The Sartorial Swing: Golfing Apparel Handicapped No Longer

When 35-year-old Danny Errico began playing golf, besides the best golf clubs for beginners, the Prada-wearing founder of Manhattan’s Equinox fitness centers looked to wear the kinds of clothes on the green he was accustomed to wearing on the street. His attitude is changing the course of golf apparel. Many years ago, few dared to use golf and fashion in the same sentence. With the sport’s fast-growing popularity and the rampant spread of Tiger Woods fever, Seventh Avenue has begun trampling the fairway.

As golf has exploded, Tiger Woods has ignited a young audience. The interest has been steadily growing. Tiger has made it hot. Here in New York, the sport’s largest and most established market, style-savvy golfers are snapping up designers’ full collections, including golf shirts, slacks, outerwear, and accessories. While fashion golf apparel is in its infancy, the field is crowding fast with the likes of Polo, Nautica, Tommy – even luxury brands such as Armani and TSE.

For the first time, department stores are broadening their golf assortments beyond seasonal novelties and accessories by establishing their own private-label golf apparel lines. Traditional golf apparel makers are scrambling to update their staid images. And pro shops, which have traditionally sold the lion’s share of golf wear, are growing into sophisticated brand merchandisers.

Togs for Women

Fashion designers, weary of the highly competitive department store arena, are eager to tap the affluent golfer by offering stylish details and high tech fabrics.

They are taking elements common to sportswear, such as oversized silhouettes, stretch cotton, and lightweight microfibers, and giving the golfer new levels of comfort and performance as well as fashion. For example, both Hugo Boss and Alfred Dunhill will introduce slacks with a special waistband lining, designed to keep shirts tucked in.

As stodgy as men’s golf wear has been, the women’s field is perhaps even more uncomely. Since much of the sport revolves around country club life and other elite social activities, the design community also smells an opportunity to capture the golfer’s status sensibilities. Designers say the crossover between golfing apparel and casual dress will prompt men and women to make “investment” purchases.

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We’re catering to the high-profile man who would wear our custom suits and smoke Dunhill cigars.

Such exclusive trappings will surely find customers among the country club set. But what is so exciting about golf today is the “Tiger factor.”

The sport is no longer defined by the wealthy, 55-year-old white guy.”

But as anyone knows, playing in a hot field can mean getting burned. So far, all the new entrants have been able to co-exist with old-line golf apparel suppliers, but not without some scathing lessons. Marketing and sales efforts in the golf world are markedly different from traditional retailing.

Market is Expensive to Entering

The market, which relies on independent pro shops rather than large chains for its apparel needs, demands a designated sales staff. Each pro shop requires garments with custom logos, and special orders are common. That means designers must be willing to invest in costly embroidery shops and responsive customer service departments.

And the expenditures don’t end there. Virtually every newcomer to golf apparel has shelled out millions of dollars to sponsor tours and exclusive player associations. Marketing maestro Ralph Lauren, which has signed on stars like Justin Leonard, Jeff Sluman, and Davis Love, makes a sizable donation to the Junior Golf.

Insiders say the deep pockets and image wizardry of leading designers may spell trouble for the rest of the industry. That’s why many are scrambling to find new marketing vehicles.

Right now, however, the huge popularity of the sport is enough to sustain both segments. More than 1 million golfers tee off in the area regularly, according to Golf Digest’s Research Resource Center.

Each golfer spends an estimated $600 annually on accouterments – a fact that has not escaped the fashion industry.

Felicia Taylor– a pro in golf game who is also an expert in teaching and sharing golf tips, tricks. To know how to become a pro golfer from an amateur, you can go to her website.

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