Few tasks are more challenging than reading the break on a world-class green, but being one of the first to sense a burgeoning fashion trend ‚Äî and then develop its business potential ‚Äî just may be one of them.
That's what makes girls golf founder Annie Margulis so unique.
A registered nurse who retired in 2000 after 25 years on the job, Margulis is also an avid golfer with a passion for fashion and design. That passion helped her recognize an irritating "style handicap" that women who spent a lot of time on the golf course had to contend with.
"Traditional women's golf attire isn't really any different from men's golf apparel when it comes to style," Margulis says. "But for women, that means the shorts are too short, too boxy in the front and too bubbly in the back. And the colors are simply too flat and boring."
Margulis decided to change that, and a lot more. "I've always had the type of personality where if I decide to do something, I do it," she says. "I like to keep busy and be productive. In fact, I didn't start playing golf until I was 38 years old."
Margulis approached her friend Paul Dundas about forming girls golf. Dundas, a women's clothing designer since 1979 who, among other accomplishments, had created ball and bridal gowns for Christian Dior in New York, agreed.
Within months they were bringing their bright, colorful and creative design ideas to life. After they sold $15,000 worth of orders at their very first trunk show, held in Margulis' home in May 2003, they never looked back.
"Paul is the first to admit that he doesn't know a thing about golf, but he knows exactly how to bring out the best in a woman's silhouette with every design," Margulis says.
Soon Margulis and Dundas were selling the girls golf line on consignment at Lori Karbal, a local boutique owned by a friend. They marketed their products with a small brochure that featured photos of Margulis' 18-year-old daughter modeling several of the team's colorful ensembles. Again, they sold almost everything.
The buzz had begun. Soon, that buzz would become a roar.
Within days, the magazine was asking Margulis' permission to use girls golf apparel in photo shoots in Palm Beach and the Mexican desert for a fashion spread in an upcoming issue. She signed and faxed the release forms immediately. Soon girls golf clothing, worn by top-flight models in combination with other products by fashion icons like Lacoste and Lilly Pulitzer, was being seen and talked about around the globe.
"They featured us in back-to-back issues, and in three issues out of four in succession," Margulis said, "so we got many, many phone calls about our line. Before long we had completely sold out of the Bermuda shorts that were featured in one of the Golf for Women issues."
To keep up with the exploding demand, Margulis and Dundas had to move most of their production from a small, local facility in Michigan to New York (the majority of girls golf products are made in the United States).
The women's fashion industry also took note of girls golf's bold, fun, elegant and feminine approach to women's clothing. The line consists primarily of comfortable cotton/LYCRA¬Æ blends that are designed to move and flow with the wearer. And because Margulis and Dundas' creative and visually appealing prints and patterns make for great casual wear off the golf course as well as on it, many women who have never even swung a club have become fans. In the summer of 2005, Self magazine featured girls golf products in yet another fashion spread that sparked further interest.
Today, girls golf products are sold at elite country clubs and boutiques from Florida to California.
So what's the real "secret" to girls golf's success? According to Margulis, it isn't just the products themselves. It's the philosophy behind the brand that has made girls golf what it is today and will be tomorrow. She calls it a "fashion 'Fore'ward" approach to women's and teens' golf apparel and accessories.
"My basic idea behind girls golf has always been that women shouldn't have to stop looking and feeling like women just because they're playing golf," Margulis says. "I want girls golf to give women the feeling of being in a club. The feeling that you're part of something fun, like a sisterhood or sorority. That's what golf has meant for men for generations.
"The rules for women's attire at many country clubs around the world are still very traditional and strict, but girls golf clothes are designed with a woman's figure in mind. The result is a much more feminine silhouette that is still athletically functional and within the rules. Our philosophy is that you can be a girl or a woman, and look like a girl or a woman, while playing golf and honoring the sport's traditions."