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I recently played a round of golf and I would tell you my score, but it was so high that I stopped counting after about 10 holes. I have a few friends who love to play golf, but also a lot who don’t. We seem to be on par with the sport’s trend: In every year since 2006, the number of golfers in America playing eight rounds or more per year has declined between three and 4.5 percent per year.
Golf isn’t as popular as it was in my dad’s generation—the culture simply isn’t there. We’d rather watch a fast-paced NBA game than a slow-moving round of golf. Big, traditional brands aren’t speaking to younger generations, nor do they seem particularly set on creating a new era of fun or innovation. Thankfully, though, several new e-commerce brands are bringing interesting lifestyle elements, quality fabrics, and more colors than dull grey or black to the sport.
USA Palm is what happens when Patagonia goes out for a day on the links. This brand was started in 2014 when Logan Tighe, then a junior in high school, wanted unique and interesting clothing that was also comfortable and durable. The brand’s signature Silky Soft Polo has dozens of different patterns like Loco, Tequila, Aztec, and more and retails for $98.
The moisture-wicking, eight-way stretch material is perfect for a hot day and feels both extremely soft and reliably durable. I received a few different shirts and found the feel and style of USA Palm impressive. USA Palm also has a popular reversible fleece jacket with different fabrics and interior patterns, in addition to pants, t-shirts, hoodies, etc.
Primo is the brand that finally converted the jogger sweatpants craze to the golf course. Its signature product is a pair of $89 performance jogger golf pants. They’re almost identical to regular golf pants, but are very slim and have a nice elastic band near the ankle. Primo Joggers claim to be “most comfortable golf pants you've ever played in” and I was surprised at how they felt like sweatpant comfort combined with lululemon quality. I love wearing joggers, and I love these.
The joggers come in eight different colors and Primo also offers a polo and braided stretch belt that’s a welcome changeup from traditional leather belts. The shirt sells for $59 and the belt for $29.
Rather than branding itself as a pure performance brand, Birds of Condor is a company based in Australia making hats, clothing, and accessories for your “golf lifestyle.” The brand makes unique caps with catchy graphics, Hawaiin shirts with fun patterns, and more items that are like streetwear for the course.
With sayings like “Broken Clubs Club,” “Gimme Golfwaves & Babes,” and “Putt Putt Pass,” Birds of Condor definitely isn’t your grandpa’s classic polo brand. But, the lighthearted vibe is a fresh take that could help the sport grow into new demographics. My “Flush Puppy” towel is a great conversation starter and a bold accessory for my bag.
In a similar vein, Malbon Golf is bringing new tastes to golf classics. The business was started in 2017 and Vogue says, “This Stylish L.A. Couple Is Making Golf Gear Cool.” They’ve collaborated with classic golf brands like Nike and Callaway, as well as outlier brands like Budweiser and Champion. Justin Bieber even shopped at the store and picked up a hat one time.
Malbon offers everything from polos to shorts to golf bags. It’s a little pricey ($42 for a hat), but a lot of items are sold out so you’ll be lucky if your preferred product is in stock.
When I first saw Louisville Golf Co. (LGC), I thought its clubs were just collectors’ items. But no, LGC makes handcrafted and hand-assembled wooden drivers, irons, and putters that it says are built for play. Every club starts with local wood blocks and hickory squares and then is touched over 200 times throughout the production process.
That craftsmanship comes with a price tag; an iron set from LGC could cost you as much as $1,075, compared to a decent set of modern irons costing somewhere in the $700 area.
The Titleist Pro V1 has long been considered the best ball in golf: it’s the Ray-Ban of golf balls. But every incumbent needs a challenger, and VICE is Warby Parker. The brand started off selling solely online, cutting out the middleman, giving it the ability to sell advanced balls at competitive prices. (A dozen Pro V1s cost about $50!)
VICE has engineering and manufacturing teams in Germany and Taiwan that have been producing golf balls since the early 90s. Its Pro Plus Gold model won a spot on Golf Digest’s 2020 best balls list and ranges from $29.99-39.99/dozen. VICE has received plenty of good reviews from golfers far more knowledgeable than myself.
Heading To The Clubhouse
Even if golf has been on the decline in the past decade, there is still a lot of hope for the game. These new brands are speaking to younger folks in a language they can understand: bright patterns and quirky sayings.
With my fresh new attire, I really hope I can start shooting better and enjoying the game more. I don't think Primo Golf is advertising that its joggers will make me a better golfer or that VICE’s balls will go farther, but I sure hope they do.
Five More Brands To Help You Beat Par
- Jones Sports Co: High-end, thoughtfully crafted golf bags and accessories
- Seamus Golf: American-made wool headcovers with dozens of different colors and designs (warning: they sell out fast)
- Stitch Golf: Luxury performance golf apparel, bags, headcovers, and accessories
- Eastside Golf: Lifestyle brand founded to promote golf to younger generations
- Bad Birdie Golf: Comfortable, fun, and irreverent polos, hats, and outerwear