Comfort or couture? Sensible or stylish?
For Carin Koch, few details are too small to be considered insignificant — on the golf course, or off it.
If her European team retains the Solheim Cup on home soil for the first time in the competition’s 25-year history, the uniforms worn by her players next month may not be the most obvious contributor to their success.
But their outfits will bear evidence to the Swede’s thorough preparations for the biennial event, contested against the visiting U.S. side.
“You have to make sure that there are 12 people that are going to wear this and feel comfortable in it,” Koch says of the clothing she helped to design.
The 44-year-old has had a long and distinguished career on the women’s tour, stretching back to the early 1990s.
Now in her role as Solheim Cup captain, Koch has applied a savant sartorial touch to ensure her charges have every edge possible.
Getting the playing attire right is “very important,” she tells CNN in a phone interview from her home in Sweden. “It’s the only event (in women’s golf) where you play as a team and get to wear the same clothing.”
Koch has helped create the 2015 team’s outfits alongside sportswear firm Abacus, offering suggestions and alterations to improve design and comfort.
Priority number one, she said, has been avoiding stylistic calamity and wardrobe malfunction.
“I played the Solheim Cup a few times (including in European victories in 2000 and 2003) and I remember one time we had pants that were so uncomfortable that no-one really wore them. We wore rain pants (instead),” she says.
While some players might be keen on the eccentric slacks popular with male golfers like Ian Poulter and Rickie Fowler, others are more traditional.
“If you feel like you look ridiculous or you’re not comfortable, it’s awful,” Koch says. “That’s why you can’t go too crazy with some of the designs either even though some of the girls would go for that.
Yet a fashion that suits is not the only item on Koch’s meticulous to-do list before the tournament tees off on September 18.
She has also spent plenty of time in and around the St. Leon course in Baden Wurttemberg, Germany, that will stage the event.
Suggestions have been offered on how holes should be set up, hotel and team room facilities have been tweaked to engender a positive atmosphere while a range of activities have been arranged to keep players happy and occupied when away from the course.
Then there’s the none-too-trifling issue of four wildcard picks to supplement the eight golfers who qualify automatically through the various ranking systems.
Koch concedes the Americans will be favorites as they will likely have more higher-ranked players on their team.
But she is fortunate to have experienced hands to turn to in vice-captains Annika Sorenstam, Sophie Gustafson and Maria McBride — not to mention a selection of seasoned players who have won the last two Solheim Cups for Europe.
Koch was also a Solheim vice-captain herself in 2013 and spent time watching victorious Ryder Cup captain Paul McGinley at close quarters last year as the Irishman’s European team thumped the best U.S. men’s golf had to offer at Gleneagles, Scotland.
“I learned a lot from speaking to Paul McGinley,” Koch says. “His attention to detail was fantastic.
“I think we’re similar personalities in that we’re not going to leave anything to what happens. I want to make sure that I’m very prepared and I when I leave Germany I want to be sure I did everything I could for the team to perform their best.”
Koch is also keen to do her best for women’s golf through her captaincy. It still receives a fraction of the attention afforded the male game despite advances made in recent years.
“I don’t think women’s golf is as appreciated as it should be,” Koch says. “The players now are just phenomenal.
“A lot of the top players are traveling with their own mental coaches and their physical coaches. It’s just such a higher level nowadays,” she adds.
“Events like the Solheim Cup is our way to showcase that and show that in a very fun format … with the best players and a great venue.”
But even with that platform, progress on equality within the sport remains too slow for Koch.
Golf retains elements of its patriarchal beginnings with some prominent clubs, particularly in the UK, still refusing to admit female members.
“It’s amazing how that’s still happening at some clubs where they can’t have female members or females can’t play at certain times of the day or week,” Koch says. “With things like that, no wonder people look upon the sport in a certain way.”
Koch has long been a proponent of increased female participation in sport.
She has worked to promote a 2014 report sponsored by UK-based agribusiness Syngenta to highlight the issue and encourage more women to play golf.
“It could be such a great sport for women,” she says, before suggesting potential solutions to alter things at the grassroots level such as six-hole rounds or more women involved in running golf clubs.
“On every level of a golf club, it’s not just the members. It’s people involved with the club, the volunteers in the club, the club managers, teachers, everyone — it’s so male-dominated.
“I really hope we can change the view of that and get more women involved.
“But I think it will take time because of the traditions and the views some people have of golf.”
A memorable Solheim Cup come September could be just the thing to speed up that process.