Game Changers

Fashion Forward: Oak Hill's Championship Pro Shop

By Vinnie Manginelli, PGA
Published on

We’ve been treated this month to the expertise of some of the leading PGA merchandisers in the country, National Award winners who have their proverbial finger on the pulse of what’s what in golf fashion. With a jolt of excitement instilled into the game since the beginning of the pandemic, what we wear on the course has transformed in recent years, from solid cotton golf shirts to unique patterns, vibrant colors and athletic fits and fabrics.
In the fourth and final installment of our Fashion Forward series, Jason Ballard, the PGA Head Professional at Oak Hill Country Club in Rochester, New York, helps iron out what’s been hot in 2022, what’s cool for this fall, what we can look forward to in 2023 and hey, there’s a PGA Championship in my home state next May, right there at his course! We chatted about that too.
Ballard, the 2020 PGA Merchandiser of the Year for Private Facilities, says success in today’s golf retail market means finding the balance between the traditional and what’s new and exciting. Casual continues to be popular, while fitness apparel is coming on strong and is more acceptable at many clubs. In fact, Ballard reiterated what we’ve heard before that facilities must re-evaluate their dress codes to be more inclusive of the new wave of golf fashion. “Is it still current or should changes be made?” Ballard asks. “We’re still seeing the popularity of fashion-hoodies in golf. The more we see them on the PGA Tour, the more popular they’ll be in our golf shops.”
Ballard reflected on a time when hoodies were simply not proper attire at most golf facilities. “But, we’re seeing a shift,” he says. And a major one at that, as Ballard, and many PGA Professionals like him, just can’t keep product from lines such as Lululemon on the shelves. As a result, virtually every vendor has followed suit with casual and fitness lines of their own. If you want to know what’s trending in golf fashion - this is it!
Ballard says they’ve started allowing fashion-hoodies on the property at Oak Hill, and he’s happy to have some beautiful cashmere hoodies line the shelves of his golf shop. He added that the golf shop at Oak Hill is becoming more of a lifestyle shop, with bathing suits, flip flops and tennis wear, more than a traditional golf shop. “We want our members to come to our shop as a first stop, rather than going to the mall,” he explained. 
It’s a similar story in footwear. There used to be a clear distinction between golf shoes and shoes you wear on your way home from the course, out to dinner or on casual Fridays at the office. These lines have blurred to the point where they’re no longer there. Shoe companies are creating hybrid footwear that is functional on the golf course and suitable to wear most anywhere else. 
In addition, Ballard confirmed all other accounts that print polos are definitely in. However, he was the first professional we’ve spoken to who highlighted the importance of having a core line of solids, as well. “We have a private label line that offers almost any color a member could want,” he told us. “These are mostly performance-based fabrics - however we do have those core colors (white, navy, black) in cotton.” He added, “I think most shops should carry a selection of solid shirts because they do still sell, and they’re less expensive than many of the fashion prints we’re seeing today.” For any professional with a price-conscious segment of membership or customer, take heed of this award-winning merchandiser’s advice.  
Looking at fall, with cooler temps and some frost on the pumpkin, Ballard says it’s the perfect time of year in upstate New York, and much of the country for that matter, for quarter-zips from Peter Millar, RLX and Straight Down, and layered pieces from Fairway and Greene. 
Finally, looking ahead, 2023 will be an exciting year for Ballard, as he anticipates a revitalized PGA Show in January, and that’s just the start. There’s much excitement in Rochester as he, his team and their members, eagerly look forward to hosting the PGA Championship in May. He’s ramping up their PGA merchandise from now through that time, but when the Championship comes around, sales in his shop will cease as that space becomes a dining room for PGA Championship players and their caddies.     
“As a PGA member, it’s the pinnacle to host a PGA Championship at your course. After all, it’s something that most PGA Professionals would dream of. When May comes, we want to make the PGA member experience very special while they’re at Oak Hill. We’ve got some great ideas! The tournament host sites and their PGA Professionals always take such good care of the players in the tournament, and rightfully so. But we want to enhance the experience for our fellow PGA Professionals who are visiting Oak Hill Country Club to take in the big event.” 
Learn more about the 2023 PGA Championship at Oak Hill HERE.