The history between Malbon Golf and women’s golf — Five women-owned golf brands to check out

The IX: Golf Thursday with Addie Parker, Jan. 11, 2024

The first ten days of 2024 have been mayheim in the world of golf and golf fashion. Like seriously, my brain hurts trying to figure out which players are signing to what brand. So, let’s try to piece together what’s been going down for today’s Golf Thursday.

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Well, it all started last month, when rumors were swirling around that Tiger Woods’ contract extension with Nike ended with the conclusion of 2023. The No Laying Up podcast had teased this information ahead of the PNC Championship, which was later confirmed by a statement put out by Woods earlier this week.

But just a week before Woods’ departure from the iconic brand, Jason Day (a fellow former Nike athlete), had announced his official partnership with the LA-based brand, Malbon Golf.

Who, or rather, what is Malbon Golf? Besides being the most talked about golf brand at the moment, Malbon has been on the scene since 2017. Founded and operated by couple Stephen and Erica Malbon, the brand has developed a reputation for existing in the realm of streetwear styles that are effortlessly cool, yet golf-appropriate.

Malbon has aligned itself with legacy brands such as Nike and adidas, releasing countless collaborations that take classic golf staples and add a touch of flair, that translates from on-course wear to off-the-course, 19th hole-style looks. To put it simply, Malbon isn’t a golf brand per se, but a lifestyle brand that is “influenced by golf”— creating pieces that can be worn for every occasion in your life. With pieces ranging from $50 to upwards of $400, I hope that you will be able to get multiple uses!

But what Malbon has created is a pleasant disruption. It is reimagining what golf looks like and the role golf style plays in society. We are moving beyond khakis and pin-stripped polos, modern golf has reconfigured the use of color, embraces different hemlines, and is experimenting with new fabrics — all things showcased in the Malbon Women’s apparel line that launched in July 2023, coinciding with the Women’s U.S. Open at Pebble Beach.

The Malbon Golf women's apparel collection.
Image from Golf Digest and Malbon Golf.

The women-focused line took two years of development, with CEO and co-founder Erica Malbon at the helm. “Our design process was meticulous and it was important that we were 100 percent confident in the fit, how it laid on the body, the fabrication and it was something we would want to wear and feel confident in,” Malbon said. “That took a lot of iterations and that’s why it took some time for us to launch Malbon’s first women’s collection.”

Prior to its women’s line dropping, Malbon had also curated limited edition pieces for the Evian Championship (I think about the pink satin bomber jacket from 2022 at least twice a day). In recent years, brands have begun to release special edition products and apparel pieces around major tournaments to create buzz. And to my knowledge, Malbon was one of, if not the only, brand to do so in the women’s golf space.

It’s no secret that the players on the LPGA have to be creative with sponsorship opportunities, in large part, due to a lack of money and funding. Players often sport more niche brands from Asia (like Anew, Descente, and WAAC), resulting in fans not being able to see the players expressing themselves through fashion in the way that men on the PGA Tour do. For years, Tiger Woods and Nike (golf) were synonymous. Tiger was able to develop his own ‘TW’ brand (which he owns the rights to) within Nike. Young players like Viktor Hovland, who continues to stun in his vibrant J.Lindeberg looks, have been able to create buzz around their game simply by what they wear — but we haven’t seen players making strides in golf fashion on the ladies’ side since…well, Michelle Wie.

Now, I could go on a whole tangent about Wie, her style, and the influence she had on golf (and one day I will do exactly that) but allow me to make my main argument — Malbon has been strategically placing itself to takeover golf (apparel) and doing so through women’s golf.

Over six years, Malbon has masterfully created products that get people talking. From golfers to influencers, the demand for the product is insanely high. It’s garnered the attention of mainstream media, and publications from ELLE to Vogue have talked about the success of Malbon. It’s hard to ignore — which is exactly how the brand got LPGA stars Charley Hull and Jeongeun Lee6 (the 2019 U.S. Women’s Open winner) to sign with them. They’ll join 2024 LPGA Tour rookie Gigi Stoll and Epson Tour member Erika Smith as female ambassadors for the brand.

“I’d heard of Malbon and began to be more aware of the clothing over the past year or so, having seen more and more people wearing it and stores opening,” said Hull. “I saw some of the collaborations Malbon (has done), which I thought were pretty cool. I realized then that Malbon isn’t a typical golf brand and that really appeals to me, to be something a little different.”

Creating fashion-forward-yet-functional golf apparel for women shouldn’t have taken this long. And I’m interested to see how Malbon continues to grow with its new ambassadors. We need more high-quality pieces that are breathable, comfortable, and have pockets…PLEASE!

A sentiment that Lee6 shares: “I have seen so many people wearing Malbon, and I thought all products were so cute. I thought the design was very casual and fashionable, and would fit me very well,” she said. “Rather than fashion trends, I wish for clothes that are comfortable when playing golf, have pockets for playing golf, and can walk and swing comfortably, even when it’s windy or cold are sufficient, for golf.”

With these sudden changes, it feels like golf is turning a new page and 2024 is shaping out to be the year that golf fashion takes center stage. This isn’t a bad thing either. Fashion and style largely represent the culture at large (think about sneaker culture and basketball), and how people are attracted to what’s trending. As Malbon grows as a brand, it will draw more non-golfer attention to the game, hopefully resulting in more and more people paying attention.

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Written by Addie Parker