Anyone who says golf is not an elite sport is wrong. Certainly in India, where golf is going to remain a rich man’s game with many poor players. A list of rising pro stars and some new money all have teed off interesting times for the game but despite the rising moolah, golf is still waiting to swing mass interest. That’s where fashion and lifestyle may bridge the gap as the game goes beyond the birdies and takes it to people turning it into a lifestyle. With the rapid changes in urban India, golf is changing too.
“From a ‘luxury’ sport, it is fast becoming a ‘cool’ sport,” says Vivek Mehta of Callaway India. It is one of those unique sports which give you the option to look great along with playing a good game. With no running or slugfest involved; you can keep up your chic look through full 18 holes. And so with growing awareness, 5 year old kids to the 50 year old golfers, males or females are all taking care to dress for the game.
John Daly, Ian Poulter, Ricky Fowler and Rory McIlroy have all been head-turners for their generation, teeing off in more than just style. Wearing pink pants, collared-up tees teamed may not eclipse the more conservative Tiger’s game but it does create a broader fan base by announcing a new style challenge. “Fashion is something that has made and continues to make golf attractive and interesting,” says Anirban Lahiri, winner of the SAIL-SBI Open and the defending champion of the upcoming Panasonic Open. Often seen in bright green trousers on the course, Anirban calls it his lucky colour. Golf clothing designer John Ashworth has sounded the 2012 fashion bugle with trends like fitting tees, and says bye bye to baggy. White belts are a clear no no too.
Golf, like the corporate world, is unshackling itself from black-tie dressing. The original favourite jacket, tie and waistcoat to the plus fours and now to the audacious colours and patterns, golfers too want to dress for success. Women’s golf is adding to that phenomenon. “Golf drives fashion and fashion drives golf,” Champika Syal of the Women’s Golf Association of India agrees that fashion and golf compliment each other. Sharmila Nicollet from Bangalore, who became the younger golfer to qualify for the LPGA is becoming a model mascot for golfing girls. She is a self-confessed lover of pink and bling, wears her style on her sleeve complete with crystals and nail paint. Another young lady, Gauri Monga wouldn’t tee off on the course without anything in orange to go with her look. “The more attractive and saleable we can make the sport the easier it will be to market it and spread it,” says Lahiri. “It’s a necessary element to popularize the sport.”
Companies such as TaylorMade and Callaway are launching new products every 6-12 months to create excitement in the industry and are driving more consumption in the golfing eco-system. The Indian golfer doesn’t just want to look good but also wants to makes a statement. “Eyewear and footwear, in addition to apparel, are also getting more attention with the golfing brands focusing on providing a seasonal upgrade for both style and performance to the consumer.”
India has, at a stretch, just under 200,000 golfers of which many belong to the learners lot or are far from being regular players. And so golf companies are preparing to cash in on everything beyond just the core game. In most golf-loving countries, people add clubs every year but in India golfers hold on to their clubs for a lot longer because of the cost of the equipment upgrade. “So the Indian golfer uses the golf accessories and apparel to provide that wanted newness in golf,” says Mehta.
Just as corporate executives are required to work smart-golfers are required to play smart. But many are now are more concerned with ‘how to look like a golfer’ rather than just ‘how to play golf’. Syal points out, “Recreational golfers begin with the first “how to look like a golf player”, thereafter they graduate on “how to play the game”, once they are bitten by the golf-bug.”
Mehta agrees dressing up is about adding confidence and style. “An association with golf with provides you a very unique identity of someone who has achieved success in his life and is the person who wants to live an ‘active leisure lifestyle”
So it’s no longer ‘shorts must be long and skin is not in’ It’s about trying something new, swinging in fashion and putting your game on the course. So are you ready for a chic chip?