An east coast brand heads west

The growth of vineyard vines has the east coast apparel company expanding out west to take on golf fashions selling California's surfer vibe.
Hats by vineyard vines and Linksoul show off their most recognizable logos and slogans.

East Coast/West Coast rivalries are nothing new.

It stretches from cities - New York grit vs. L.A.'s Hollywood glamour - to sports - Celtics vs. Lakers/Magic vs. Bird - and rap music - Tupac Shakur vs. Notorious B.I.G.

A new, more subtle rivalry is brewing in golf fashion. TravisMathew and Linksoul have ruled California's fairways in recent years by selling that laid-back, surfer vibe. Those companies, both founded in SoCal in the mid-2000s, continue to have success, but there's a new kid in town causing a disturbance in the force out West, even if the brand isn't all that new. The smiling pink whale is ready to make a splash.

Vineyard vines, founded in 1998 in Martha's Vineyard, Mass., launched a collection of high-end golf apparel in spring 2019 with Jim Nantz, the syrupy voice of The Masters and CBS Sports. During AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am week, the fashion brand known for its cute whale logo took the partnership next level, celebrating a ribbon-cutting Feb. 5 at the Jim Nantz by vineyard vines store at Pebble Beach Resorts near the putting green and the Lodge. Although vineyard vines stores have populated California for several years, this was akin to planting a golf flag at the American game's ground zero.

“We have something they can wear on the course and then they can wear in the Tap Room,” Nantz said at a celebratory dinner at the PGA Show.

Golf and vineyard vines

Jim Nantz poses in the new store by vineyard vines at Pebble Beach Resorts.

Everyday should feel this good.

The vineyard vines' tagline certainly fits golf's ethos. The company, launched by brothers Ian and Shep Murray, started off by selling ties, eventually expanding to casual wear and all the fashions - shorts, pants, hats, sweaters, swimsuits and more - available online and in stores today. It's interesting that, in this day and age of contraction of retail footprints, vineyard vines is actually adding stores.

"When we open a retail store in a location, our online business goes up dramatically," co-founder Shep Murray told Forbes for a 2018 article.

My family was first introduced to vineyard vines at my daughter's lacrosse tournaments. It's a rare brand cool enough for parents and kids all to wear at the same time. Even rarer is a brand affiliated with golf that my wife and daughter will consider. The color combinations are uplifting. Truth be told, I think it's the whale everybody likes best.

The Nantz golf line for men is more restrained with more traditional colors and looks than other vineyard vines products. It includes pullovers, sweaters, polos, a jacket, a vest and even a cardigan. Prices range from $98-$248, so nothing comes cheap. It's a statement buy, like Air Jordans for hoops.

The Pebble Beach store is unique. A stunning wall mural of the 18th green is painted behind a replica of the CBS set Nantz enjoys during the tournament. Nantz sees more pieces of clothing and styles coming soon.

"I think in the next year, you are going to see the size of it, without giving away too many details, because we are still in the working stages, I would say it triples," Nantz said. "It’s growing. The demand is there for it.”

The West Coast competition

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Linksoul - with its popular slogan "Make Par Not War" - has done some expanding of its own, opening a Linksoul Lab in 2018 in place of a traditional pro shop at Corica Park, the 45-hole muni near Oakland Airport. Its merchandise isn't just golf. Shoppers can buy a skateboard or surfboard in place of golf shoes or a putter. The best part of the Linksoul movement, run by John Ashworth, is its mission to save and promote Goat Hill Park, an 18-hole short course in Oceanside.

I used to religiously wear TravisMathew when it first got hot. Callaway Golf bought the upstart brand for $125 million, and later Ogio in 2017 to diversity its portfolio. It used to be hard to find TM gear in retail stores until recently, when Golf Galaxy started carrying the line. You could probably lump johnnie-O, named after founder John O'Donnell, in this west coast category, too.

Travis Mathew and several other apparel brands set up their booths with check-in desks, where pros and merchandisers arrive for appointments.

The funny thing about golf fashion is, you could just as easily wear Linksoul on Cape Cod as you could vineyard vines in Newport Beach. As long as you're wearing a polo with a collar and look and feel comfortable, swing away. Almost any brand travels well, course or locale be damned.

Let us know your favorite golf apparel brand in the comments below.

Jason Scott Deegan has reviewed and photographed more than 1,000 courses and written about golf destinations in 20 countries for some of the industry's biggest publications. His work has been honored by the Golf Writer's Association of America and the Michigan Press Association. Follow him on Instagram at @jasondeegangolfpass and Twitter at @WorldGolfer.
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The three brands that fill my closet are Linksoul, Travis Mathew and Fairway and Green. I truly like the cotton bends the best.

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An east coast brand heads west