Thanks to a pandemic-age boost, more people are taking up the sport – and looking to outfit themselves in versatile, trendy performance wear.
Traditional golf apparel is no longer par for the course.
An influx of new golfers during the pandemic has helped to change the overall look of the sport, meaning the apparel must follow suit. Golfers now look for styles that transition from the course to happy hour and beyond.
Consider that in 2020, 36.9 million Americans golfed, according to the National Golf Foundation (NGF). That was the largest increase in 17 years. Golf courses, one of the few nonessential businesses that could stay open during lockdowns, allowed people to get outside, exercise and enjoy themselves while remaining socially distant. So, it’s perhaps not surprising that 3 million people tried out the sport for the first time in 2020.
Golfers today are looking for versatile apparel that works both on and off the course.
The question, of course, was whether they would stick with the sport once other options for their attention returned. Data for 2021 from the NGF shows that golf’s popularity is still on the upswing: 37.5 million people participated in the sport.
Another major shift in the golf world is the growing popularity of entertainment venues like Topgolf, which offers high-tech driving range games that appeal to millennials and other younger players. “Topgolf did something incredible for the world of golf – it found a way to bring non-golfers to a driving range by gamifying the experience and serving up a fun time for everyone, no matter what your skill level is,” says Brad Moxley., associate director of an apparel company.
Though many golf courses still have a dress code, venues like Topgolf are much more informal. “Fashion is a fun way of expressing yourself, and it wouldn’t be cool of us to hinder that,” Topgolf notes on its website.
Even on typical golf courses, players are looking for apparel that has versatility. “As we transition through our day, we want our apparel to shift easily from the greens to dinner or from the driving range back to work,” says Lisa Terry, marketing manager at an apparel company. “While bold, retro performance looks capture some golfers’ vibes, the majority are preferring styling like that of TravisMathew with subtle colors and a natural hand feel.”
SOLO Golf brings a modern, streetwear-inspired edge to golf apparel.
Some brands are even bringing a streetwear sensibility to the course. SOLO Golf, founded in 2017 by Dan and Tessa Sullivan, has made its mission bringing more fashion-forward looks to the game. The brand’s fleece-blocked hooded vest, for example, is a modern take on a traditional golf garment. The vest features a high neckline, built-in hood and Sherpa-based, three-layer fabric. That and other styles “speak to the SOLO mentality” of “bringing uniqueness and expression to the golf course,” Dan Sullivan noted on the company blog.
Innovation is also key when appealing to golfers, according to Andrea Routzahn, chief merchant at an apparel company. In particular, golfers are looking for performance apparel that has a cotton feel. “While polyester has great performance qualities – lightweight, quick-drying – it can also feel synthetic and a bit crisp against the skin,” Routzahn says. “New yarn technologies over the past few years have given rise to polyester fabrics with a soft feel of cotton.”
As golf continues to trend and evolve, expect performance apparel for the game to change as well. “Fabric blends are constantly improving, and we’re utilizing these new fabric blends to make even better golf performance apparel than ever before,” Moxley says.