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Golf Digest Logo SKIP THE STUFFY

A new golf community in L.A. promotes self-expression

'Fashion is forced, and style comes from the heart'
April 18, 2024

When we opened our store, Malbon Golf, on Fairfax Avenue in Los Angeles in 2017, we were warned that golf was a dying sport, that a golf boutique in this location was never going to work. But we are each stubborn and headstrong and trusted that more people like us would see the future of the game as we did—light, fun and fashionable, yes, but also as a timeless pursuit that captivates individuals from all walks of life.

Today, we’re busy opening distribution channels for the brand globally. It’s thrilling to be working with our new tour ambassadors: Jason Day, Jeongeun Lee 6, Charley Hull and Jesper Parnevik. When Golf Digest asked us to guest curate afashion shoot about “the new spirit emanating from L.A.,” we gathered our friends. They’re an eclectic lot. As with every golf community, at our core is a sense of belonging and a passion that unites in celebrating skill, strategy and sportsmanship. Whether a veteran or newer to the game, each person on the following pages appreciates golf ’s interplay of technique and temperament, finds solace in its rhythms and cherishes the bonds forged on and off the course. Some of these individuals wear Malbon, but many more are creating their own lines, mixing retro with modern, always creatively piecing together ensembles that work.

Simply, we believe our friends are helping to inspire the next generation of golfers—and look good doing it.

STREET-WHERE Malbon Golf’s new L.A. location is on Melrose Place.

VICTOR CRUZ, Football Player

The retired Pro Bowl wide receiver with the New York Giants routinely and happily accepts swing tips from his 12-year-old daughter, Kennedy (above), who competes in junior tournaments. Playing 18 holes together is a regular opportunity for this father and daughter to experience the many emotions of golf and learn a lot about each other. Both are fans of the Malbon brand from knowing Stephen and Erica personally.

“They’re not just in it to get clothes on athletes and make money,” Cruz says. “There’s an authentic desire to advance the culture of golf in the right direction.”

DON NGUYEN, Skateboarder

Better known as “The Nuge” in the skateboarding world, Nguyen is recognized as the first to ollie down El Toro, the famous 20-step staircase in Lake Forest, Calif., and starred in the 2005 film “Lords of Dogtown.” He and his brother went from total beginners to three-times-a-week golfers during the pandemic. “My golf style is relaxed, loose and comfy,”

Nguyen says. “Just like skating, you’re not going to perform well if your pants are too skinny.”

ERIN LIM RHODES, Actress

An actress best known for hosting “E! News,” she took up golf in high school to pacify her father after quitting soccer. She recaught the bug as an adult and now, as a working mother, appreciates having one hobby that’s just for herself. That style is an element only adds to the joy, even for a quick range session. “I love that you can have fun with it, from goofy socks to skirts that twirl,” Rhodes says. “Don’t be afraid to take menswear and make it your own. This shirt I’m wearing is a men’s small.”

JUSTIN AND ALI ELDRIDGE, Retailers

“Golf with flavor” is the motto of this golfing couple who run a brand called No. 33. In the literal sense, it refers to their line of flavored toothpicks that also function as golf tees. More loosely, it’s about their mission to fuse vintage and progressive looks in their collaborative products. During the 2023 U.S. Open in Los Angeles, the Eldridges helped organize one of the best parties of the week at a Topgolf that featured a putting green atop one end of a skateboard ramp.

KELLEY JAMES, Entertainer

Any given week on tour, the best tickets are after dark and outside the ropes to things like pro-am pairing receptions, corporate-sponsor functions and rental-house parties of the rich and famous. Anyone lucky to be included in this social circuit during the past decade has seen Kelley James perform, if not been roasted by his spontaneous lyrics and crowd interplay. A close-to-scratch player, he describes his golf style as “unfortunately conservative.” As James says, “When you play certain clubs, and I’m not saying I play these clubs all the time, you have to dress a certain way.”

However, when he’s playing at The Grove XXIII, where he’s a member, James will rock a T-shirt, board shorts and Jordans in honor of the course owner. The most common style miss he sees is “not having dope raingear. You might wear it only once or twice a year, but when the skies open up, you don’t want to look like a donkey in your grandfather’s hand-me-downs.”

RUSSELL WINFIELD, Snowboarder

For the decade Winfield lived in Tacoma, Wash., professional snowboarding’s first black rider had a buddy who was the caddiemaster at Chambers Bay. That’s when Winfield really got into golf, and he has been taking his clubs across the world since, traveling for competitions and doing marketing work for brands like K2 and Ride. His attitude toward dressing mirrors a philosophy that has kept him alive on big mountains. “Take chances but not too many at once,” he says.

Whether playing golf, snowboarding or just going for a night out, he says, “You want to be able to look back at photos of yourself, and think, Yeah, I was doing it.”

BEN BALLER, Jeweler

“Ferg is the name, Ben Baller did the chain” is a lyric from the hit hip-hop single “Plain Jane” by rapper A$AP Ferg. It’s just one of many ubiquitous references in pop culture to the Korean-American jeweler who has created bling for rappers and pro athletes and even putters. He’s a regular competitor in the PGA Tour Farmers Insurance Open pro-am, where his bag and headcovers sparkle. Though his upper body is completely covered in tattoos, he wants his style to emphasize “the respect of the game,” Baller says. “Some guys will be in a T-shirt and workout shorts if they can get away with it, but when I’m playing golf, I always have a belt and a polo.”

