I visited China and Japan last January to take a look at golf in Asia and see if everything I’ve read about the future of the industry is true. All you have to do is take a look at the LPGA rankings to see where golf is headed and I wanted to see if a visit to the Pacific Rim would offer some insight. I am not bemoaning the fact that six out of the top ten women golfers hail from Asia or that the number one player in the world is Japan’s Ai Miyazato. I am just flat-out fascinated by the passion that Asians feel for this sport and how it’s expressed in the fashion they wear.
After a week in China and five days in Tokyo, all I can say is whoa. These people love their golf and they’re awash in a sea of interesting golf products that nurture that passion. It’s a whole other order of magnitude from what we’re accustomed to here – from the quantity and ubiquitousness of golf courses, to the differences between their pro shops and ours.
Nike Offers More Style To Asian Golfers
Every major brand and many others you will not have heard of are offered there, but what’s interesting to note is that Nike, Adidas, et al., design completely different products for their Asian clientèle than they do for us Yanks, with our Puritan hangovers. They’re sales would be dead in the water if they didn’t. Golfers in Asia demand fashion in their golf gear and the women will not tolerate men’s clothing scaled down for them – floppy sleeves, no waistlines – no matter what shade of pink it comes in. (Greg Norman take note.) More women than men play golf in Japan and the manufacturers are smart enough to follow the yen.
One course I visited in Dongguan, China, had four intersecting golf courses – all in one place – and a pro shop that made Yankee Stadium look like a lemonade stand. No joke, it was in excess of 12,000 square feet – smelling salts, please – and full of energetic young sales clerks eager to wait on me. I never saw so much golf-related gear in one place in my life. And so much color! There must have been five hundred pairs of shoes alone – intriguing and exciting from the standpoint of future markets for Equipt for Play – especially since no one’s doing anything remotely close to what we are with all our snap, crackle and pop. The Pacific Rim is going to be our oyster in the not-too-distant future, says she, ever so humbly.
Tokyo was the real mind bender. Who knew that this city had more than twenty retail stores devoted to selling golf gear and lots of it? Yuko, my friend and guide, raced me around the city for five days to give me the overview of golf, Japanese-style, and from the looks of things, everyone and their mother and uncle plays golf over there. Here’s a sampling of the golf stores I saw in less than one week in Tokyo (and this isn’t all there is):
- Golf Messe – Retail (Tengenji),
- Callaway Golf – Retail (Hiroo),
- Pearly Gates – Retail (Hiroo),
- Zoy – Retail (Hiroo),
- Swing Himonya – Driving Range (Himonya),
- St. Christopher – Retail (Jiyugaoka),
- Victoria Golf Woman Style– Retail (Jiyugaoka),
- Honma Golf – Retail (Yaesu),
- Takashimaya Department Store – Retail (Nihonbashi store),
- Kotobuki Golf – Retail (Ameyoko),
- Niki Golf – Retail (Ameyoko),
- Matsuya Department Store – Retail (Ginza),
- The Adidas Store – Retail (Ginza),
- Mieko Uesako Golf – Retail (Nishi-Azabu),
- Le Coq Sportif – Retail (Harajuku),
- Samantha Thavasa – Retail (Aoyama),
- Victoria Golf – Retail (Aoyama),
- Glemis Golf – Retail (Roppongi),
- Isetan Department Store – Retail (Shinjuku),
- JeliJali – Retail (Mita).
I listed them all here in case you’re planning to skip Sports Authority, darn, and make the trip. If you are, wear comfortable shoes or bring along your roller skates, because you’re going to have some serious turf to cover.
An orange patent leather golf bag and matching shoe tote might not be your thing or that bustier-shaped golf bag and its matching tote (OMG) – but wouldn’t you just love the option, depending on how naughty you’re feeling? And those club head covers are worth the trip alone. My favorite, christened Ernestine, has just about taken the place of my little flask for attitude adjustments on the course. Try keeping a straight face when she’s grinning back at you. (If Ernestine is finding that hooked tee shot so darned hilarious, maybe you ought to be laughing too?)
Note To Nike: Hold The Pink!
Although there’s lots of kitschy fashion for Japanese women golfers, (like those shorts with the fur cuffs above, the ones you couldn’t get past the starter at Augusta, who regardless of those shorts wouldn’t let you play anyway, you being a woman), there doesn’t seem to be the same pinkification of golf going on in Japan like there is the US. I’m talking about the feminizing of golf products by turning them all the same viscous shade of Pepto Bismal pink. (Isn’t it cute that the little woman wants to play golf? Yep. Let’s give her a sticky wad of pink stuff and maybe she’ll skip those pesky club fittings.)
It’s not that pink is utterly absent from the palette in Asia, but just look at the number of other colors that grips come in over there! One for each club. And, under the circumstances there’s no reason not to have them match your lovely golf bag, if you’re a Japanese woman, because you have just as many choices in the bag department as grips. A take-no-prisoners style demands attention to detail.
Golf In Asia Is All About Color
I’m talking about the spirited kind: exuberant, va-va-voom color that celebrates the sport of golf regardless of a person’s handicap. And in case you hadn’t noticed, Equipt does, too. Japanese women are not afraid to express themselves on the course, push the envelope style-wise (BUSTIER friggin’ golf bags) and engage in a little friendly competition with their golf posse, because looking good is part of the game. And, unlike many American women I’ve encountered, Japanese women couldn’t care less if their handicap is low enough to sport sassy clothes (and shoes) (and gloves) on the golf course. As far as they’re concerned, one’s got nothing to do with the other. They’re women, they love their golf and everything about it – and there’s no mistaking the fact that fashion is a huge part of that equation.
What’d I miss? Let me know in the comments. Or, better yet, sign up for the Equipt newsletter just to the left. Keep in touch.