, of course, was handed numerous fines for wearing shorts back in the day and was finally forced to end his mini-revolution.

The unyielding traditionalists and defiant pockets of resistance will say that the tour’s loosening of the shorts rule is just another example of standards continuing to drop.

They will wail that cherished traditions are being eroded and it’s all simply a lack of professionalism. It is only shorts that we are talking about here in melting heat, though, but the fact we are talking about it at all illustrates the stifling sense of pomposity that still surrounds golf.

It was only in 1999 that the PGA Tour allowed caddies to wear shorts and that came after one bagman, Garland Dempsey, collapsed with a cardiac arrest in the searing temperatures of a Western Open.

READ MORE: Syme ready for second coming on tour

Players on the PGA circuit were finally permitted to wear shorts in practice and during pro-ams in February of this year and even the R&A unveiled in the summer that competitors at The Open could limber up for the championship in shorts if they desired.

On the women’s circuit, meanwhile, the good ladies have long been allowed to wear shorts during events. Do they lack professionalism? Absolutely not.

Pablo Larrazabal, the Spaniard who won in South Africa at the weekend, defied the heat and played all four rounds in his troosers.

“I don’t feel I’m ready to go in shorts,” he said. “It’s ok when I chill out with my friends, but for a competitive round it just doesn’t feel right.”

Each to their own, but at least players now have the choice instead of having to toe some archaic line grimly chiselled into a tablet of stone. Golf, as we all know, can ill afford to be, well, short-sighted.

And another thing

By all accounts, the proposed merger between the LPGA Tour and the struggling Ladies European Tour (LET) has been warmly received.

The actual detail of this alliance remains sketchy at this early stage but given the struggles and the uncertainty the LET players have endured in recent years, any news which features phrases like “creating opportunities”

and “expanding the game in Europe” will not just be music to their ears, it will be a full-blown concert.

The LPGA had its own crisis of confidence a decade ago. In 2020, the tour’s total purse will be a record-busting $75,1m and inching towards double what it was in 2010.

Under the thrusting stewardship of Mike Whan, the LPGA has prospered. Let’s hope that dynamism can help rejuvenate an LET that has plenty of potential.