JACOB GOLLIDAY, Long Driver

Also known as the “Jesus of Golf” per his Instagram handle, the sinewy former college baseball player has been in the conversation of who’s the longest golfer pound-for-pound since qualifying for the 2017 World Long Drive Championship at 170 pounds. He once registered a 456-yard blast in competition. He also has a complete game and chases mini-tour events when he’s not engaged with marketing work for brands at the convergence of the golf and cannabis industries. One personal vexation is when courses require belt loops on pants. “What’s wrong with the athletic feel of a comfy drawstring?” Golliday asks.

PARIS HILINSKI, Elite Amateur

Twenty-year-old Hilinski has played in a U.S. Women’s Open and the Augusta National Women’s Amateur, but she is perhaps better known as a social-media content creator who is also the creative director for the equipment and accessory brand LA Golf. If she ever makes it on the LPGA Tour, she’ll be challenging the establishment on matters like skirt length and razorback tops. “You should be able to play golf in whatever you feel best in,” Hilinski says. “By being accepting of all the ways different people and cultures want to dress, we’ll grow the game so much more.”

MARK WERTS, Retailer

Werts, photographed here with his children and frequent golf partners, founded the clothing company American Rag in 1984 and has spent a career traveling the world in pursuit of unique merchandise. He also sells brands such as RLX, Greyson and Lacoste, among others. “We have pro shops inside our stores, but my buyer doesn’t know golf. He buys fashion, golf as streetwear.”

DON MERKIN, Course Superintendent

Merkin is intent on growing the game, just as he is with his grass. The head superintendent at 27-hole Meriwether National Golf Club organizes street-golf outings with foam balls in the produce district of nearby Portland, Ore., which draws an eclectic mix of beginner and veteran golfers. His college degree is in graphic design, and he has promoted a richer art sensibility in the local golf community, including recruiting artists to create clubhouse murals. As for his personal style, “I love vintage looks, so I’m a big thrift store guy,” Merkin says. “I’ll wear a tank top to play golf on a hot day. What are they going to say to the super?”

ROGER STEELE, Content Creator

The cofounder of HIPE Media grew up playing munys in Chicago. His primary playing partner was his father, a low-handicap policeman who would rock red bell-bottom pants and a matching Kangol beret. Steele's golf clients presently include Callaway, Topgolf, Five Iron and more. "Golf courses are a lot like restaurants," Steele says. "You have different styles for different courses."

ALEX FINE, Actor

Life is pretty good when you’re an actor on a Western TV series (“1883,” the prequel to “Yellowstone”) and you’re married to a famous singer (Cassie). In the spirit of marketing, a major golf company might just call you out of the blue and ask if you want to take up the game and send you free clubs. That’s how Alex Fine got started in golf a few years ago, and now he tees it regularly as a member of a private club in Los Angeles. Once he was reprimanded on the first tee there and told to buy pants that were “less loud.” In response, he’s starting his own line of golfwear that doubles as workout attire.

MATT PRICE, Photographer

“My grandmother taught me to play golf, and until about age 25 I had never played golf with men. I’ve always enjoyed the Hemingway vibe, safari with lots of pockets, which seems to fit me personally. Where golf style is going now is sick. I love the eclectic blends of street, hip hop, classic and skater that just make it simply menswear.”

RAY MATE, Journalist

For the senior editor at HYPE BEAST and father of two, golf must be adaptable. A light carry bag and casual apparel are conducive to fitting in a quick nine before his family wakes up or on a moment’s notice from a friend in the afternoon. He credits the lively social aspect of the game for keeping him younger in spirit. “Whatever you choose to wear on the course, you want to showcase that you’re comfortable being you,” he says.

AKBAR CHISTI, Headcover Maker

The son of Pakistani immigrants, Christi worked as a range-picker as a teenager, but his first real job was as an accountant. His wife, Megan, worked in menswear and knew how to sew. Their lives changed in 2015 when their line of hand-stitched headcovers gained space in the USGA merchandise tent at the U.S. Open at Chambers Bay. “We’ve never been into lifestyle,” Christi says. “We’re about making things that only make sense on a golf course and give golfers the ability to represent themselves.”

ATIBA JEFFERSON & SAL BARBIER, Skateboarders

Photographer Atiba Jefferson’s first rounds of golf were played decades ago on Los Angeles municipals with his peers and usual subjects, like professional skateboarders Eric Koston and Sal Barbier (above). Jefferson’s identical twin brother, Aiko, made a hole-in-one in just his fifth round, skewing expectations for this group of beginners who would all later become avid. Jefferson laments the stifling effect of dress codes. “Beginners should be focused on learning playing etiquette, not what they can’t wear,” Jefferson says. Adds Barbier: “You watch the PGA Tour nowadays, and everyone looks pretty much the same.”

SCHOOLBOY Q, Rapper

Few have lived the spectrum of Los Angeles society more widely than Quincy Matthew Hanley, who ran with the Hoover Crips in South Central as a teen, went to jail and now lives inside a gated community and is a member of Calabasas Country Club, and a soccer-dad to boot. On his recently released sixth studio album, “Blue Lips,” ScHoolboy Q is poetic about the strange dichotomies of his existence. The lyric “I’ve been livin’ off golf for the last few deals.

When the Nike check came, and I still got the chills” references an advertisement during the 2022 Masters in which the athletic-apparel company enlisted the rapper to deliver a peroration dressed in Tiger Woods red and black. He plays as much as he can, shooting in the low 80s, and credits the game for igniting his creative process. As ScHoolboy Q told Golf Digest after the release of his fifth album, “People say, ‘Bro, get off the golf course and into the studio.’ But bro, I’m in the studio eight days a week. I got a studio in my house. I’m rapping on the course. I came up with half my new album while I was playing. They have no idea how the game opened up my mind. I was in a dark place, and golf got me inspired.”