I’m in the golf apparel mood right now. I’m buying it like the stores were closing (1I2I3) and I’m writing about it like I actually had readers — first the best-dressed players on the PGA Tour, then the worst, then a full-fledged How To guide just for Phil Mickelson. Today’s a rainy Monday and I don’t feel like paying bills or visiting the crumbling buildings of my empire. Thus I give my two readers my list of the best golf apparel brands of 2010.
A words on what I mean here. “Best” covers, in no particular order: quality; availability; innovation; design; brand; and price, with the last being first, second and maybe even third among equals. “Golf apparel” includes shirts, pants, sweaters, vests and hats — but not outwear and shoes. And I’m only focused on stuff for fellas. There’s lots of great gear out there for gals, but when the kids go to bed I’m not on the ‘net searching for great new skirts.
A word, too, on what it took to qualify for consideration on this, uh, elite list. The brand has to be fairly available in America. Thus, brands like Gabicci (Graeme McDowell) and Aquascutum (Adam Scott [more]) don’t qualify. And it has to have, at the very least, some focus on golf. Thus, Polo qualified for consideration but Burberry and Land’s End — both of which have great stuff that looks good on a golf course but have neither golf divisions nor golf-only lines — did not.
That all said, my top ten is as follows:
10. Dunning (of which I currently have one  piece). Nice stuff, but shirts are cut about a size too large and their standard poly fabric is way too heavy for summer wear … We did Dunning shirts for ’09 Greenspan and I’m confident not a single player reached for Dunning ever again … Reasonable price points … They just lost Zach Johnson, but word is they’re looking to become a broader-based lifestyle brand.
9. IJP Design (0). Ian Poulter’s trouser offering alone gets IJP on my list … Lacking a bit above the belt … Hat designer should be fired … High quality brings high price points to match.
8. Under Armour (2). Nice looking, reasonably priced stuff … Not the most exclusive of brands, but who cares? … Nothing earth-shattering in their golf stuff, but no big mistakes, either … The few UA golf shirts I have are among my favorites in a considerable collection.
7. Q’aja (0). London/Milan based, availability in U.S. is so limited that they arguably don’t even qualify for my list … Do custom stuff for Darren Clarke, Phil Mickelson and Lee Westwood, among others … Quality wise way at the top of the list, along with IJP and Peter Millar … Would be higher on my list if I lived in London.
Darren Clarke's Q'aja gear: I might have to add a piece to my bucket list.
6. iliac (1). New brand steeped in the trappings of tradition — sort of the golf equivalent of Polo by Ralph Lauren … Trouser offering is way up there in the marketplace (wish I could afford a pair of tartan plaid pants)… Aren’t going to make any money on volume right now, so whille the price points aren’t the worst on this list, they’re above my comfort zone … Oversized leather “i” shield doesn’t work well on the thinner cotton shirt sleeves … Not even a year out of the box and they’ve already landed Zach Johnson (late of Dunning) and David Duval (Nike), so unless they go completely sideways, ’11 is going to be a high-growth year.
iliac's signing of David Duval will make '11 a high-growth year.
5. Polo (1). The gold standard of preppy, country club golf … Virtually zero points for trendiness and innovation, and that oversized big pony logo has got to go.
4. Puma (5). A year ago Puma was nowhere in the American golf market. Now, there’s Rickie Fowler … High scores for trendiness and innovation, especially with their military caps, of which I own too many (pics: 1I2)… Lose a few points because much of their gear can only be worn by the under-40 set.
Rickie Fowler has single handedly launched Puma golf. Now if only he could fix his hats ...
3. Peter Millar (0). Head to toe, on and off the course, this may be the best clothing brand around … Nothing in the golf world eighteen months ago, PM now boasts no fewer than thirteen PGA Tour pros … If their Summar Comfort Mesh Classic Stripe polo isn’t the sharpest golf shirt on the market today, it’s damn close … Would be higher on this list but for its price points, which are too rich for my blood.
2. Greg Norman (2). The Greg Norman Collection is solid if not spectacular across the board with just enough double-thumbs-up pieces … Gets extra points for reasonable pricing, a function, no doubt, of volume … ’11’s collection, reportedly to be available at Macy’s, looks like it’ll be even better than ’10’s.
Greg Norman is near the top of his craft. Again.
1. Antigua (3). Close call here between Steve Stricker’s former apparel provider and the Great White Shark … Not a lot of home runs, but rock solid from top to bottom … Very reasonable prices put them ahead of higher-end, higher-quality brands like Peter Millar and Q’aja, which would be higher on my list if price wasn’t so important … The solid polo Antiguas we’ve had in Greenspans past are the most worn shirts any of us own … Underappreciated by clothies, no doubt, because of their lack of A-list Tour players, although Kevin Streelman and Billy Mayfair are solid reps … Could extend its lead by doing more in the innovation department … Longtime favorite at Greenspan Cup.
Notable but intentional ommissions:
Cutter & Buck (6). The Renton-based retailer has too many ugly colors and seems stuck somewhere around 2001. (Just picked up a bunch of it, however, at the factory giveaway.)
Nike (45-50 most pictured here). Its ’10 Tiger Collection stunk, and the rest of its golf wear is just too techie for me. Its ’11 stuff does look promising, however. (More.)
J. Lindeberg (0). Fine and good stuff if you have six percent body fat, but not a viable option for the rest of us. And those price points — yikes.
Adidas (0). I understand the need for the logo to be visible, but for Adidas the three stripes everywhere just overwhelms the clothes.
Ashworth (15). The Corey Pavin of golf brands: once at the top of the heap but couldn’t keep up with the new upstarts. (Not that I won’t buy it at the right price.)
Subjective? Yes. Open to debate? No doubt about it. Indeed, I can practically hear Jeff Benezra taking me to task for putting Puma and Polo ahead of IJP Design.
No worries. That’s what friends — and lists — are for.
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