Visualizing Their Next Approach, Malbon Golf Is on Par Fore Apparel

Never doubt the power of the mood board, for it’s where dreams are visualized and great enterprises are born. Malbon Golf quite literally began as an Instagram account created by recreational golfer Stephen Malbon, whose wife, Erica, looked at it one day and said, “If you love golf that much, let’s make a business out of it.”

Fast forward and Malbon Golf is an inspiring success story unfolded within a niche market, boasting a robust e-commerce channel, retail stores in prime locations, a new wholesale business, sponsored pros such as Jason Day and a major presence in South Korea.

And it all happened like one of those fluke approach shots that hits the edge of a bunker, tumbles onto the green and rolls into the hole.

With entrepreneurial backgrounds— Stephen in marketing and publishing, Erica as co-founder of the spa chain The Now— the duo delved into the apparel industry with no experience “and decided to just figure it out as we go.” They started by building brand identity and a loyal following through a Malbon Golf hangout—simulator, putting green, other apparel brands—at the corner of L.A.’s Fairfax and Melrose in 2017, then began tapping the customer base and figuring out what they wanted.

The answer was simple: simplicity itself—at least of a kind.

“Stephen found it hard to find golf clothes that didn’t feel like a pro golfer’s costume of tight-fitting athletic apparel,” recalled Erica. “And what we heard from our community was that people wanted clothes they could feel like themselves in that were functional, stylish and youthful. So we became not a performance brand designed for golf but a lifestyle brand inspired by golf.”

Production timelines and supply-chain challenges proved the biggest obstacles in getting the brand running as smoothly as a putt on a freshly manicured green. “There have been a lot of frustrations to overcome,” said Malbon, “but when people love the things you make you feel a validation. I’d advise others thinking of getting into apparel to build the messaging and mission of why you’re doing it, and make that strong enough to help you weather the other issues. Don’t just do it to make money, because if that’s what you’re after there are different industries you could get into.”

Malbon Golf’s biggest sales channel is its website, but it added wholesale accounts this year at selected clubhouses and boutiques. Its L.A. store is now at Melrose Place, and it operates others in Carmel, Calif., Miami and New York, with three more scheduled to open this year.

“We’ve definitely been pioneers,” Erica reflected. “When we started there was no comparable brand in the space looking at it from our perspective, and people look to us as leaders in the ‘creative golfers’ space. We feel very fortunate that we get to impact so many people and help get them involved.”

After years of well-publicized decline in participation, the sport of golf is on an upswing, with 45 million Americans having played the sport in 2023, no doubt helped by evangelist-entrepreneurs such as the Malbons.

“Our mission has always been to encourage people to take up the greatest game on earth, and I think if you have a message you will succeed.”