By Jeffrey A. Rendall, Images courtesy of Martin Golf
DALLAS, TX – Just because something’s new doesn’t always mean it’s better – especially when talking about the world of golf apparel, where there’s a trend towards “performance” fabrics that look and feel like they’re just off a spaceship.
Enter Martin Golf, a golf apparel maker that focuses on the finer traditions of the game, and still sticks to the all-natural fabrics that made golf famous for its unique tradition of distinctive duds.
Whereas Happy Gilmore may think you have to wear “goofy pants” to play golf – actually, the opposite is true. Golf-style slacks and shirts are now standard in many casual business environments, and it’s no secret why they’re still considered “dressy” even in more formal settings.
First and foremost, because they’re comfortable, that’s why.
Rick Martin (formerly of Fairway & Greene) founded Martin Golf, and he’s got 30 years of experience behind his company. If there’s anyone who knows and appreciates what golfers want out of their clothes, it’s Martin.
We recently caught up with Rick Martin, and below he elaborates on why his company’s motto is “Quest for perfection”:
GolfTheUnitedStates.com: What’s the all-encompassing theme of Martin Golf – what do you want to accomplish?
Martin: Well, we are unique in the way that I started Fairway & Greene, it’s in my DNA. My background, everything I’ve ever done in my life, I’ve been an apparel guy my whole life – it’s been done with natural fiber. I don’t do any synthetics, I don’t have polyester or anything other than a pure finish like cotton, or an Italian merino wool, or cashmere… In other words, anything that’s natural.
That’s the impetus of what we do.
Beyond that, we limit our distribution only to private golf clubs. So we don’t sell over the internet, we don’t sell any retail operations. The idea behind that is -- the golf professional is the guy I always had in mind when I was doing my product development. You know, what’s unique for the shop, how was one shop in a major market in a private club different from another private club in that same market.
The core products would remain pretty consistent with each club, but our line is structured in such a way that we can go into any given market and offer things that are merchandized towards the original club in the town versus the new club that has just been open a few years -- perhaps with a different kind of membership.
We find that every club, no matter what it is, has both a customer for a tech shirt as well as a customer for a cotton shirt. Our customer is a little bit older for the most part, but we are converting the younger guys to the benefits of a cotton shirt as well.
It seems to me, the young guys who wear a polyester shirt or a synthetic shirt – a lot of them wear a cotton t-shirt underneath it. You’ve probably seen that, or might do it yourself.
Well, I say you can save yourself some money – I know the easy-care part of a synthetic is great – but you can save some money by buying one cotton shirt. It can be a cotton golf shirt… and it’s amazing how we put them on these guys and they’ve never even thought about wearing a shirt like this.
So we’re converting the young ones as well.
GolfTheUnitedStates.com: So does technology play a role at all with your line?
Martin: Oh sure. When I left the business, which was eight years ago now – I’d been out for 5 ½ years – just the technology of spinning the cotton yarns and the technology in the process of finishing has changed dramatically. You know, the word “mercerization” kind of gets overwrought and overused – and anyone that can squirt something on a fabric, they call it mercerization.
True mercerization – the way we do it – is done twice. Mercerization is basically an impregnation of the yarn that allows it to be more stable… meaning it doesn’t shrink… and it allows it to be more colorfast.
For that reason, our shirts don’t fade and they don’t shrink. We mercerize the yarn before we knit. And then the key part of this ingredient is after we knit the pattern, in the colors that we’re offering for that season, we then mercerize the fabric. It’s called a bath, it’s done through a mercerization bath – it’s a very slow and expensive process. But what it does is impart that stability factor.
More importantly for the consumer, it imparts the luster.
The luster of our garments stays with that shirt for a long, long time, and in many cases, forever.
GolfTheUnitedStates.com: What would you describe as “performance” from a golf shirt?
Martin: Performance for me is, if you’re going to sweat in a golf shirt, the perspiration should be allowed to go through the shirt to the atmosphere and to dry naturally.
So that’s performance. It’s kind of a dichotomy when these guys talk about high performance, high-tech shirts. What happens – you saw it recently when the pros were playing in some really hot weather – how their pants were soaking wet.
With the polyester shirt – a lot of that sweat on the upper half of the body just slides down on the inside of the shirt into the trouser. So you wind up with guys with weird looking combinations – they have a dry-looking shirt but they also look like they’ve wet their pants.
What I always say is, when somebody buys something -- I don’t care what it is -- if it works for them, the way they wear it, or use it, they’re a candidate to buy more of it. That’s what we’ve always had with our garments -- because to me, natural fiber is the quintessential active sportswear fabric.
Now I wear a polyester Under Armour shirt because I work out in it – and for that reason. If I’m going down there to sweat, I don’t care if it runs down into my pants. It’s geared for that.
But when you go to the golf course and you’re outside in the humidity and things like that – or cold weather, too – performance is how it feels on your body. And I think every person has his or her own version of what performance is.
GolfTheUnitedStates.com: Finally, what separates you from the competition, why are you better, why should the consumer purchase a Martin golf shirt over one of your competitors?
Martin: First off, because the “eye eats first.”
I don’t allow our guys to even mention another brand when they make their presentations, or compare anything to anybody else. Because we have a unique shirt.
I look at my competition every morning when I’m shaving. I don’t care about anybody else. I don’t think about anybody else.
I do what I do straight and narrow and very deep.
What we did with the pros, when we first started the golf company a couple years ago – they would ask a question like that.
I said to our guys – let him take any shirt out of your line, and then take any shirt out of his inventory and put them side-by-side -- and then, let’s see if he can tell the difference.
And when they did that, it was just amazing. 100% of the time, the pros would say, “Oh yeah, I can see it.” They see it because the luster is there, and our fit is a little different than the other guys. We’re probably a little fuller shirt, which is an attractive thing to some people. And others will buy our shirt a size smaller.
We found that when someone would criticize our shirt for being too big, we say you need to buy your shirt a size smaller because we’re fitting a little different figure.
But what we do with our garment as far as the structure of the fit – even if you do buy a size smaller, and you want it a little closer to the body, it still fits you.
So, I would just say in general, we’re a limited-distribution, and everyone in the shop has the ability to look at any line available and put it side-by-side. We know that both our color and our luster is what attracts the eye to the garment.
And when the customer buys a garment of ours, they generally buy more.
Because of Martin golf apparel’s quality and limited-distribution, you won’t find them on the bargain rack at your local sporting goods retailer. But if you’re in the market for a fine golf shirt, you should certainly give Martin Golf a look.
At GolfTheUnitedStates.com, we’ve worn Martin apparel (and Fairway & Greene before it) for over a decade now, and can say without qualification that it’s about as good as it gets. True to Martin’s word, the shirts don’t shrink nor lose their luster.
They “perform” a little differently from some of the newer fabrics, but there’s no questioning the comfort.
Try them, and you’ll almost certainly do just as Martin predicted: buy more.
Martin Golf Apparel was founded by Rick Martin, an executive in the apparel and golf industry with more than 30 years of experience. Martin Golf Apparel collections are sold exclusively at the finest private golf clubs. The company is on an unending pursuit of the perfect shirt, and is committed to all-natural fibers and traditional colors.
Martin Golf Apparel's constant quest for perfection is as "Timeless As The Game".
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