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January 2020

Athleisure Trend Breaking Traditional Golf Molds


By Steve Eubanks

In the old days (which, in many cases, was not too many days ago), you couldn’t walk to the first tee wearing leggings, sweatshirts or other athletic or leisure clothing because it violated the club’s dress code. Slacks, collared shirts, skirts or shorts of a certain length (along with a few mid-thigh dresses that covered the shoulders and back) along with socks of a civilized height were considered acceptable golf attire. Anything else earned you a harsh rebuke and plenty of down-the-nose stares.

Now, athleisure wear – a new term that melds the words athletic and leisure – is the most popular category in the many mid- to high-end golf shops.

“Club shops, whether it’s golf shops, tennis shops and, as we’re finding now, one retail outlet at a club for all activities – golf, tennis, pickleball, swimming or the gym – they’re mirroring what you’re seeing in society,” said Karen Gleason, the founder and CEO of Glove It, a Scottsdale, Arizona, supplier of golf and racquet apparel and accessories. “We have a leisure lifestyle now. Women live in leggings. It used to be that they would never wear them outside the gym but you see them in clubhouses and restaurants now, even in the airport. We in golf need to listen to what everyone is asking for. People want something that’s functional and crosses over into different lifestyles and activities.” 

The trend started at resorts where golf shops transformed into sports shops for everything from swimsuits to logoed tennis bags to multipurpose athletic shoes. Now, private and public golf courses are realizing that combining shops and adding multi-use athletic wear not only cuts down on labor, but it also increases the retail dollars generated per square foot.

“You have to look at what is happening in the retail world across the board, not just in golf,” said Linda Garland, the national retail manager for Arcis Golf. “People are wearing athleisure for all aspects of their lives. Making it conveniently available in the golf shop just makes sense. At a private club, for example, there are social or fitness members who may not play golf but we have created a reason for them to buy from our retail shops.

 “We have numerous lifestyle amenities and activities for our members and guests,” Garland said. “So we’ve expanded our retail selection to more than just traditional golf products. This trend transcends gender and age. The market is both men and women with a broad age range.” 

One of the lines Garland has added at Arcis is lululemon, which offers casual, athletic wear – the kind that, in the past, you would see at a high school football game, not a golf club.

“We have a great digital marketing platform and on-site activation that allows us to alert our membership when a new line like lululemon is arriving in the stores,” Garland said. “From there, word-of-mouth spreads very quickly around the clubs. In fact, several traditional golf manufacturers – adidas, Nike, FootJoy – now have offerings in the athleisure niche.” 

“We’re bucking the system,” Gleason said. “We’re pushing the envelope and showing a little style, not just your typical country club standards. But you have to do that. If a member can do multiple things at the club without changing, that can’t be bad. It keeps them at the club longer. And it makes it easier for younger people, millennials, to partake and enjoy the club. There is a lot of crossover.”
Whether it’s pickleball bags next to Titleist balls or a rack with leggings next to the TaylorMade caps, clubs are having to rebrand their golf shops as something above and beyond golf. Customers demand it. And retail success turns on it.”


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